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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chiffon Cake Tips and Trouble II

Pardon me for not putting this up sooner. I was caught up with other stuffs and could not collect my thoughts enough to do this. Appreciate your patience. In this post, I will be posting the problems faced in baking a chiffon cake and how things work. For the detailed step by step process, please refer to here.

Understanding chiffon cakes

First, I need to analyse my chiffon cake recipe for you to understand how I arrived to my calculations. Like some of you, I have encountered and baked, using some recipes which don't work. It is very frustrating testing out recipes which don't work and which were written half-heartedly or without checks. Thus, I worked out a simple formula that helped me determine if the recipe is worth the time and effort.

Take my usual 4 yolks, 5 whites recipe for example, the amount of flour used is 120g. The amount of liquid used, including oil is 180g. Therefore, the flour over liquid ratio is 120 : 180. That is 2 parts to 3 parts or 66.67%, if you prefer. The higher percentage you have, will result in a more stable cake but it will have a drier texture. If the flour versus liquid ratio is lower then 60%, say, 50%, the chances of the cake collapsing is high. Reason being; there is too much liquid in the cake and the structure is not strong enough to hold it. In this case, usually after removing from the pan, or after slicing the cake, the cake will start to shrink. A good chiffon cake, as my mom taught me, should be able to hold its shape after cutting. The cake will spring back after you press it.

Whisking Trouble

Still, things can go wrong even if you got the first part right. Remember to ensure that the bowl you are using to whisk the eggs white is clean and grease-free. Any traces of grease or egg yolks will hinder the proper whisking of egg whites. A common problem is whisking the egg whites to stiff peak. Either you underbeat it or overbeat it. Tricky? A little, but when you get the hang of it, it is easy. 90% of egg whites are made up of water, the rest are made up of protein, mineral and glucose (source : Wikipedia). When you whisk the egg whites, air is being introduced to it. Sugar is added to it to reinforce the structure of the egg white. That is why it appears to be white and fluffy. However, this structure does not hold well at soft peak. The egg whites tend to separate into protein and water. If you stop at this stage and start mixing with the yolk mixture, the egg whites will deflate easily. This will cause more moisture and resulting the cake to collapse.

If the egg whites are overbeaten, you will see it becoming foamy and some liquid collected at the bottom of the bowl. There is no way to salvage this. You have to discard and try again. The correct texture of the egg whites at stiff peak has a glossy look, it does not swirl about in the bowl. At this stage, the air incorporated, egg whites and sugar are most stable. That is why you can do this!


Do understand this state is short-lived though. You cannot let the egg whites sit around for a long period of time. They do not like to wait (like some men after marriage). That is also why all chiffon recipes wrote the preparation for the yolk batter first, whisking of egg whites, last. After whisking them to stiff peak, you have to fold the mixtures together immediately.

Mixing Trouble

In fact to me, I much prefer making a chiffon cake than making a traditional sponge cake. For traditional sponge cake, you have to whisk whole eggs till fluffy and then fold in the flour. If you are not careful, it is easy to deflate the eggs. However, some smart people have devised the 'egg separation method' for sponge cake. This method is almost the same as chiffon cakes except that they add in melted butter last. For chiffon cake, egg yolks, flour, liquid and oil are all added to 1 bowl. This in my opinion, has already minimised the chances of deflating the egg whites.

While the yolk batter is laden with flour and all, the egg whites are whisked till light and fluffy. If the whites are added directly to the yolk batter or vice versa, it will be difficult to incorporate as the density of the two are so different. This will call for more stirring, which you do not want, to mix the batter well. To lighten up the yolk batter, about 1/3 of the egg whites are added to it. 1/3 because, should you deflate this amount, you still have 2/3 of it to save the day. As mentioned earlier, egg whites do not like to sit around too long, nor do they like to be pushed around for too long. When folding egg whites, always be decisive, making swift but light strokes. You should be scooping the egg whites up and fold. Do not press.

Pan Trouble

Baking chiffon cakes does not necessarily need a chiffon tube pan. A normal round pan will work fine too. I have also tried baking them as cupcakes, which worked equally alright. However, perhaps, baking a chiffon cake in a tube is what makes it a chiffon cake. It is its signature. I have seen paper mould for chiffon cakes. It is interesting but I have yet to try them myself, thus unable to share the experience. My guess is that the temperature control would be slightly different from the aluminium pan.

By far, my personal preference would still be using an aluminium tube pan. I feel that the more you use the pan, the more seasoned it gets. This helps to ensure even browning at the sides and bottom. The only thing to note for pan is that it does not require any preparation. In other words, do not grease it, do not line it, do not grease and flour it. The hydration of the cake makes it difficult to hold its structure during baking. Thus it relies on 'clinging' onto the pan to achieve its height. If the pan is greased, the cake might not be able to rise properly and will slip off the pan when you overturn it for cooling. Your cake will start to deflate. I would advise against using a non-stick pan. As I have yet to venture into silicone bakewares, I do not know if it will work with pans made of silicone.

Here's a guide of choosing a chiffon pan size.

1 egg recipe : 14 cm mould
2 eggs recipe : 17cm mould
4 eggs recipe : 21cm mould
6 eggs recipe : 23cm mould
8 eggs recips : 25cm mould

Baking Trouble

All the chiffon cakes baked here in this blog is using my relatively new oven. The first cake that was baked in this oven is none other than a chiffon cake. I have been told that baking a chiffon cake in a convection oven with a fan that I cannot turn off is difficult. I acknowledge this. My oven browns to fast, that is why I need to tent it. Also, I need to position the cake on the low rack. In my previous recipes, I had to open the oven to check if the batter sticks to the aluminium foil. Lately, I really could not be bothered. I left the foil there and only removed it towards the last 10 minutes. This leaves the top slightly 'disturbed' but you are going to overturn the cake anyway! This way, the oven temperature is also more stable. Let's tackle some of the problems then.

1) If the cake slip off the pan after you overturn it, the sides and the bottom are unlikely to be browned. This means you have underbaked it. Do check the oven temperature or prolong the baking time to a further 10 minutes. If the top is already sufficiently browned, tent the cake.

2) If the cake slips off the pan but the sides are browned. Check the recipe's hydration ratio. If there are too much liquid in the cake, the cake will be too heavy. When you overturn it, it will be pulled down by its own weight (I have encountered this before!). After slipping off the pan, very soon, the cake will start collapsing and you will have pancake for breakfast, tea or supper.

3) If the cake caved in from the sides, there is a possibility that the egg whites are overbeaten.

4) If the cake's top (overturned, previously it was the bottom) is sunken in (like a small groove), the oven temperature is too high. If the oven temperature is too high, it will cause the cake to over-expand. So when the cake relaxes after cooling, it will cause this effect.

5) If the cake top splits, this is normal, don't fret.

6) If the oven temperature is too low, the cake will have problem rising, reaching its optimum peak. The cake will be heavy and not airy.

7) If the oven temperature is unstable, the cake will not rise properly and might collapse.

8) If the cake starts to deflate in the oven, this is due to the oven temperature. Either the temperature is too high; causing the cake to peak too fast too soon or the oven temperature is unstable.

9) Overturning the cake immediately is what most recipes call for. If you do not overturn it, the cake will collapse on its own weight when the cake structure is still unstable. However, if the temperature outside the oven is very low (cold draft), the cake will shrink very fast. I would suggest open the oven door slightly to circulate the air abit before taking the cake out.

10) If there are alot of big holes in the cake, air might have been trapped when you poured in the batter. Bang the tube pan on a flat surface to rectify this. If you did not fold the egg white properly, you will get uneven holes as well or you can see speckles of whites in the cake.

11) It is normal for chiffon cakes to lose its height after cooling. However, if it collapsed to half of its original height, check if the egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks or if you have deflated the egg whites during folding.

Removing and Storing Trouble

It is most frustrating when you baked a pretty chiffon cake and ended messing it up at the final stage. Use a sharp thin blade and run along the side of the pan. You need to use a thin blade because you need to run it along the tube as well to remove the cake properly. I did not do that in the past. After running the knife along the side and bottom, I just twist and yanked the cake out. I forgot that chiffon cakes are such delicate bakes, of course I ended up with a torn cake.

I would suggest eating chiffon cakes the next day after it is baked. The cake structure is more stable and the flavours are properly infused. For home baked chiffon cakes, especially when you are using my recipe, please note that it is best to be eaten within 3 days. I have reduced the sugar and oil in my recipe, therefore, the cake will not keep well. If you would like to store them in the refrigerator, you will have to wrap the slices up in sandwich bags and keep them in an airtight box. Leaving them open in the fridge will lose the moisture and the cake will absorb other smell in the fridge.

I hope I have covered most of the topics and they would be useful to deciper the problems you faced during baking chiffon cakes. The above mentioned are based on the best of my knowledge and understanding. I do not claim to know all and would be grateful if you could enlighten me if you have other tips or point out my mistakes.



Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot REI for those advices. With yours advices, understanding chiffon is easy as ABC. Since, I begin my adventure with different flavor, my chiffon didn't turn out great,it collapse. So I like to ask you some questions to improve my baking.1)I saw lot of recipe on the net that ask for a 17cm pan but my is a 25 cm pan. So how to adjust to fit the size of my pan.
2) After cooling, the top of my chiffon is little wet/sticky. I'm using superfine sugar, who is add to the white egg and cream of tartar.
Thanks for you generosity!

Gina Choong said...

woo wee! Thanks for the long writeup, experiments and all. I shall link this to KC. Hey, your Pooh Bear pudding cups and Basmati wine is waiting for you at Hougang. :)

Small Small Baker said...

Hi Rei, your tips for baking chiffon cake is really useful. I failed several times due to problem 4 (top is sunken in), which means the temp may be too high. May I ask if different chiffon cakes require different temperatures?

I hope I can do it successfully after reading your tips. May I link your tips in my blog? :)

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

this is an excellent post; thank u!!

Yuri said...

hey rei, lots of good experience you've shared, wonderful resource. thanks!

Rei said...

Stephanie : Glad you find them useful. For 25cm pan, just multiply the ingredients accordingly by 4. Using superfine sugar is alright. After cooling and unmoulding, the surface of the cake will be slightly wet due to water vapour. This is fine. Just let the cake rest on the cooling grid for a while to dry up before cutting and storing.

Gina : Thanks for doing that! I will wait for you to come back and pop by during 1 of the weekends when you have no class. :D Contact you again.

SSB : Generally, most chiffon cake recipes calls for 170 deg.C. The only difference is the baking time for different pan size. However, if you are using a convection oven with fan, they usually advise you to reduce the temp. by 10 deg.C.

I did not reduce the temp. for the 1st 10 mins so as to get the sides nicely browned. I find that if I didn't do this, the sides will not be browned properly. Subsequently, I reduced the temp. to 160 deg.C to bake for 20 mins and 150 deg.C for the next 10 mins. If I did not do this for my oven, the temp. will be too hot. So you have to get familiarised with your oven.

Keep experimenting! & thanks for linking me up!

Terri : Thanks!

Anonymous said...

You're just so nice & thoughtful you sharing with us all your insight about Chiffon cake. You really know the chiffon cake inside out. Thank you, you're such a great teacher when it come to Chiffon cake. 1st thought - Think of Chiffon think of Rei :p

Anonymous said...

I just finish reading your tips 2 and I find where the 4 times come from.



Rei said...

Yuri : You're welcome!

Yin : Wow! I'm flattered. Have catch-phrase somemore.. ahah..

Stephanie : I hope my post isn't too long and too tiring to read. :p

Halimah Ilavarasi said...

wow rei rei! fantastic tips and so detailed.
Good job! Keep it coming... i also need to be more 'on' to blog... now working, i slacking off!

Goody Egg said...

Hi Rei,

That's a great posting on chiffon making.Just pop by to say hello to u. Just discovered you are also a fan of Aunty Yochana, me too. I go to website daily like many of u. See u around.

Rgds, Kium

Anonymous said...


I was little scare at first when I saw the long text but it was very simple to read and easy to fallow. You done a good job and hope you will continue in the future.


Mel said...

Hi Rei,
Tks for the tips for baking chiffon cake. Yesterday night, I baked banana chiffon cake using your recipe, it turn out very great and perfect.I did not bake chiffon cake for many years due to unsucessful result. Now, I can bake different favour of chiffon cake.
Many Thanks.
Take care.

Rei said...

Mel : Nothing makes me happier to know that the recipe works for you! Glad you made the attempt.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rei, thanks for taking the time to write such an indepth of Chiffon Cake, I've not seen such write-up in any books yet! It really help to understand chiffon cake better.

Rei said...

Elyn : Thanks for the compliments!

Anonymous said...

Hello Rei,

Your Chiffon Cake tips & Trouble I & II are so useful. Many thanks! Now, I can analyze a recipe before try it and not be frustrated after. I like to be sure to understand correctly your formula ,which I find very brilliant. When is said :"The amount of liquid used, including oil is 180g".In the 180g, I suppose the 4 eggs are included? If it's the case, it surprise me because it's only weight 20g in total? Coco milk (140g)+ oil (20g)+? =180g? Could you explain me how to you get the 180g?

Thanks & sorry to bother you and loose you only spare time to spend with your 2 kids.


Rei said...

Jamie : Hi there, no worries. Glad that you find them useful. As for the formula; no, the eggs are not taken into consideration. If you take that in, the calculations would be more complex. To keep it simple; taking the pandan chiffon cake as an example, 140g of pandan coco milk + 40g oil = 180g.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the useful tips. Mine Chiffon Cake turn out well except that when removing the cake from the tin, the brown crust stays onto the tin. Wonder what sharp knife you use, it is possible to take a picture of the knife that you are using. Sorry for the trouble and thank you.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rei!

First of all, heartfelt thanks for the thoughtful posts on how to bake a chiffon cake :)

I am a beginner at baking. However, having read your blog, I am really motivated me to keep trying (I have so far had 2 failed attempts at Jap light cheesecake).

Your explanation and pictures are of great help. May I ask, if I am using a 23cm tube pan, I should use the "6 eggs" recipe right? How should I go about converting the amounts for the other ingredients?

Would appreciate your help on this!

Rei said...

Jessie : Sorry it's a month late and I have left out your comment. I just use a normal, long bladed knife. But recently I have ordered a tool from to unmould the cake. If you are interested, perhaps you would like to contact her.

CXX : for 23 pan, I will use 6 egg yolks and 8 egg whites, as advised by my mom. For all the other ingredients, just apply 1.5 times to the original recipe. HTH.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rei!

Thank you very much!!


Miss Confections said...

Your suggestions are so great! Thank you for being so considerate. My first time making chiffon cakes - was wondering if it had to be baked in the tube pan? Can I use an ordinary round pan without the tube in the middle??

Anonymous said...

Hi Rei,
Your useful info. really help me so much.

I hv faced the same problem when i baked the chiffon cake. My cake always slightly wet from the side of tube, other than that eveything ok.

Is that because of the temparature of the oven?

Jess (

Anonymous said...

Hi Rei,
Truly appreciate your efforts in sharing your tips regarding chiffon cakes. I have a convection oven too and am I glad to have solve this temperature's problem. I'm going to try to a bake a chiffon cake using your method. At the meantime, I would like to know the flour and liquid ratio calculation. For recipe for example like banana chiffon, do you add the banana in the liquid ratio? I just want to have a better understanding.

Thank you.
Ailay Lim

Sheryl said...

Dear Rei,
Thanks for all your detailed step-by-step pics & instructions & the valuable tips :) Just got 2 small chiffon tins from Diaso, so am going to try baking them soon. Just a question, what should be the baking time & temperature then? Thanks :)

Bakinggal said...

Hi rei

Just tried the chocolate chips chiffon cake recipe on Sunday. However, the top (after turning over) of the cake is sunken in. According to the tips, it's because the oven temp is too high. However, the cake itself seems a little too moist. So is my cake underbaked or the temp too high? =(

This has happened with almost all my cakes. Especially sponge cakes. I really dunno what is wrong. Hope you can help.

Ean said...

I did few times,but the cake sunk at the middle after i remove it but rise very nicely in the oven. the recipe i got from other blog, Lemon Yoghurt chiffon cake.

can i know roughly how long to beat the egg whites using the highest speed from the electric mixer?

Sheryl said...

Dear Rei,

Thanks for all the effort you've put into your posts including the step-by-step pictures & the tips & troubles. Going to try baking a pandan chiffon cake soon. :)


Yi May, Alexis said...

Hi, I tried to bake chiffon cake. It was a success . My chiffon tin has a removable base. I line the cake bottom and sides , afraid the batter would spill out if not lines. So when I invert the tin after it bake, the paper with the cake slids out of the mould. Is this normal? My cake din't sunk or anyhow.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am a novice baker and after reading your chiffon cake part 1 & 2 for at least twice, I still do not understand why my chiffon cake, after inverting and cut, lower part is always denser than the upper portion. This happen to all the different recipes that I have tried, including yours and aunty Yochana's... Nobody can advise me where is my problem so I would like to tap on your expertise in this area , hoping you have some time to advise me? Bty I am using a Rowenta fan type oven, don't know does it matter..

Novice baker

Unknown said...

Dear Rei,

I'm new to blogs n to baking.
I hv tried leaving a comment here but failed.
I'm trying again.

How do I find ur Chiffon Cake Tips n Trouble I ? Since u hv Part II, it's v impt for me to read Part I first.

There were mentions of people following ur cake recipes.
Where can I find ur recipes, be they chiffon or other recipes ?

Thank God for kind n generous souls like u !!
U make the world a better place to live in !!


Rei said...

Hi Jennifer

Glad that you find the tips useful. Part 1 can be found at the below link.

The cake recipes can be found at the right hand side of the blog. Enjoy your baking journey.