Photo by Mumma Oyens

In the world of baking, chiffon cake once had it all. It had a secret ingredient. It had glamor. It had history. It even had publicity agents.

Chiffon cake is described as a light cake with a delicate crumb that resembles angel food cake but with a far richer flavor. This cake was one of the featured Delicious dish recipes in Gaccetta’s book.  And if there was ever a cake to have rags to riches, Lana Turner-type Hollywood discovery, it was the chiffon cake. The tale of this cake was unfolding glamorously in Hollywood. It was famously promoted and launched as the “first new cake in 100 years” on its grand release to the public in 1948. 

It all started with Harry Baker. Harry, who went to Hollywood in 1923, needed a fresh start. He found work as an insurance salesman however moonlighted as a caterer. During this time, he began experimenting with cake recipes; describing Harry Baker as a “hobby cook” is an understatement. Since Chiffon cake was more like his Moby Dick, Harry later revealed that he tested over four hundred (400) recipes, seeking what he hoped would be a more substantial version, a moister, of the then-popular angel food cake. Was the recipe that finally worked a stroke or a fluke of masterful baking? Perhaps a little of both.

What finally worked in 1927 is seemingly quite simple. In his recipe, Harry used vegetable oil (sometimes referred to as “salad oil”) instead of butter or solid shortening. The cake employs egg whites for lift. And the resulting cake, like angel food, is tantalizingly light but with a far richer flavor. Later, Harry would tell a Minneapolis Tribune reporter that adding the vegetable oil was “a sixth sense, something cosmic.”

Cooking Tips

            The Chiffon Cake recipe was published in the 1949 Brown Derby Cookbook and featured on the website It offers a simple, no-nonsense procedure for preparing one of the most popular desserts served at the Brown Derby restaurant chain. Henry Baker, the inventor of the said cake, baked it for almost twenty (20) years for the Derby before he finally decided to sell his Chiffon cake recipe to the General Mills food company, which brought him a fortune.

Top 3 Recipes

            Oil. Not every vegetable oil is perfect for a sponge cake. Canola and sunflower oil work best, as well as almond and walnut oil. If you are into experimenting, you may even try olive oil, but choose the sweeter-tasting varieties.

            Baking. Since chiffon cake needs to turn out spongy and humid, respecting the recommended baking temperature (325-350˚F) is essential. Bake it on a medium- or lower-placed oven rack and, if possible, use an oven thermometer to ensure the temperature is right. Due to the relatively high oil content in the batter, it is unnecessary to oil or butter the pan before baking.

         Eggs. Precision is key to successful dessert making, and when it comes to eggs, they can vary a lot in size. Most American recipes are adjusted for large (2 oz) eggs. Eggs must be warmed at room temperature and as fresh as possible. Before beating the egg whites, ensure that there is not a single drop of egg yolk left behind since it will ruin the egg white snow. Also, it is advised to avoid making chiffon cake or other similar, meringue-based cakes on humid days because the egg whites are sensitive to humidity.

Two Tricks: A Thought To Ponder

There are only two tricks to making the famous chiffon cake. The first is beating egg whites. The cake will be flat and unsuccessful if the egg whites are not stiff enough. Using a whip attachment on your mixer ensures the whites are filled with air which is essential to a spongy texture. Using cake flour is essential.  It is milled to be lighter. And although any cake flour will work, the original General Mills recipe was developed using Softasilk.  This cake can be baked as a layer cake even though it is famously known as a tube cake created in a tube pan similar to an angel food pan.

Chiffon cake can cling to the sides while it bakes since the pan is ungreased. Cool the cake in the pan upside down. Most chiffon cake pans are constructed for space and air to flow between the counter surface and the pan. Another option is to stand the tube pan over a small-necked bottle or funnel until it is completely cool.  Chiffon cakes are light and airy so colling upside down prevents them from becoming flat.

Light and airy, chiffon cake seems made for spring.

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