Make this ultra moist and fluffy vanilla chiffon cake for your everyday treat or a celebratory occasion! This cake is delicious dusted with confectioner’s sugar or frosted with Chantilly cream.
I’m going to have to declare May my month for chiffon cakes! This is the third in this series, and I decided to get back to basics with my all-new improved recipe for a pure vanilla chiffon cake.
This vanilla chiffon cake is a real classic. It’s super soft, ultra moist and delightfully tender. It is everything a chiffon cake should be – light as air, super fluffy, and bouncy!
Because the only flavouring ingredient, other than eggs and milk, is vanilla, it’s important to use a good or premium quality vanilla extract over vanilla essence. The flavour of the extract is naturally derived and much more full-bodied.
Why try this vanilla chiffon cake recipe?
- This recipe uses whole eggs. The #1 reason I updated this recipe was because I wanted to use whole eggs, so there wouldn’t be leftover yolks to remember to use up! I mean what was I thinking, using 3 1/2 egg yolks and 3 1/2 egg whites previously! So, here’s to making life easier for all of us!
- Cake flour is the flour of choice. If you want that fine, smooth, and tender-textured crumb you’ve seen on some chiffon cakes, cake flour is the way to go. Don’t have any? You’ll be happy to know you can make cake flour from scratch at home with all purpose flour and corn starch.
- Vanilla extract for bolder flavour. Vanilla extract always wins over vanilla essence for a richer, full-flavoured taste. Plus, it’s naturally derived while vanilla essence is chemically synthesised to imitate natural vanilla.
If you are a fan of chiffon cakes, you won’t want to miss the first two recipe updates I worked on earlier this month. This cotton-soft chocolate chiffon cake is truly worth a try. And don’t skip on the most popular chiffon cake on the blog, this no-fail pandan chiffon cake.
What is a chiffon cake?
A chiffon cake, named after the chiffon method in cake baking, is a very light and airy cake made with flour, eggs, oil, sugar, leavening agents (baking powder, baking soda), liquids such as water, milk or juices, as well as flavourings.
It is considered a foam cake, which places it in the same category as angel food cakes and sponge cakes. Chiffon cakes sit nicely between the two. It has the light, fluffy texture of an angel food cake, because it relies on aeration from whipped egg whites, usually in action with chemical leaveners, to rise.
But the chiffon cake is much more moist and tender than a sponge cake because oil is the primary fat used in place of butter. As oil is liquid at room temperature, a chiffon cake stays moist and does not easily dry out, compared to other batter cakes.
Ingredients for Vanilla Chiffon Cake
Chiffon cakes have two parts to making the batter. The meringue which is a stiffly beaten mixture of egg whites with sugar, and sometimes stabilised with cream of tartar.
Then, there’s the rest of the ingredients that make up a thick batter made with eggs yolks, liquids (water / milk / juices / extracts), sugars, oil and flour.
For the meringue:
- Egg whites
- Cream of tartar
For the vanilla batter:
- Cake flour
- Baking powder
- Egg yolks
- Vanilla extract
Step-by-step: How to make vanilla chiffon cake
Part 1: Make the batter
- Step 1: In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until thick and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Step 2: Stir in the oil, milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
- Steps 3 & 4: Add half of the sifted flour mixture. Stir with a whisk until no streaks of flour can be seen.
- Steps 5 & 6: Add the remaining flour mixture. Stir with a whisk, getting in all the flour sticking to the sides of the bowl until well combined. The mixture should be thick, smooth and free of lumps.
Part 2: Make the meringue
- Steps 1 & 2: In a dry and grease-free mixer bowl, add egg whites and sprinkle cream of tartar over it. Whip on medium speed (speed 4 on my Kitchen Aid) until it starts to turn frothy.
- Steps 3 & 4: Add sugar, bit by bit, and continue to whip until stiff peak stage.
- Steps 5 & 6: Lift the whisk. When the meringue holds its shape and curls just a bit at the tip like a little hook, it is at the ideal stiffness.
Can’t be certain of stiff peaks from looking at the meringue on a whisk? Use a finger! Tap gently on the meringue on the whisk or in the bowl, in a few places. If they hold firm with just a bit of a hook or curl at the tip, they are at the ideal stiff peak stage.
Part 3: Fold the meringue into the batter
- Steps 1 & 2: Fold in 1/3 of the meringue into the batter, very gently using a whisk.
- Steps 3 & 4: Fold in the next 1/3 of the meringue, again keeping it gentle and consistent in motion.
- Steps 5 & 6: Fold in the remaining meringue until well incorporated. The final batter should be light and smooth, without any visible streaks of meringue.
Part 4: Fill the pan and bake
Gently pour the batter into the tube pan from one position, letting the batter spread to fill the pan. Use a spatula and gently run it through the batter to minimise air pockets. Level and smooth the surface.
Give the pan a few gentle taps on the counter. Bake on the lowest rack in the preheated oven at 165°C (329°F) for anywhere between 45 to 50 minutes, or until just done.
Now, it’s really important that you DO NOT open the oven door, even if it’s just to take a quick peek. Only do so about 5 minutes before the end of baking, to test if done. The cake is done when a skewer inserted into the centre emerges comes out clean.
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
Once it is removed from the oven, immediately invert the pan by sitting the funnel over the neck of a bottle. Or, if your tube pan has ‘feet’ like mine, invert it over a cooling rack set a few inches off the counter top. I usually place the rack over two cups or glasses of the same height. Allow it to ‘hang’ until completely cooled.
To remove, run a thin knife or spatula around the edges, pressing against the sides of the pan. Invert the cake to free it from the sides of the pan, tapping the base to help release. Then run the knife or spatula around the base to release the funnel.
Chiffon cake is served ‘upside-down’. Dust with confectioner’s sugar sifted over the cake,
How to make the perfect chiffon cake
Because I started out as a self-taught baker, I used to have the hardest time getting chiffon cakes right. I think I’ve had the worst failings, so trust me when I say that I understand the disappointments and frustrations of bakes gone wrong.
That’s why I hope to share as many useful tips as possible on how to perfect your chiffon cake bakes. It is my hope that you’ll find the information especially useful if you are baking one for the first time, or don’t bake chiffon cakes often enough.
1. Use the right pan
Chiffon cakes are best baked in a chiffon tube pan without non-stick coating. This is because the batter needs to cling to the sides of the pan as it rises, which is what gives the cake its height and airy crumb. The best pans are made of aluminium with a removable base.
Baking in dark-tinted pans will give you a darker cake crust, while non-tinted or light-tinted pans will yield a lighter crust, in general. Be careful as dark-tinted pans could also be non-stick, so avoid these for chiffon cakes.
Do not grease the pan, for the same reasons that you would not bake in a non-stick cake pan.
2. Use the appropriate pan size
In order for the cake to rise straight and tall, use the appropriate sized pan. When the pan is filled with batter, it should not be more than 3/4 full.
3. Have ingredients at room temperature, including eggs
Cold egg whites do not whip up as well, so it won’t trap as much air as egg whites at room temperature.
4. Whip meringue to the ideal stiffness
If you’ve been baking chiffon cakes, you’ll know that getting the meringue at the ideal stiffness is crucial to the final texture. And it can sometimes feel a little tricky, even challenging to get right at first. So here are some tips for how you can recognise the right stiffness for your meringue.
If the meringue is under-whipped, your chiffon cake will lack volume and not rise as much, producing a denser crumb. If over-whipped, the whites will form clumps when you try folding into the batter.
This will also make it harder to break down. Because it takes more effort to incorporate, there’s a tendency to over fold. The bad news is that we’ll overwork the batter, causing the meringue to lose volume. Thus, resulting in a denser cake as well.
In fact, even if you manage to fold without losing too much air, an over-whipped meringue is one of the most common reasons why chiffon cakes turn out dry.
The ideal stiff peak stage is somewhere between medium and firm stiffness. How do we recognise that? When you lift some meringue with the whisk (flick away excess), it should hold a firm shape from the base towards the tip, and droop over just a bit. Basically, it looks a bit like a small hook at the tip.
A finger test is equally effective. Use your index finger and sweep up just a little meringue, like how you would try to pick up sauce on your finger. You’ll see the same half-curl or hook at the tip if its at the ideal stiffness.
5. Stir and sift powdered ingredients together
Stir powdered ingredients like cake flour, baking soda or baking powder (or both) and salt so that these are distributed evenly.
Then sift together. This will give you a smoother and finer cake crumb and enable the cake to rise evenly and uniformly.
Remember the cream of tartar is for whipping up the meringue, so do not add it here.
6. Do all your mixing, stirring and folding with a whisk
I strongly recommend folding with a whisk. I’ve simply found that the meringue will incorporate more easily and thoroughly, with minimal loss of volume due to the inherent shape and structure of the whisk.
It also helps reduce or eliminate air pockets in the batter, so you won’t get those big gaping holes in your chiffon cake.
7. Invert the chiffon pan once out of the oven
Once removed from the oven, immediately invert the pan over a bottle neck once it is removed from the oven. Or if you have tube pan with ‘feet’, invert the pan over a cooling rack. Allow it to ‘hang’ in this position until completely cooled.
How to store chiffon cake
Vanilla chiffon cake will keep well at room temperature for up to 3 days, including the day it is baked. It is best kept in an air-tight container and chilled to extend its freshness.
Have it out at room temperature 20 minutes before, though it’s also really enjoyable when eaten chilled!
Here are more chiffon/sponge cakes to inspire your next bake:
- Hazelnut Chiffon Cake with Cinnamon and Mixed Nuts
- No-Fail Pandan Chiffon Cake
- Black Sesame Chiffon Cake – A Japanese-Inspired Treat
- Cotton-Soft Chocolate Chiffon Cake
- Coffee Chiffon Cake