Vanilla is probably my favorite flavor of cake and I’ll almost always pick up a slice of vanilla cake or a vanilla cupcake when given the choice between vanilla and chocolate. I do love chocolate, of course, but there is something about the delicate, floral flavor of vanilla that I find absolutely irresistible. When I was a child, I also had a strong preference for vanilla cakes and I always wanted a vanilla cake for my birthday. Unfortunately, the people in charge of providing birthday cakes – *cough* parents *cough* – often felt that vanilla cake was “too plain” to be a birthday cake. As a result, I had some delicious cakes that were not vanilla and had to wait until I could start making my own cakes to treat myself to what I really wanted.
These days, I have the freedom to chose any kind of birthday cake that I want and I usually go for vanilla. I also usually opt for a plainer cake than for one of the over-the-top frosted cakes that I might have chosen as a child. A simple, pretty cake with a great flavor is all it takes to make me happy, and this Very Vanilla Chiffon Cake ticks all the boxes. The cake has a moist, fluffy, cloud-like texture and it stands taller than many layer cakes. It is generously flavored with vanilla and it is just sweet enough that you can get away with eating a slice without frosting – although a scoop of whipped cream and a pile of berries is a nice accompaniment. It might not have the typical birthday cake look, but it is the kind of cake that will make a vanilla-lover very happy.
One of the benefits of making your own birthday cake is that you have complete control over both the flavor and the quality of the ingredients you use. I frequently find that not every vanilla cake is going to capture the real essence of vanilla, either because they use poor quality vanilla flavoring or because they simply don’t use enough of it. For this cake, I used McCormick’s Extra Rich Vanilla Extract. The extract is a new product that the company released for its 125th birthday celebration and it boasts an intense vanilla flavor that is 25% more concentrated than the flavor in their classic vanilla extract. It’s ideal for vanilla lovers (like me!) who want to ensure that they are getting the vanilla flavor they want in baked good without having to pour in half the bottle.
Your finished cake will look and taste amazing, even though it is a “plain” vanilla cake that isn’t loaded down with frosting. One bite and you’ll be sold – and some of those chocolate cake-lovers probably will be, too.
Very Vanilla Chiffon Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
7 large egg yolks
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
9 large egg whites, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 325F. Take out a 10-inch tube pan, but do not grease it.
In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and almond extract until well combined. Add in the dry ingredients and whisk until ingredients are well combined and batter is smooth.
In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. With the mixer on high speed, gradually blend in the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, beating until the egg whites reach stiff peaks and all the sugar has been dissolved.
Once the egg whites have reached stiff peaks, gently whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the vanilla batter to lighten it. Then, working in two or three additions, fold the remaining egg whites into the batter, mixing until no streaks of egg white remain visible and the batter is a uniform color.
Pour into the ungreased tube pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or 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.
Disclosure: This recipe is sponsored by McCormick to mark their 125th anniversary celebration. I was provided with the Extra Rich Vanilla Extract for recipe creation. Any opinions expressed and commentary given are my own, and the recipe is a Baking Bites original.