Chiffon cake is a foam cake, similar in appearance to an angel food cake, but more similar in construction to a sponge cake. Angel food cakes contain no fat and derive their moisture from the sugar content of the cake and proper handling of egg whites. Sponge cakes get their leavening from beaten eggs and do not contain added fat. Chiffon cakes contain both egg yolks and vegetable oil. They have chemical leavening for extra lift, but also have beaten egg whites folded into the egg yolk/oil batter to achieve a lovely, light texture. Vegetable oil keeps this light cake moist and soft for several days after baking.
Chiffon cake lore states that in 1927, a Los Angeles baker, Harry Baker, invented the original chiffon cake. It was light, airy and a huge hit with the stars in Hollywood. He kept the recipe a secret for 20 years before selling the recipe in 1947. Chiffon cakes were introduced to the American public by Betty Crocker (aka General Mills) in 1948. Chiffon cake became the most stylish cake of the 1950s and into the 1960s – which should be no suprise, given it’s star studded Hollywood origin. It’s also very impressive looking, not too sweet and quite tasty.
They are baked in a tube pan, much like angel food cakes, and must be cooled upside down to prevent collapse. The cakes are traditionally turned out, upside down, onto a cake stand and covered with glaze. Citrus flavors are the most popular and most traditional for chiffon cakes, though they can be made in just about any flavor. It is here I broke with tradition and found a banana flavored recipe. Not only did I use bananas, I used non-trational red bananas. Feel free to use regular bananas for this recipe, though.
I love making foam cakes and this one was no exception. It could have been a bit higher because I inadvertantly only used 5 egg whites instead of the 7 called for in the recipe. Because I used freshly ground nutmeg, I used much less than called for, perhaps about 1/8 tsp, and the flavor still came through. The batter came together easily, the cake cooled overnight and I had some with my coffee in the morning. I did not glaze the cake, but a simple chocolate or caramel glaze would be excellent with this recipe. I really enjoyed the banana flavor of the cake, which was perfectly complimented by the cinnamon and nutmeg.
Banana Chiffon Cake
(original recipe by Flo Braker)
2 cups unsifted cake flour
1 1/3 cups white sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (a bit less if using freshly ground)
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup (2 large) ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
7 large egg whites, room temperature.
2 tbsp white sugar
Preheat oven to 325F.
Sift cake flour, 1 1/3 cups sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl. Mix egg yolks, banana, vegetable oil and vanilla together in a small bowl. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture. Stir to combine and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add in remaining 2 tbsp sugar. Continue to beat to soft peaks. Using 1/3 of the egg mixture at a time, gently fold beaten egg whites into banana mixture until batter is uniform in color. Pour batter into an ungreased, 10-ingh tube pan. Gently tap the side of the pan once or twice to eliminate any large air pockets.
Bake for about 50-55 minutes, until the top springs back when gently pressed. If it is not done, a small indent will remain on the surface of the cake where you poked it. Return to the oven for 2 more minutes and check again until done.
Invert pan over a wine bottle or cooling rack until completely cool, 3 hours or overnight. When cool, carefully separate the cake from the pan with a thin knife and invert onto a serving platter or cake stand. Glaze as desired.
violetSeptember 8, 2005
nic! youre sure going all out with the banana theme. i dig!
im not a huge angelfood/chiffon fan but i have to admit this looks amasing. cheers, mate!
nosheteriaSeptember 8, 2005
This cake looks excellent! Angel food cake has long been one of my favorites. When I was a kid, it was always my birthday cake of choice. Little did I know, I was selecting the most dietetic of all cakes!
CathySeptember 8, 2005
I was thinking the same as Violet (about the banana theme that is). This sounds really good – I always think of banana cake and break as being heavy (not that I’m complaining), but this would be quite different.
CathySeptember 8, 2005
I must learn to proof my comments better before hitting the publish button! I meant BREAD. Arggh.
NicSeptember 8, 2005
Violet – Thanks. You know how it is with bananas: when one ripens, they all do! Chiffon cakes always strike me as retro and fun.
Nosheteria – Mine, too. When I was little, I loved foam cakes because they were squishy. High standards, eh?
Cathy – I agree with you. Banana breads and cakes are often quite heavy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but something light is a nice change.
AnonymousSeptember 9, 2005
Ooh. I was going to make the banana muffins, and now I can’t make up my mind. The chiffon cake would be a challenge because of altitude (I’m at 3,500 feet or so, just enough to start making a difference). The muffins would be so much safer. So I’ll probably try the cake.
StephanieSeptember 9, 2005
I love that you made chiffon cake! For me, it’s a very retro recipe. Good little housewives in the fifties would serve this to the husband’s boss, who’d come for dinner…
AnaSeptember 9, 2005
I have two recipes for chiffon cake, one for chocolate chiffon cake and the other for caramel chiffon cake. Both are excellent. I sometimes used the caramel version and substituted the flavours to make either lemon or orange chiffon cake. Never thought that we could use banana, a heavy ingredient, and have the cake turn out OK. That’s amazing.
NicSeptember 9, 2005
Monica – I don’t have a lot of experience with high altitude baking. Good luck!
Stephanie – I probably would have been a good 1950’s housewife. I think that good chiffon cakes had a direct correlation with promotions at work back then!
Ana – Caramel chiffon cake sounds delicious.
LuisaSeptember 12, 2005
This looks delicious! Thanks for the inspiration. I threw three egg whites down the drain yesterday after making a custard – I should have saved them for this!
JoelineDecember 2, 2006
One of my sweetest memories is of waiting for my grandmother’s lemon/coconut chiffon cake to come out of the oven and cool. I still prefer chiffon cakes to any other kind… and now so do MY grandchildren. I’ll have to give the banana one a try!!
BoLADecember 5, 2006
Hi Nic! Thanks for posting this fantastically delicious recipe! I just made it the other day, and it’s definitely a keeper!
JulieApril 25, 2009
Thank you for your wonderful website. I love your recipes, write-ups & photos. Made this cake yesterday. Though it turned out quite tasty (I reduced the sugar), the centre of the cake sank shortly after it came out of the oven. Also, the centre was damp & heavier its surrounding.
What did I do wrong? Would appreciate your advice.
NicoleApril 26, 2009
Julie – It sounds like the cake wasn’t baked long enough. Foam cakes, like this chiffon cake and like angel food cakes, need to “dry out” just enough during baking to hold their shape without sinking. Ovens can vary a bit in temperature, so I would recommend adding an extra 5 minutes or so to your baking time next time you try this.
Mary BarkerJune 18, 2009
Anyone making this recipe needs to add about 3/4c water, this was too dry defintely not enough liquid for this recipe. I added water prior to baking in the batter bowl. Also whip in 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar in egg whites instead of sugar and it comes out great.
This is just suggestions but it works great
Aneisha PrinceJune 18, 2010
I absolutely love Chiffon cakes, and this one by far is my favorite. I have made this cake over and over again, and it comes out perfect every time. It is a crowd favorite, people always ask me for the recipe(but I don’t like to give it). I like to bake in round cake pans, fill and frost with a whipped cream/cream cheese frosting. Just heavenly. Thank you so much for this recipe, I love this site!