Chiffon cakes are one of the classic and elegant desserts ideal for any occasion. Here are my tips and techniques for making the perfect chiffon cake that is light, airy, tall, and springy. Troubleshooting included!
In this tutorial guide, I’ll show you the Japanese techniques on how to make the perfectly airy chiffon cake. The Japanese chiffon cakes are also a lot less sweet than the Western-style version, which most people would appreciate.
In addition to all the tips and FAQs, you’ll find my most popular chiffon cake recipes below, such as Earl Grey Chiffon Cake, Chocolate Chiffon Cake, and Matcha Chiffon Cake. I hope you enjoy making them!
Table of Contents
- What is Chiffon Cake?
- What Makes a Perfect Chiffon Cake and How to Achieve It?
- 3 Tips to Make Perfect Meringue (Beaten Egg Whites)
- Adjust Ingredients for Different Sizes of Chiffon Cake Pan
- What Went Wrong? Troubleshooting Chiffon Cakes
- Our Most Popular Chiffon Cake Recipes
What is Chiffon Cake?
It is pronounced as SHE-fon cake. Chiffon cake is a light cake with a spongy texture made with simple ingredients such as oil, eggs, sugar, flour, and flavorings.
Unlike other types of sponge cakes that use chemical/artificial leavener such as baking soda and baking powder, chiffon cakes are leavened mostly from the meringue (stiffly beaten egg whites). They are baked in a tall pan with at least four inches deep and must be cooled upside down to retain their height.
Is Chiffon Cake The Same as Angel Food Cake?
You might be more familiar with angel food cake as they are commonly sold in grocery stores. The only difference between these two cakes is that angel food cake uses no egg yolks and no fat, but chiffon cakes include both the whites and the yolks.
How about Sponge Cake? Is There a Difference Between Chiffon Cake and Sponge Cake?
You can say that chiffon cake has the in-between texture of a sponge cake and a butter cake. It is lighter and airier when compared to a sponge cake. The base batter for both chiffon cake and sponge cake are made of separated, whipped egg whites and yolks. However, chiffon cake uses both baking powder and oil, while sponge cake doesn’t contain baking powder.
What Makes a Perfect Chiffon Cake and How to Achieve It?
Here are the characteristics of a perfect chiffon cake:
- It rises tall and straight to the top of the chiffon cake pan without caving into itself.
- No big holes or air pockets all around
- The texture of the sponge is light, fine, airy, fluffy, and bouncy.
- The sponge is very moist, and usually not overly sweet (especially if you are making a Japanese chiffon cake recipe).
In order to make a perfect chiffon cake, there are a few important factors. So let’s go over them.
1. Make the perfect meringue (beaten egg whites)
This is the most important factor, so I’ll cover this topic in a separate section below.
2. Use the right chiffon cake pan.
Make sure you use the right chiffon cake pan. The best types are the aluminum pan with a removable base. Make sure the pan is NOT non-stick. Do not grease the mold because the cake needs to cling to the sides and center of the pan for support as it rises. Otherwise, it will collapse. You can buy a 7-inch round angel cake pan with a removable base on Amazon or a 17-cm aluminum Japanese chiffon cake pan on Nihon Ichiban or Amazon.
3. Let cool upside down.
The cake must be cooled upside down in its pan so that it stretches downward instead of collapsing. Stick the cake pan on a tall heavy bottle and let cool for 3-4 hours before removing the cake pan. If you use an angel food cake pan, invert the cake pan on a cooling rack.
3 Tips to Make Perfect Meringue (Beaten Egg Whites)
The key to the successful chiffon cake is the meringue (the beaten egg whites). There is no clear and easy way to show how much beating is enough, except for your own trials and errors. I could only give you a few tips that will help you succeed. Before anything, make sure your beaters and mixing bowl are clean and dry.
1. Chill egg whites (What?!)
I know, it’s the total opposite of what you learned from American recipes. I’ve seen most of the American recipes use room temperature egg whites to make the meringue. However, almost all (99%) Japanese chiffon cake recipes require cold, well-refrigerated, or sometimes half-frozen egg whites, to make meringue without cream of tartar. Chilled egg whites will make very fine and smooth meringue with small and strong air bubbles inside. They remain strong even in the oven and help the batter rise higher and fluffier. If you are not from the US, which method do you use?
2. Whisk until stiff peak with a tip that folds over
There is always discussion on how much you should beat the egg whites. From my experience, it’s best to stop when you lift the whisk, the egg whites go straight up (stiff peak) and just the tip is soft enough that it folds over, like taking a bow.
Then switch from the hand-held electric mixer (or stand mixer) to a balloon whisk, and thoroughly mix the sides and center of egg whites a few times to get to the same consistency throughout.
3. Mix in thoroughly with the whisk
I used to use a silicone spatula to fold beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture so that you won’t deflate the egg whites, which would result in a dry and dense cake. However, I have read several instructions and youtube videos that a balloon whisk is actually a better choice to incorporate egg whites into the batter. After a few trials, I am convinced that the whisk is the best way to fold in egg whites.
When you fold in egg whites, you might be afraid of breaking the air bubbles and may not mix the batter thoroughly. I felt the same way and always thought I mixed enough. However, when the egg whites are not mixed in with the mixture thoroughly, they would end up separated in the oven. As a result, it creates big air pockets inside the batter while being baked.
Fold carefully and slowly so you would not deflate the egg whites. Fold in one-third of the egg whites first to lighten the batter, and then fold in another 1/3. Then transfer the mixed batter into the egg whites to fold in the rest.
Adjust Ingredients for Different Sizes of Chiffon Cake Pan
Since 17-cm chiffon cake pan is the most common size for chiffon cakes in Japan, I usually bake with a 17-cm Japanese chiffon cake pan. It’s a decent-size cake for Japanese standards, but it will look smaller next to typical American cakes.
*Below I include the measurements for different size pans for your reference.
15-cm (6-inch) chiffon cake pan
- 2 large eggs (100 g without shell)
- 60 g (5 Tbsp) granulated sugar
- 30 ml (2 Tbsp) vegetable oil
- 40 ml (2 Tbsp and ¾ tsp) water/milk/citrus juice (such lemon juice)
- 50 g (¼ cup and add 4 tsp) cake flour (Make sure to measure correctly; See my tutorial video.)
- 3 g (¾ tsp) baking powder
- vanilla extract
Bake at 340 ºF (170 ºC) for 25-30 minutes.
17-cm (7-inch) chiffon cake pan (BASIC)
- 3 large eggs (150 g without shell)
- 85 g (measure ½ cup and remove 1 Tbsp) granulated sugar
- 40 ml (measure 3 Tbsp and remove 1 tsp) vegetable oil
- 60 ml (¼ cup) water/milk/citrus juice
- 75 g (⅔ cup and remove 2 tsp) cake flour (Make sure to measure correctly; See my tutorial video.)
- 4 g (1 tsp) baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Bake at 340 ºF (170 ºC) for 30-35 minutes.
20-cm (8-inch) chiffon cake pan
- 5 large eggs (250 g without shell)
- 130 g (⅔ cup) granulated sugar
- 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
- 95 ml (measure ⅓ cup and add 1 ½ Tbsp) water/milk/citrus juice
- 120 g (1 cup) cake flour (Make sure to measure correctly; See my tutorial video.)
- 6 g (1 ¼ tsp) baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Bake at 340 ºF (170 ºC) for 35-40 minutes.
22-cm (8.5-inch) chiffon cake pan
- 6 large eggs (300 g without shell)
- 170 g (measure 1 cup and remove 2 Tbsp) granulated sugar
- 80 ml (6 Tbsp) vegetable oil
- 120 ml (½ cup) water/milk/citrus juice
- 150 g (1 ¼ cup) cake flour (Make sure to measure correctly; See my tutorial video.)
- 8 g (2 tsp) baking powder
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
Bake at 340 ºF (170 ºC) for 40-45 minutes.
23-cm (9-inch) chiffon cake pan
- 7 large eggs (350 g without shell)
- 190 g (measure 1 cup and remove 1 Tbsp) granulated sugar
- 90 ml (measure ⅓ cup and add 1 Tbsp) vegetable oil
- 135 ml (measure ½ cup and add 1 Tbsp) water/milk/citrus juice
- 170 g (measure 1 ⅓ cup and add 1 Tbsp) cake flour (Make sure to measure correctly; See my tutorial video.)
- 9 g (2 ¼ tsp) baking powder
- 2 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Bake at 340 ºF (170 ºC) for 45-50 minutes.
25-cm (10-inch) chiffon cake pan
- 8 large eggs (400 g without shell)
- 230 g (measure 1 cup and add 2 Tbsp) granulated sugar
- 110 ml (measure ½ cup and remove 2 tsp) vegetable oil
- 170 ml (measure ⅔ cup and add 2 tsp) water/milk/citrus juice
- 210 g (1 ¾ cup) cake flour (Make sure to measure correctly; See my tutorial video.)
- 11 g (2 ⅔ tsp) baking powder
- 2 ¾ tsp vanilla extract
Bake at 340 ºF (170 ºC) for 50-55 minutes.
What Went Wrong? Troubleshooting Chiffon Cakes
1. My chiffon cake didn’t rise properly. My chiffon cake sank/deflated after I took it out of the oven.
- Get a chiffon cake pan: Please use an aluminum, 2-piece tube pan. You cannot use a non-stick pan to make chiffon cake as the wall is too slippery for the batter to cling to the sides and center of the chiffon cake pan in order to rise higher.
- Do not grease: For the same reason, you do not need to grease the cake pan.
- Invert the cake pan to let cool: If you didn’t use a chiffon cake pan, you can’t do this step. It’s very important to invert the chiffon cake pan while letting it cool so the cake will not collapse and it will continue to stay tall with the help of gravity.
- Beat egg whites correctly: Under-beating egg whites will cause the cake structure to collapse, while over-beating can cause the mixture to break down when you fold it into the batter, creating a heavy batter. Therefore, always keep an eye out for the egg whites as they thicken. A safe way to do this is to whip your egg whites on medium speed. And it’s ok to stop frequently to check as you get close to the stiff peak stage.
- Check oven temperature: When the oven temperature is too low, the cake will not rise to its optimum height. It’s also possible that your oven setting doesn’t display the actual oven temperature. Get an oven thermometer to place it in the oven and test the actual oven temperature at 4 corners and center. My oven has some hot spots in one corner so I know I need to avoid placing my cake there.
- Increase baking time: If you did everything right, maybe the baking time was not enough.
2. My cake got burnt on the top.
- Use aluminum foil: Your oven may be a bit too small for this cake pan. You need at least some space between the cake pan top and the oven. To fix this problem, you can cover the cake with an aluminum foil over the top to prevent further browning once the cake reaches a nice golden color.
3. My cake has big holes (air pockets).
- Mix thoroughly: When you don’t fold the egg whites and batter thoroughly, the cake batter is not consistent. The meringue parts have too much air bubbles than the other parts, which results in large pockets and other parts of the batter cannot sustain the structure. Make sure you mix everything thoroughly without destroying the bubbles.
- Beat egg whites correctly: When egg whites are under beaten, the small air bubbles cannot sustain as the temperature goes up. As a result, small air bubbles turn into one bigger hole.
- Prevent air pockets: The air pockets may be created when you pour the batter into the chiffon cake pan. Make sure to pour the cake batter all at once in one location. Also, run the wooden skewer in the batter a few times and gently tap the chiffon cake pan against the kitchen counter to get rid of large air bubbles that are trapped in the cake batter.
4. My cake has white streaks.
- Mix thoroughly: Those white streaks are meringue (egg whites). It happened when you didn’t incorporate meringue into the batter thoroughly, so the egg whites appeared as white streaks.
Q: Can I use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour?
A: Japanese chiffon cake recipes always use cake flour. It is the reason why they are airy, fluffy, and soft. All-purpose flour has a higher protein content, which develops more gluten and results in a tougher cake. You would see the difference immediately.
The substitution or the easiest workaround for cake flour is to mix all-purpose flour with cornstarch. To make 1 cup cake flour, simply take out 2 Tbsp from 1 cup all-purpose flour and replace it with 2 Tbsp cornstarch. However, in my opinion, store-bought cake flour would give a better result as it has been sifted finely with the machine.
Q: Do we need to add baking powder?
A: In general, baking powder is not necessary as chiffon cake relies on the egg whites to rise. Baking powder is just a backup. However, a chiffon cake recipe includes oil and egg yolks (fats) and baking powder to counteract and help the cake rise.
Q: Can I use melted butter instead of vegetable oil?
A: No, to get a light, airy, soft texture, it has to be vegetable oil or canola oil. Please don’t substitute it with butter.
Q: Can I bake it in a regular cake pan or bundt pan?
A: I highly recommend getting a tubed aluminum pan that allows the cake to rise taller. Avoid non-stick pan and never grease the pan because the cake will not be able to cling and rise as high. If your chiffon cake pan is not the same size as mine, I always recommend doubling the recipe (instead of trying to divide an egg by weight). Use the leftover batter to make a small cake in a regular ramekin or smaller cake pan (it won’t be a proper chiffon cake though).
Q: When does the cake taste best?
A: It’s best half-day to a whole day after baking.
Q: How long does the cake last? Can I freeze chiffon cake?
A: Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and keep in a cool, dark place for about 2-3 days. Depending on the ingredients or climate you live in, it might be better to keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Be sure to let the cake come to room temperature before serving, or it may seem dry and dense.
You can also wrap the individual piece or the whole cake in a layer of plastic wrap and another layer of tin foil before store in the freezer. Note that some flavors will be lost. Defrost naturally and enjoy.
Our Most Popular Chiffon Cake Recipes
Each of the recipes below include step-by-step images (and some with videos) which provide visual guidance:
- Chocolate Chiffon Cake – This is an all-star dessert! You’ll love the rich chocolate flavor and super moist texture.
- Earl Grey Chiffon Cake – So lovely for an afternoon tea.
- Matcha Green Tea Chiffon Cake – The earthy, vanilla-like matcha green tea flavor is unmistakable.
- Meyer Lemon Chiffon Cake – Who would resist the refreshing aroma of the Meyer lemons in a cake?!
- Orange Chiffon Cake – This one has a warm, citrusy aroma from the orange zest and a hint of cardamom. Get ready to impress!
- Have you tried any fun flavors you would like me to share next? I’d love to hear from you!
You can serve the chiffon cakes on their own, or with fresh whipped cream (or frosting but go easy with it) and fresh cut fruits.
I hope this tutorial guide will help you with your chiffon cake adventures. If you baked a chiffon cake and you’re still having trouble, please ask in the comments below. I’ll be happy to help.