These are perfect when you need light soft fluffy cakes that are low sugar with the amazing citrus taste of bergamot from Earl Grey tea and a little lemon. The optional lavender in the background adds a delicious layer of flavour but no soapy taste of course! These cakes can be glutenfree or not and kept plain for a simpler low-fat approach but the light German buttercream is so yummy and easy to make, upgrading your cakes instantly to ‘slightly decadent’! Yay! Chiffon cakes have been on my to-do list for a long time and if you’re wondering what they are there’s information and links below. Mini versions are great when you don’t want a huge 6 or 8 egg cake, though you have that option! These cakes aren’t too difficult to make and it’s been an absolute delight researching (yes, baking and eating) these flavoursome moreish pillows with silky smooth frosting. So anyone for an Earl Grey tea, lemon and lavender mini chiffon cake or cupcake? With or without the chocolate lavender buttercream? So light and moist your stomach won’t notice you had cake and your sweet-loving soul will thank you. Quick swoon… 🙂
And here it is with no buttercream so the citrus flavour is highlighted. Easier and healthier but also very yummy!
So what’s a chiffon cake?
Wikipedia states ‘a chiffon cake is a very light cake made with vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, baking powder and flavourings… it’s a cross between an oil cake and a sponge cake.’ Apparently it was invented in 1927 by Harry Baker, a Californian insurance salesman turned caterer! Yes, there’s hope for us all. 🙂 After 20 years keeping the recipe secret (he obviously wasn’t a blogger), Baker finally sold it to General Mills so the chiffon cake was marketed and became popular around the 1940s and 50s.
Now I’m not a chiffon cake expert, having made it four times with a focus on fluffiness and flavour so you can see in the photo above the naughty big holes that shouldn’t be there!!!! Holey cake batman! I forgot to tap the tins lightly before putting in the oven! And holes appear even bigger on mini cakes! Oops. But even with holeitis the cakes are delicious and much better than heavy or dense.
For people interested in creating the ‘perfect chiffon’ there’s a great article Tutorial: Chiffon Cake by Iron Whisk, giving clear advice on stuff like oven temperature and egg whites. Or check out Jo the Tart Queen’s Back to basics: how to make the perfect chiffon cake. Interestingly she states artificial leavener like baking powder is not normally used but I’ve read elsewhere it is if you’re incorporating oil. Personally I felt my cakes needed that extra help to stay up as I used glutenfree flour but feel free to experiment with plain flour and less or no baking powder. Anyway some advice is contradictory: Iron Whisk says don’t tap your tins before placing in the oven!!! And in her Okashi book, Keiko Ishida’s amazing chiffon cakes do have some big holes! Well my last batch had smaller holes because I remembered to tap and tastewise the texture did seem even better…
- Use chiffon tube moulds for best results and don’t grease them.
- Be precise with measurements (a digital weighing scale helps).
- Don’t overwhisk the whites – make sure they say at soft stiff peak (with a droop).
- Don’t overfold your whites or the mixture will flatten and become dense.
- Pour gently into the tins.
- Tap the tins lightly on the counter (kind of worked for me, but will try tapping the bowl instead next time just before pouring).
- Once out of the oven immediately turn the moulds or cupcakes upside-down to cool on a wire rack, elevated if possible with air passing under to avoid condensation.
Even if you forget tips 3, 5 or 6 your cakes will be yummy. But remember not to grease, don’t overfold and cool upside-down, otherwise your cakes start collapsing.
Final tip: have fun, stay calm and you’ll have lovely yummy cakes! 🙂
My creations are based on the mixed spice chiffon cake in Chef Yamashita’s book Tanoshii Ke-Ki but changing the quantities, flavourings and buttercream. Also I’ve used self-raising glutenfree flour instead of plain flour. The buttercream’s slightly adapted from Sift and Whisk’s Chocolate Lavender Frosting, containing a little more chocolate, melted on a bain marie not in a microwave.
The quantities below work for: 4 mini chiffon cakes using 4.5in x 2in (11.4cm x 5cm) moulds, like Wiltons mini nonstick pans; or 2 mini chiffons and 7-8 cupcakes; or 14-16 cupcakes. To convert for different-sized chiffon tube pans here’s a handy chart from All That Matters:
1 egg recipe : 14 cm mould
2 eggs recipe : 17cm mould
4 eggs recipe : 21cm mould
6 eggs recipe : 23cm mould
8 eggs recipe : 25cm mould
Use free-range eggs.
First make the buttercream (2 mins work, 20 mins infusing, 8 mins work, 1-2 hours cooling in fridge then 10 mins work); chiffon (30 mins work, baking 15-20 mins, cooling 1-2 hours). Decoration: 10-20 mins, 30 mins chilling.
Chocolate lavender buttercream
- 80ml/g full-fat milk
- 1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender (optional) or try half tsp pure vanila extract or an Earl Grey tea bag for the infusion)
- 50g/3 and 1/2 tbsp caster sugar (superfine), unrefined golden if possible
- 5g/1 and 1/2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
- 14g egg yolk (2/3 of a medium-sized yolk) – keep the remaining yolk if required for the chiffon
- 13g egg white (1/3 of egg white from a medium-sized egg) – keep the remaining white if required for the chiffon
- 150g/2/3 cup good-quality unsalted butter, cut in small cubes and softened at room temperature
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 25g/0.9oz dark 70% chocolate
For greater quantities and written instructions see the original recipe at Sift and Whisk: Chocolate Lavender Frosting,
- Make sure your milk, eggs and other ingredients are at room temperature
- Preheat your oven
- DON’T GREASE YOUR TINS!!! 🙂 Chiffon cakes don’t appreciate it.
- 50g/4 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons self-raising glutenfree flour (I use Doves Farm) or your usual self-raising flour. Note: if using plain glutenfree flour try adding 1 tsp gf baking powder and 1/2 tsp xantham gum
- 1/4 tsp glutenfree baking powder (if using self-raising glutenfree flour)
- 14g/1 and 1/2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
- 2-3 tsp/4-6g Earl Grey tea powder (from 2-3 good quality tea bags like Whitings to ensure there’s a noticeable flavour) with 1/4-1/2 tsp dried lavender flowers (the lavender is optional)
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 60g egg yolks (3 yolks from 3 medium-sized eggs) – if needed use the yolk left over from the buttercream
- 36g/2 tbsp + 2 tsp caster sugar (superfine), unrefined golden if possible
- 2 tsp freshly-grated zest from 1 to 2 lemons
- 3-4 tsp (15-20g) freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 56g/4 tbsp cold-pressed olive oil, 4 degrees and almost flavourless
- 152g egg whites (from 4 medium-sized eggs) – if needed use the white left over from the buttercream
- 40g/2 tbsp + 3 tsp caster sugar (superfine), golden unrefined if possible
Method (scroll down for the illustrated recipe)
- Grind the Earl Grey tea powder and lavender together to a fine powder.
- In a small-medium bowl whisk to combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cornflour, Earl grey and lavender, salt).
- Separate your eggs, placing your yolks in a big bowl and the whites in a standmixer bowl or other big bowl. Make sure there’s no yolk at all in the whites and that the bowl is very clean (any grease or dirt will prevent the whites from rising well).
- Whisk the yolks, sugar (36g) and lemon zest until the mixture is pale and creamy. This can take 10-15 minutes by hand.
- Whisk in the lemon juice then slowly stir in the olive oil with the whisk, till just combined.
- Slowly stir in the milk till just combined. The mixture will be quite liquid now.
- Whisk the whites till foamy on a medium-high speed then gradually add the sugar (40g). Whisk to soft stiff peak so the mixture doesn’t stand up straight on the whisk but droops a little. On a standmixer it can overwhisk really fast (in just a minute!) so you have to be careful – it’s a good idea to take the bowl off the stand early and finish whisking by hand.
- Carefully fold 1/3 of the whites into the yolk mixture with figure of eight motions until just combined. Don’t overmix.
- Carefully fold in the flour mixture till almost combined. Again, don’t overmix.
- Carefully fold in the remaining 2/3 of whites till just combined. As usual don’t overmix or it flattens out but make sure there are no white lumps or streaks.
- Keeping the bowl low and close pour gently into the moulds or cupcake liners (placed in a muffin tin). This is to avoid extra air and bubbles. Tap the tins gently on the counter.
- Bake in the middle of the oven. 15-16 minutes for cupcakes and 18-20 minutes for the mini moulds. Bake until light brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean. It’s important the temperature remain stable in the oven – don’t open the oven door for the first 15 minutes (cupcakes) or 18 minutes (mini chiffons).
- When ready immediately place upside-down on a wire rack to cool. If the mini chiffons can be elevated a little even better.
- Cool completely for 1-2 hours before unmoulding. Slide a knife around the edges and underneath to help the cakes come out. Don’t worry if they’re not completely smooth, especially if you’re covering in buttercream.
Optional: edible silver leaf paper and dried culinary lavender
The buttercream should be soft enough to spread but stiff enough to hold. If too soft chill a little longer in the fridge; if too stiff allow to soften at room temperature.
For the cupcakes you can use a Wilton 2D piping nozzle to make swirls that almost look like roses. You don’t need a lot of buttercream on top and could have less than shown in the photo.
For mini chiffon cakes use a small offset spatula to first spread a very thin ‘crumb’ layer around the cake. Chill in the fridge till firm then spread a thicker layer over the cakes. The mini chiffons are perfect with a thin layer of buttercream. Optional: use tweezers to carefully place pieces of edible silver paper artistically on your cakes then sprinkle a little lavender.
Eating and storing
These cakes store perfectly in the fridge in airtight tupperware, up to 4-5 days. To eat, remove from fridge and leave at room temperature for around 30 minutes so the buttercream softens and becomes creamy again. Apparently chiffon sponge (without the buttercream) freezes really well, wrapped tightly in plastic film.
These cakes are really delicious with soft creamy frosting which is delicate and has a very light chocolate taste that doesn’t interfere with the Earl Grey, the star of the show. In fact eating these light moist cakes is like partaking of a cup of milky Earl Grey tea with the lemon and lavender adding their special subtle touch.
You’re all invited to try some Earl Grey tea, lemon and lavender mini chiffon cake or a cupcake! I think you’d enjoy it.
During this last week it’s been a sad time here in Barcelona and baking is therapy, as well as communicating with family, friends and you dear reader. So I bid you a fond farewell, nice to see you again! And I wish you happy baking and eating with peace, love and hope for a better world. With cake too. Hugs, Lili x