Sunday, March 15, 2020

Orange Sour Cream Chiffon Cake

Chiffon Cake: Light and Airy

Recipe adapted from Moosewood Cookbook

Sour cream in a chiffon cake is a really not right. But I’m dubbing this recipe a chiffon cake because its fine light texture relies upon separated eggs, like the classic chiffon. Stiffly beaten egg whites folded in lightly just before baking make the magic in a chiffon. Typically oils are used to allow chiffon cakes to rise and be light. But despite this cake’s sour cream and butter, it's light and airy—with added richness from the dairy products.

Looks Great Even Upside Down (see below)
Like typical chiffons, this cake contains plenty of eggs and is not too sweet. And rather than being frosted it’s topped with a flavorful syrup. Alternatively, chiffons can be glazed, or served au naturel, or dusted with powdered sugar. Do allow time to cool the cake completely before topping with syrup, glaze or sugar. Otherwise, the topping will be absorbed into the cake in a bad way, i.e. disappearing rather than sitting on top.

Chiffons are lightest and best if the eggs are at room temperature. NOTE: it is much easier to separate the eggs when they are chilled. Nothing is more frustrating than taking the time to bring eggs to room temp (so cake will be lighter and airier), then messing up the whites with yolk so that your light and airy plan is foiled. So: remove eggs from refrigerator, separate yolks from whites, and then bring to room temperature in separate bowls.

Serve Garnished with Oranges, or Not
Speaking of what not to do, I neglected to use waxed paper or parchment to line my tube pan, especially the bottom. So, what would normally be the top of my cake was flawed because chunks stuck to the pan. Since this cake isn’t frosted, this imperfection couldn’t be camouflaged. So instead of inverting it to serve, I served it right-side up (which is upside-down to what it should be, if you catch my drift). This doesn’t look as good, nor does the syrup topping filter through the entire cake evenly.

So, unless you are positive that your tube pan is non-stick, line at least the bottom with waxed paper or parchment. Grease the pan, put on the paper liner, grease it again on the paper, then flour. Don’t make my mistake, especially if you’re serving the cake at a party or other occasion.

This recipe comes from my ancient and disintegrating first edition Moosewood Cookbook, handwritten by Mollie Katzen in 1977. Katzen has written several revisions without this recipe, so I’m publishing this recipe to save for future generations. And because almost no one bakes chiffon cake anymore.

Good to the Last Slice
Orange Sour Cream Chiffon Cake
serves 12 – 15

5 eggs
1½ cups butter
1 cup sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon
grated rind of 2 oranges
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
3 cups unbleached white flour
1½ cups sour cream

Syrup topping:
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Separate the eggs. Bring them to room temperature, about 1 hour. Remove butter from refrigerator to soften as well. Cut waxed paper to cover the bottom and sides of a large tube cake pan (12-15 cups), or use a non-stick pan. Butter all surfaces of the pan. If using non-stick pan, flour surfaces. If using waxed paper, apply it to the buttered pan, then butter and flour all surfaces.

Cream butter with an electric mixer. Add sugar and cream together till light. Add egg yolks and orange and lemon rinds. Mix together well.

Whisk together dry ingredients. Fold into egg mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

Beat room temperature egg whites in a medium bowl till stiff. Gently fold egg whites into batter.

Spoon or pour batter into prepared tube pan. Bake 60 minutes, or until brown and pulling away from sides of pan slightly. Cool and turn out onto a plate with a rim. Remove the waxed paper.

When cake is cooled, make syrup topping. Combine orange juice, orange liqueur, ¼ cup sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer 3-4 minutes. Slowly pour hot syrup evenly over cooled cake.

Allow 10 minutes before serving.

Begin with Butter, then Sugar
Add Yolks and Rinds
Alternate Adding Dry Ingredients and Sour Cream, Dry First
Final Ingredient: Whipped Egg Whites
Fold in Egg Whites
Voila! A Sunny Cake to Share


  1. Trying it with a one third recipe in a small loaf pan. I am baking at 350, based in my version in the Moosewood, but I don’t see a temp listed.

  2. Came out delicious, especially with the glaze. I used cake flour and baked for 30 minutes in my smallest loaf pan.