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Chiffon cake can be made plain or fancy in just about any flavor you could think of: lemon, orange, chocolate, peppermint, banana, or with bits of chocolate or nuts. It's often served with just a dusting of confectioners' sugar; with whipped cream and fresh fruit, or frosted with a fluffy boiled icing. (Skip the buttercream icing, it just seems to weigh it down.) The cake can also be hollowed out and filled with chiffon filling for a truly elegant dessert. (Cookbooks of the '50s seemed to use the word "elegant" quite often. We assume that after the ration-ticket war years, being able to be elegant once again was every housewife's dream!)

Chiffon cakes may be baked either in tube (angel food) pans, or in 9" round cake pans. Like an angel food cake, they must be cooled upside down to maintain their full height. This recipe makes a large cake, enough for 16 to 20 slices. It also freezes well, and is a good base for Baked Alaska or filled cakes that need to be served cold, because unlike butter- or shortening-based cakes, a chiffon cake retains its soft texture in the fridge.

At a glance

Prep
Bake
Total
Yield
1 cake, about 18 servings

Ingredients

Choose your measure:

  • 7 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup milk (whole or skim, or buttermilk for chocolate cake)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (or 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia flavoring)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Have ready an ungreased 10" tube pan or angel food pan, or two 9" round ungreased cake pans. If you're using two round pans, place a rack in the center of the oven; for a tube pan or angel food pan, place a rack just below the center, so the top of the risen cake won't be too close to the top of the oven.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar or lemon juice until foamy. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the remaining 1 cup sugar with the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the oil, milk, egg yolks and flavorings until pale yellow.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes at medium speed using a stand mixer, or longer with a hand mixer.
  6. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites, using a wire whip or cake blender.
  7. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl so the batter is well-blended. Pour the batter into your pans.
  8. Bake the cake for 50 minutes if it's in a tube or angel food pan, then turn up the heat to 350°F for the final 10 minutes, making a total baking time of 1 hour.
  9. If you're using two 9" cake pans, bake for about 40 minutes at 325°F, then 10 minutes more at 350°F.
  10. Cool the cake upside down for 1/2 hour before removing it from the pan. If you've used a tube pan, set it atop a thin-necked bottle, threading the bottle neck through the hole in the tube.
  11. To assemble, If you've made round layers: simply spread the filling on one layer, and top it with the second layer. The cake should be made at least 4 hours before serving to allow time for the center to set properly.
  12. Frost the cake, and cut it just before serving.
  13. Cake layers, well-wrapped, will keep for 2 days at room temperature, and frozen for up to 3 months. Decorated cakes can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.