Chiffon cakes are one of my favorite cakes to make, both because they are not to difficult and because the results are so food. Chiffon cakes are light, airy sponge cakes that are known for their moist and fluffy texture. They are similar to an angel food cake, but they contain both egg yolks and a small amount of vegetable oil, which contribute to the cake’s distinctive texture. Chiffon cakes are very versatile and I make them in a wide variety of flavors, though this Buttermilk Chiffon Cake is a favorite that I’m always in the mood for.
This cake may get its texture from egg whites, but it gets all of its flavor from the buttermilk and vanilla that are in the batter. Even though there is no butter in the cake, the buttermilk has enough buttery flavor on its own that it gives the cake the perfect touch of it. It is a great combination with vanilla (and vanilla beans, as well as vanilla extract, if you want to really load up the vanilla flavor!) and the finished cake has an aroma that is just about irresistible.
The most difficult part of making this cake is beating the egg whites into a stiff meringue then folding it into the batter – and that process isn’t as difficult as it sounds, especially if you reference my tutorial on the technique. And if you are worried about making meringue, this cake batter also includes some baking powder that ensures that the cake will get a good lift no matter what.
This cake is so light and has such a wonderful flavor that it is easy to eat plain, but its relative plainness also makes it a great base for other desserts. For instance, you could sandwich two slices with a scoop of ice cream for a single-serving ice cream sandwich. Or, you could serve a slice with fresh strawberries and whipped cream for a delicious and low maintenance strawberry shortcake. The cake, like most chiffon cakes, keeps very well for several days when stored in an airtight container, so you can take your time enjoying it.
Buttermilk Chiffon Cake
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
5 tbsp vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
7 large egg whites, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 325F. Take out a 10-inch tube pan, but do not grease it.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together in the buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla and egg yolks until well combined, then pour into the dry ingredients and whisk until batter is smooth.
In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.
Once the egg whites have reached stiff peaks, gently whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the buttermilk batter to lighten it. Then, working in two or three additions, fold the remaining egg whites into the buttermilk batter, folding just until no streaks of egg white remain visible and the batter is a uniform color.
Pour into the ungreased tube pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top of the cake springs back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Invert cake over a bottle (or onto a wire rack if your pan has “feet” to hold it up) and let cool completely. Once cooled, run a knife around the edges and turn cake out onto a serving platter. Store in an airtight container.
Makes one cake. Serves 12-14.