Vanilla chiffon cake is light, airy, and totally gorgeous when garnished with fruit and powdered sugar. A delicate cake like this really shines during parties and special occasions! We love that all you need are pantry staples and a tube pan to make this easy dessert.
The last time I made fluffy chiffon cake, it was the lemon version and I actually used store-bought cake mix as a shortcut! So I thought this time I would go with cake flour instead to make a vanilla flavor. It turned out delicious and is a great recipe to use as a base if you wanted to change up the flavors.
Cakes like this remind me of simple and old-fashioned. This means you will love hot milk cake, gooey butter cake, and chess pie. You may also enjoy mini pineapple upside-down cakes or this double limoncello loaf.
What do I Need for this Recipe?
- cake flour – this type of flour works best for an airy texture. All-purpose flour could be used, except the cake won’t be as soft and will be denser.
- granulated sugar – sweetens the cake and helps the meringue give that fluffy texture.
- baking powder – our leavening agent that makes the cake rise. Always make sure your baking powder has not expired, or else you will end up with a flatter cake.
- salt – brings the flavors together.
- vegetable oil – keeps the cake moist while adding flavor. Canola oil can also be used as a substitute.
- milk – helps to activate other ingredients and adds a light, fluffy touch to the batter.
- vanilla extract and almond extract – gives just a hint of flavor
- eggs – these should be room temperature and separated. Be sure to not leave any egg yolks in the whites, or else they will not whip properly.
- cream of tartar – helps to make air bubbles and hold the shape of the egg whites.
For the perfect chiffon cake, garnish with a dusting of powdered sugar, a simple glaze, whipped cream, or fresh fruit and berries.
- Stand mixer or electric mixer with a whisk attachment
- Rubber spatula – to fold in the egg whites to the batter.
- Tube pan (with or without a removable base) – Using a chiffon cake pan works best because it allows the batter to “climb” the center tube. Some like to use a regular cake pan when making a layer cake.
Variations and Substitutions:
- Use store-bought cake mix – if you are out of flour, you can use a box cake mix like I did when I made lemon chiffon cake with lemon zest. However, the amount of the ingredients will need to be adjusted to 1 box white or yellow cake mix, ½ cup vegetable oil, ¾ cup buttermilk, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon almond extract, 7 large eggs separated, room temperature, ½ teaspoon cream of tartar. Follow the same instructions below.
- Swap the cream of tartar – use 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in place of the cream of tartar if needed.
- Different flavors – Make an orange chiffon cake by using orange extract and orange zest. You can use other extracts to change the flavor of chiffon cakes as well.
- Simple glaze – To make a glaze, combine ¾ cup powdered sugar with 3 tablespoons of heavy cream. Whisk in a little orange juice (for orange flavor), lemon oil, or extract, or leave it plain.
- Homemade whipped cream – beat a cup of cold heavy cream with a ¼ cup of powdered sugar into medium peaks form using a hand mixer at medium speed.
PREP: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Step 1: Sift together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Step 2: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the oil, milk, extracts, and egg yolks at medium-high speed until foamy.
Step 3: Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl for 6 minutes or until stiff peaks form using the balloon whisk.
Step 4: Gently stir the egg yolk mixture into the dry ingredients.
Pro Tip: Be careful not to over-stir so that you preserve the air in the egg whites.
Step 5: Fold the beaten egg whites (⅓ at a time) into the cake batter.
Step 6: Pour batter into the prepared pan. Cool the cake upside down for at least 30 minutes. Use an offset spatula or butter knife to loosen the cake from the edges of the pan. Turn the cake out onto a serving platter.
Step 7: Bake the cake for 55-60 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick can be inserted and only has a few crumbs on it and springs back when gently pressed.
Step 8: Cool the cake upside down for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack. Use an offset spatula or butter knife to loosen the cake from the edges of the pan. Turn the cake out onto a serving platter.
SERVE: Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar, drizzle a simple glaze, or serve with fresh berries and whipped cream!
- Room-temperature egg whites are best for volume.
- Be careful to not over beat the egg whites. Once you see peaks that fold over, check more often as you reach stiff peaks.
- We want the mixer attachments to be clean, if they are oily you will end up with deflated meringue.
- Cooling the cake upside down not only allows it to cool but keeps the air in the cake rather condensing it due to gravity.
- Do not grease the pan. By leaving it ungreased, the batter will “climb” the center and sides of the pan so it’s tall and fluffy just like the classic chiffon cake should be. We also want it to cling so it can cool upside down without falling out.
- If your pan does not have “feet” you can cool it upside down on a wine bottle or on a cooling rack.
Chiffon cake was created by an insurance agent in 1927 and became the perfect balance between angel food and sponge cake.
Chiffon cake recipes have a much higher ratio of eggs to batter compared to a sponge cake, even though technically they are considered a sponge cake. Also, sponge cakes lack oil and butter and have a spongy texture. Whereas the chiffon cake is an airy cake. Think of the chiffon cake as a cross between a vanilla cake and an angel food cake.
Keep the fluffy cake covered on the counter for up to 5 days.
Once the cake has cooled completely, place it on a baking sheet and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Then wrap it in a layer of plastic wrap, followed by aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 3 months.
More Delicious Cake Recipes
Vanilla Chiffon Cake
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 7 large eggs separated, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Beat together oil, milk, extracts, and egg yolks until foamy.
- Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form (about 6 minutes) in the bowl of a standing mixer.
- Gently stir the foamy egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture.
- Use a spatula to fold the egg whites (⅓ at a time) into the batter. Be careful not to over-stir so that you preserve the air in the egg whites.
- Transfer the batter to a 10-inch tube pan or angel food cake pan. Do not grease the pan, as the batter will cling to the sides of the pan to gain its height.
- Bake approximately 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few crumbs, and the cake springs back when pressed gently.
- Cool UPSIDE DOWN. Angel food cake pans have little metal “feet” on the top of the pan for standing the cake upside down. You can also invert the pan onto the neck of a wine bottle. Cool for at least 30 minutes upside down. You can cool it completely.
- Loosen the sides of the cake from the pan by running a small spatula or knife around the edges. Turn out the cake onto a serving platter.
- Dust with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream and/or fresh berries.
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