Learn how to make this light and fluffy vanilla chiffon cake with this simple, easy to follow recipe! Full of expert tips & tricks to get the perfect chiffon cake that won't shrink or deflate!
Chiffon cake is one of my favorite cakes to eat because it's so light and fluffy. It has a delicate, soft texture that's pillowy soft and just melts in your mouth.
I've adapted this recipe from my mother's days as a professional pastry chef. Her baker's recipe is similar to a Japanese chiffon cake, meaning it's less sweet and dense than its American counterpart.
I've simplified the steps so that it's incredibly easy and simple for any home baker to make but with all the professional results!
This vanilla chiffon cake is versatile to any flavors you'd like to add. Also it's great for any occasion!
Make this Japanese chiffon cake during the holidays, for Christmas, birthdays, and get togethers. You can even make this ahead of time and freeze! It keeps well and thaws well too.
What is chiffon cake?
Chiffon cake is a light, airy cake that's made with cake flour, vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, and baking powder. Instead of butter or shortening, vegetable oil is added to give it moisture.
It's a type of foam cake, which is leavened by whipping egg whites to create its volume. The resulting texture is a light, airy, spongy cake that's extremely soft and fluffy.
Chiffon cakes are always baked in a chiffon cake pan, which has a center tube that's raised above the rim of the pan. It may also have raised feet built into the top of the pan to allow for upside down cooling.
Chiffon cake vs sponge cake vs angel food cake
You may be wondering what's the difference between chiffon cake, sponge cake, and angel food cake.
Sponge cakes are any cakes that are leavened with beaten egg whites. They are non-yeast cakes which means they don't contain any type of yeast and are sometimes leavened with baking powder in addition to beaten egg whites.
Both chiffon cakes and angel food cakes are a type of sponge cake. But the difference between the two is that chiffon cakes contain both egg whites and egg yolks whereas angel food cake only contain egg whites.
Choosing a chiffon cake pan
A chiffon cake pan is the best pan to use when baking a chiffon cake. There are several reasons why you'd want to use this particular type of pan and a few things you want to look for when choosing a chiffon pan:
Buy aluminum without a non-stick coating
An aluminum pan without a non-stick coating helps the cake batter adhere to the wall of the pan while it rises in the oven so you get a tall, fluffy cake.
A non-stick coating prevents the cake from fully rising as the coating is difficult to adhere to, resulting in a deflated cake that's more dense than it should be.
Look for a pan with a removable base or a two piece chiffon pan. This makes it easier to remove the delicate cake in one piece without tearing.
Your chiffon pan should have a raised inner tube which allows for even baking and a full rise.
The inner tube allows the cake to bake from the center in addition to the sides, which help it bake evenly without burning. It also helps the chiffon cake have something to adhere to while it rises.
Another benefit to having a raised inner tube is you can use it to set the cake upside down to cool.
Some chiffon pans have 'feet' or spikes on the outer rim of the pan which is used to balance the pan when it's set upside down. I've found this is really useful as it's tough to balance the pan on just the center tube.
How to stop shrinking, deflating, or sinking chiffon cake
To stop a chiffon cake from shrinking or deflating, use the proper chiffon pan that's made of aluminum without a non-stick coating and cool the cake as soon as possible while upside down.
Inverting the pan and cooling it down is just as important as the pan used because it prevents the chiffon cake from shrinking, deflating, or sinking. If you don't invert the pan, the cake will shrink and collapse on itself. Cooling it down helps the cake set and keep its height, which is how you get a light and fluffy chiffon cake.
Ingredients you'll need
- Eggs - I used large eggs, separated by yolks and whites
- Cake flour - helps the cake achieve a soft, fluffy texture
- Cream of tartar - helps stabilize the egg whites once whipped
- Flavorings - use any extracts or flavorings you like, such as vanilla or almond extract.
Step by step instructions
- Add the egg yolks, vegetable oil, water, vanilla, salt, and half of the sugar to a large mixing bowl. Whisk well to combine.
- Sift in the flour and baking powder into the egg yolk mixture and combine.
- Add the egg whites and cream of tarter to a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium high speed while adding the remaining half of the sugar. Add the sugar in three batches until you've reached firm peaks.
- To check for firm peaks, lift the whisk out of the bowl and set it upside down. The egg whites should form a peak with a slightly drooping peak.
- Combine the egg whites and egg yolk mixture carefully by folding it in in two batches. Then pour it into your pan.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 355 degrees F.
- Invert the cake pan so it's upside down and cool the cake as soon as possible. To do this, place a cold damp towel over it. Rinse the towel under cold water and wring it. Place the cold towel over it again and repeat until the cake pan is no longer hot. This prevents the cake from deflating and sinking.
- Once it's completely cooled, run a knife along the edge of the cake pan and remove the base. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Expert tips and tricks
- Use the right pan - Use an un-greased aluminum chiffon pan without a non-stick coating. The batter needs to adhere to the sides of the pan will rising so greasing the pan and using a nonstick pan will prevent that from happening.
- Egg whites - Beat your egg whites until you get firm peaks. This means when you lift the whisk, the base of the egg whites should be firm but the tip should fall over slightly. Over beating your egg whites will have a grainy look so keep a close eye on it. When the egg whites are beaten to firm peaks, beat the egg whites at the lowest speed to get rid of large air bubbles. Chiffon cake should have a small, consistent crumb without large air bubbles.
- Folding - use gently folding when incorporating the egg whites into the batter. I prefer to use a large spatula or a large balloon whisk.
- Spray the pan with water (not oil) - spray the pan with water before pouring in the batter. This will make for easier removal from the pan once the cake is baked.
- Upside down cooling - cool the cake as soon as it's out of the oven by placing it upside down. Drape a cold, wet towel over it to cool it down quickly and repeatedly rinse the towel under cold water and repeat the process. The cake will collapse and shrink if it stays hot.
Frequently asked questions
Wrap it with plastic wrap or parchment paper and store in an airtight container in the fridge where there's humidity control. Rest at room temperature before serving.
Yes, this tastes best when made up to two days ahead and kept in the fridge.
Otherwise, chiffon cake freezes very well so you can make ahead and freeze for up to 2 months. Wait for it to completely cool and wrap it with parchment paper or plastic wrap then place it inside an airtight container or large freezer bag. Thaw completely at room temperature before serving.
Chiffon cake can shrink and deflate for several reasons.
First, the pan had a non-stick coating or if it was greased. The best pan to use for a voluminous cake is an aluminum, un-greased chiffon pan without a non-stick coating.
Second, the cake can shrink and deflate if not completely cooled immediately after baking. Chiffon cake needs to be cooled quickly while upside down to keep its volume. To cool it down quickly, drape a wet, cold towel over it repeatedly until the cake cools. You may have to rinse the towel under cold running water several times.
I hope you enjoy this professional recipe for fluffy, vanilla chiffon cake! Please let me know in the comments if you made it! - Jamie
Want more? Check out these other recipes:
- Bakery Swiss Roll Cake Recipe
- Custard Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce
- Japanese Strawberry Shortcake
- Chocolate Roll Cake - Swiss Roll
- Butter Cookies - Easy 6 Ingredient Recipe!
- Delicious Mini Pumpkin Layer Cakes - Soft and Fluffy!
- Chewy Hawaiian Butter Mochi Recipe
- Soft Cut Out Sugar Cookies - Perfect for Decorating
Light and Fluffy Chiffon Cake
- 1 ½ cups cake flour - (200g)
- 1 ⅓ cup sugar - (260g); divided
- 1 teaspoon baking powder - (5g)
- ½ teaspoon salt - (3g)
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar - (1g)
- 6 large egg yolks - (100g)
- 6 large egg whites - (200g)
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil - (80g)
- ¼ cup water - (60g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste - substitute with vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 355 degrees F. Add the egg yolks, vegetable oil, water, vanilla, salt, and half of the sugar to a large mixing bowl. Whisk well to combine. (The remaining half of the sugar will be used for the egg whites.)
- Sift the cake flour and baking powder, into the egg yolk mixture in three batches. Fold after each time until well combined. Avoid over mixing.
- Add the egg whites and cream of tarter to a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium high speed while adding the remaining half of the sugar. Add the sugar in three batches until you've reached firm peaks. See Note 1.
- Add half the beaten egg whites to the egg yolk mixture. Fold gently to combine then add the remaining half. Fold gently again to avoid deflating the batter. The batter should be light, airy, and fluffy.
- Spray the inside of your ungreased, aluminum chiffon cake pan with water including the inner tube. This helps prevent the cake from sticking too much to the pan once baked. Pour the batter into the pan and fill up to 75% full otherwise you may risk overflow.
- Bake at 355 degrees F for 25 to 35 minutes. Your baking time will depend on how shallow or deep your pan is. See Note 2. Check after 25 minutes for doneness. It's ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is a golden brown color. If your pan is tall and deep, you may have to bake it longer.
- Remove from the oven and immediately flip the chiffon pan upside down to invert it. Cool it down as soon as possible to prevent it from sinking and deflating.Drape a cold, damp towel over it to cool it down as quickly as possible. Rinse the towel under cold water and wring it dry. Drape it over the pan again and repeat this process until the pan is no longer hot. See Note 3.
- Once the cake has cooled, flip over the pan and carefully run a knife along the sides of the pan to help remove it. Then run a knife along the bottom of the pan to remove it from the base.
- Invert the cake again so the flat side is facing up and dust on powdered sugar. Slice and serve.
- For firm peaks: Lift the whisk attachment and hold it upside down. The peaks should stand firm but the tips should still droop down. Stop before the egg whites look grainy as that's a sign of an over beaten meringue.
- I used a 9.25 inch x 9.25 inch x 4 inch chiffon pan for this recipe so baking times are based on that pan size. As all ovens vary, adjust your baking time accordingly.
- Inverting the pan and cooling it down is important because it prevents the chiffon cake from shrinking, deflating, or sinking. If you don't invert the pan, the cake will shrink and collapse on itself. Cooling it down helps the cake set and keep its height, which is how you get a light and fluffy chiffon cake.
- I recommend using a tubed aluminum chiffon cake pan with a removable base.
- Avoid using a pan with a non-stick coating as the cake batter will not rise as much due to the coating.
*Nutritional information is an estimate, calculated using online tools.