Use the Chiffon Method to Make Your Cake Rich and Airy

Our Test Kitchen explains and shows you how to make chiffon cake from scratch.

What is the chiffon method? Light and airy, the chiffon method results in cakes similar to angel food cakes and sponge cakes. The differences between chiffon cakes and the others are angel food cakes include only egg whites and sponge cakes have both egg whites and egg yolks, but the chiffon method calls for egg whites, egg yolks, and oil, so these cakes richer and moister than the other two.

Because all these cakes rely on beating lots of air into the batter, each is light and fluffy in texture. Both angel food cakes and chiffon cakes are usually baked in tube pans, which is another reason they look so similar.

Chiffon Cake
Blaine Moats

How to Make Chiffon Cake

We cover the general step-by-step process here so you'll know how to prepare chiffon cake. For complete details, like ingredient amounts and timings, use one of our chiffon method recipes.

Separate Eggs bowl yolk bowl
Marty Baldwin

Step 1: Separate Eggs

Separate the egg whites from the yolks using an egg separator ($8, OXO). Eggs separate more easily when cold, so separate them immediately after taking them out of the refrigerator. Even the tiniest bit of yolk can diminish the beating quality of the whites (if any yolk gets into the white, don't use it. Refrigerate that white for another use).

To ensure that no yolk gets into the whites during separation, put each white into a small bowl (such as a custard cup), then transfer the white to an extra-large bowl for beating. Place the yolks in a small mixing bowl.

Allow the egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (for food safety, don't let eggs stand longer than 30 minutes at room temperature). The standing time ensures that the whites reach their full volume when you beat them.

Combine Dry Ingredients bowl mix
Kritsada Panichgul

Step 2: Combine Dry Ingredients

As your oven preheats to the temperature specified in your recipe, stir together the dry ingredients—typically flour (or cake flour), sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of this mixture. To make a well, use a spatula or wooden spoon to gently push the dry ingredients against the side of the bowl.

Why cake flour?

Many "retro cakes" like chiffon cake call for cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. Cake flour is a fine-textured flour with low protein content, so it keeps cakes and other baked goods more tender (less tuggy or chewy). But all-purpose flour will work as a replacement.

Step 3: Beat in Wet Ingredients

Add the oil, egg yolks, and other liquids called for in your recipe to the well of dry ingredients, making sure to add these ingredients in the order specified in the recipe. Adding the oil first helps prevent the eggs from binding with the flour, which can cause streaks in the finished cake.

Use an electric mixer ($65, Bed Bath & Beyond) to beat the mixture on low until combined then on high until satiny smooth.

Test Kitchen Tip:

To measure liquids, such as oil, pour them into a clear measuring cup with measuring lines on the side. Get at eye level with the cup and fill just to the measuring line.

Beat Egg Whites bowl mixer
Scott Little

Step 4: Beat Egg Whites

Thoroughly wash and dry the beaters. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium to medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. At this stage, the tips of the egg whites will stand straight when the beaters are lifted.

Tips for beating egg whites:

  • Make sure your beaters and mixing bowl are clean and dry. A speck of oil or egg yolk on either one can minimize the volume of the beaten egg whites.
  • Avoid plastic bowls—even clean ones may hold oily residue that can affect the beating quality of the egg whites.
  • Use a wide enough bowl to keep the beaters from being buried in the egg whites.
  • Add cream of tartar to stabilize the egg whites.
  • Don't overbeat or under beat egg whites—your cake may fall. Egg whites should be stiff but not dry.
Fold Ingredients bowl mixture
Scott Little

Step 5: Fold Ingredients

Pour the egg yolk batter in a thin stream over the beaten egg whites. Then, gently fold the batter into the egg whites.

To fold:

  • Use a spatula to cut down vertically through the mixture.
  • Move the spatula across the bottom of the bowl.
  • Bring it up the other side, carrying some mixture from the bottom over the surface.
  • Repeat this process, rotating the bowl until the ingredients are combined.

Test Kitchen Tip: Be careful not to overmix at this stage. Overmixing can decrease the volume of the batter, resulting in a tough cake.

pour batter pan.bake tin
Scott Little

Step 6: Pour Batter into Tube Pan and Bake

Pour or spoon the batter into your chiffon cake pan—an ungreased 10-inch tube pan ($15, Target)— and bake as directed in your preheated oven. Your cake is done when the top springs back when lightly touched.

angel cake remove pan hot pad
Scott Little

Step 7: Remove Cake from Pan

Immediately invert the cake (still in the pan) and cool it upside down to help set the cake's structure. After the cake has cooled thoroughly, loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and remove it.

Why invert to cool?

If cakes made with the chiffon method cool upright, the light, airy texture deflates. Some tube pans (like pictured here) have little feet to keep the pan elevated when inverted. If your pan doesn't have these feet, you can prop the pan over a clean glass soda bottle. If using the bottle method, check the cake periodically, so it doesn't slide out of the pan and down the bottle.

Step 8: Frost Cake

After the cake has cooled (about 1 hour), frost it as desired.

Now that you've mastered the chiffon method put your skills to work with some of our favorite chiffon cake recipes like Orange Chiffon Cake, Pineapple Chiffon Cake, and Golden Chiffon Cake.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles