Tender, fluffy and rich with citrus flavours, orange chiffon cake is a delightful treat that is sure to please! This cake is loaded with freshly squeezed juices and grated zest of oranges, as well as lemons, making this treat tangy and not too sweet.
This is the fourth update in my series on chiffon cakes, and I’m pleased to have this beautiful orange chiffon cake post refreshed with an improved recipe, new photos and a step-by-step visual guide.
Do you love cakes with light and tart flavours? I really have a thing for tart, citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes. So, no small surprise that orange flavoured cakes are one of my all-time favourite kinds of cake to eat.
The orange chiffon cake was also the first cake I ever learnt to bake in culinary school so it brings me many wonderful memories. I always feel good and happy when I start putting the ingredients for this cake together.
I’ve been seeing loads of fresh Navel oranges everywhere I turn these past few weeks, so it didn’t take long before I was carting a bag home from the grocer’s. Just in time for this post update!
About this orange chiffon cake recipe
With this orange chiffon cake recipe, you are guaranteed a super light and delicious treat! You’re probably here because like me, you love the ultra fluffy and airy texture of a chiffon cake.
Chiffon cakes are really second to none in the family of sponge cakes, and you’ll often find it very hard to stop at just a slice.
Here’s why I love this orange chiffon cake:
- Intense orange flavour. I did not hold anything back when it came to the flavour! There’s loads of fresh orange juice, with an added splash of lemon juice to punctuate the citrus notes.
- Super fragrant and zesty. There’s generous amounts of orange and lemon zest, which really intensifies the citrus notes and elevates this cake to a higher level of tangy, zesty deliciousness. All that zest also makes this cake smell heavenly!
- Light, airy, and super fluffy! This orange chiffon cake is so light, a slice or two is not going to feel enough.
- Ultra moist and tender crumb. The ratio of ingredients in this recipe are just right, promising a moist and soft-as-cotton texture in every bite. You will feel like the cake crumb is literally melting in your mouth.
A new and improved orange chiffon cake recipe
Tried and tested recipe to help you bake with confidence!
You may not realise this, but whenever I commit to writing a recipe, there’s a lot of testing and re-testing that goes on in my kitchen.
I don’t ever post a recipe on the fly, just to be sure that it wasn’t a success by happenstance. But most of all, because I really want the recipe to work for all of you!
So, just updating this recipe took three test bakes before I was satisfied that it turns out consistent baking results. However, having aimed for this, bakes still can go wrong for any number of reasons.
How we whip up the egg whites, fold the meringue, including how our ovens behave and the humidity of our environment, can affect our bakes.
In the section below, I’ll try to cover the most common issues with baking chiffon cakes and how best to avoid them.
However, if you tried my previous orange chiffon recipe and loved that too, do get in touch with me and I’ll be happy to send that recipe over to you.
Ingredients for orange chiffon cake
For the batter:
- Cake flour (here’s how you can make cake flour from scratch)
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Egg yolks
- Caster sugar
- Orange juice (I use fresh-squeezed, strained to remove the pulp)
- Lemon juice (also fresh-squeezed and strained)
- Grated Orange zest
- Grated Lemon zest
- Neutral-flavoured oil
For the meringue:
- Egg whites
- Cream of tartar (I substituted with lemon juice, though I do find cream of tartar creates a much more stable meringue)
- Caster sugar
Step-by-step: How to make orange chiffon cake
Chiffon cakes have two parts to making the batter. The first is the meringue, which is a stiffly beaten mixture of egg whites and sugar. Sometimes, it’s stabilised with cream of tartar or lemon juice.
The second is the batter, which is made with eggs yolks, liquids such as water, milk, or fruit juices, as well as sugars, oil, flour and leavening agents.
This is where the main flavouring ingredients are concentrated. So, to create specific flavours, you would add them here.
Like powdered spices and herbs, flavoured liquors, extracts, jams, preserves, yogurts, as well as nuts and pastes.
Part 1: Making the batter
- In a small bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir to mix well, and sift. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar.
- Whisk until the yolks turns pale and light and the sugars have dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Stir in the oil, orange juice, lemon juice, orange zest, and lemon zest.
- Add the sifted flour mixture in two lots. Mix with the whisk until well incorporated. The batter should be smooth and free of lumps.
Part 2: Whipping up the meringue
- In a clean and dry mixer bowl, tip in the egg whites and sprinkle over with cream of tartar (I substituted with lemon juice, however, cream of tartar creates a more stable meringue).
- With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed (I use speed 4 on my Kitchen Aid) until the egg whites become frothy.
- Without stopping the mixer, add the sugar in small portions. Whip until the meringue forms stiff peaks. The meringue should look fine, smooth and glossy.
How to test for stiff peaks
When you lift up the whisk, check to see if the meringue stands straight and firm, with the tip drooped over like a hook. Just to be sure, gently tip your bowl over to invert it. Should the meringue shift or slide a bit, it’s not stiff enough yet. If it stays fixed to the bowl in an inverted position, it’s stiff.
Part 3: Folding the meringue into the batter
The most important aspect of folding the meringue into the batter is to mix with a light and quick, but gentle hand.
Even a perfectly whipped meringue can’t compensate for an over worked batter, as it will lose its volume and start to deflate. Get this right, and you’re almost guaranteed an airy and fluffy chiffon cake!
- Start by stirring in ⅓ of the meringue. This is what it means to ‘lighten the batter“. To incorporate well, fold with a whisk until the meringue is no longer visible and the batter looks homogeneous.
- Fold in the next ⅓ of the meringue. This time, you need to use a light but quick and gentle hand so as not to break the air bubbles.
- Finally, add the remaining ⅓ of the meringue. Again, keep it light and quick so that you don’t lose those air bubbles! Make sure to fold until no streaks of meringue can be seen.
- The cake batter should feel light and foamy and have a homogeneous appearance throughout.
Part 4: Filling the pan and baking
Gently pour the batter into the tube pan from one position, letting the batter spread to fill the pan. Level the batter and smooth the surface with a spatula.
Then run a bamboo skewer or chopstick through the batter and give the pan a few taps on the counter to minimise air pockets in the batter.
Bake on the lowest rack in the preheated oven at 160°C (320°F) for anywhere between 50 to 55 minutes, or until completely baked through.
I do not recommend opening the oven door, even if it’s just to take a quick peek. Unlike commercial ovens, home ovens are sensitive to sudden drafts which can affect the baking temperature.
If you need to, only do so about 5 minutes before the end of baking, to check if the cake is done. When a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, the cake can be removed from the oven.
And don’t worry if you see a bit of cracking on the surface of the cake as it bakes. It’s perfectly fine! That cracked top is going to be on the bottom when you serve it, anyway because chiffon cakes are served ‘upside-down’.
Part 5: Inverting and cooling
Immediately invert the pan over cups of equal height once it is removed from the oven. Let it ‘hang’ until completely cooled.
To remove, run an offset spatula gently around the sides of the pan. Invert the cake to free it from the sides of the pan. Then run the spatula around the base to release the funnel.
Chiffon cake is usually served ‘upside-down’. Dust with confectioner’s sugar sifted over the cake, and serve with sliced oranges and dollops of Chantilly cream for a delicious tea treat.
Common baking issues and how to avoid them
This section covers the most frequently asked questions I get from my readers over the years. I realise that I couldn’t possibly cover everything here, nor can I anticipate all the issues that might come your way. But I do hope the information, plus the additional tips in the recipe card below, can be a useful reference.
1. Cake rises quickly, but subsequently collapses before the end of baking.
- Possible causes: Oven temperature was too hot; cake pan was not placed on the lowest rack in the oven; meringue was whipped till too stiff; too much or incorrect leavening used (baking powder, baking soda, or both); inappropriate size of baking pan or wrong type of pan used.
- How to avoid: Reduce the oven temperature within limits (e.g. by 5-10°C) ; use an oven thermometer to give a more accurate reading of your oven’s internal temperature; whip up meringue to ideal stiff peaks; follow the recipe exactly for how much and which type of leavening to use; use the recommended pan type and size.
2. Cake caved in on itself after removing from the oven.
- Possible causes: Meringue was not well incorporated causing the cake to lose some stability; baking time was not long enough so the cake was under-baked; cake was not immediately inverted once removed from the oven; cake was released from pan too soon after inverting.
- How to avoid: Make sure you get a well-mixed, homogeneous batter with an even consistency throughout; baking times are guidelines and can vary from oven to oven, so know your oven and give enough time for the cake to bake through; let the cake cool inverted for at least 30 minutes, or until pan is cool enough to handle with your hands.
3. Cake did not rise much/ cake has a dense (not fluffy) texture
- Possible causes: Meringue was under-whipped meaning less than optimal trapped air bubbles; interestingly, meringue whipped too stiff can also result in over-folding or over-working the batter, thereby causing meringue to lose trapped air bubbles; leavening agents have lost efficacy.
- How to avoid: Whip up meringue to ideal stiff peaks; fold in the meringue with a light and quick hand without breaking air bubbles; test if leavening agents are still active.
4. Cake fell out of the pan when inverted/ cake shrank from the sides of the pan
- Possible causes: Wrong type of baking pan or non-stick pan was used; cake was under-baked; incorrect ratio of ingredients
- How to avoid: Use chiffon tube pan for best results; avoid baking in pans with non-stick coating; extend baking time if necessary, and test for doneness; follow the recipe amounts and measure exactly, be sure to differentiate weight measurements from volume, and vice versa.
5. Large holes in the cake crumb
- Main causes: Meringue was not well incorporated; batter was poured into the pan haphazardly; air pockets were not eliminated.
- How to avoid: Aim to get a homogeneous batter with an even consistency throughout; pour batter in a continuous flow into the pan from one position; eliminate large air pockets by running a bamboo skewer or chopstick through the batter in the pan, and give the pan a couple of firm taps on the counter top.
Additional useful tips
I’ve included several more useful tips in the recipe card below, which I hope will help you along on your next chiffon cake bake.
Here are more delicious chiffon cakes to inspire your next bake:
- No-Fail Pandan Chiffon Cake
- Vanilla Chiffon Cake + Tips for the Perfect Chiffon Bake!
- Chocolate Chiffon Cake
- Black Sesame Chiffon Cake – A Japanese-Inspired Treat
- Hazelnut Chiffon Cake with Cinnamon and Mixed Nuts