Burnt Sugar Chiffon Cake

Burnt Sugar Chiffon Cake

I get very nostalgic when I remember my mom working in her kitchen.  She took so much pride in the beautiful meals she prepared and always spent a lot of time planning menus that would appeal to whomever was coming for dinner.  She loved desserts but didn’t really have what I would call a “sweet tooth”…I inherited that from her…and used to make desserts like this chiffon cake…and angel food cakes too…that were light in texture and not heavy on the sugar.  It’s easy to dress up a slice of chiffon cake with a scoop of whipped cream and a little fresh fruit or a custard sauce and a few chocolate curls for those who like a bit more substance when it comes to dessert.  Chiffon cake was a VERY popular dessert in the 1960’s through the ’80’s but seem to have fallen out of favor in the last few decades.  That’s strange because they are so light and aren’t made with any fats, and I would think that would appeal to today’s health conscious families.  They are easy to make, but just a little fussy when it comes to beating the egg whites and carefully folding them into the egg mixture. Other than that they go together in a snap.

Burnt Sugar Chiffon Cake

 The recipe in my old BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS NEW COOKBOOK (1963 edition) suggests frosting this Burnt Sugar Chiffon Cake with a boiled icing that uses up the leftover burnt sugar syrup.  That just didn’t sound good to me…too sweet…so I decided on a simple powdered sugar glaze instead.  I thought I was so clever and substituted the sugar syrup for the water called for in the glaze recipe and…sadly…it didn’t work.  It never occurred to me that there would be a problem but, in thinking about it later, I realized that the sugar in the syrup was melted and watered down so it would never make a glaze that dried on the cake.  Duh.. It still tasted fine, but didn’t look so great after an hour or so.  These little glitches and solutions are what make baking a challenge and a reward.  I remember a most delicious orange glaze on an orange chiffon cake and will make and post that version soon. 

Burnt Sugar Chiffon Cake

Burnt Sugar Chiffon Cake

 There are several basic steps for a perfect chiffon cake.  First, sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and add the oil, egg yolks and vanilla in the order given, and beat till smooth.  Next, beat the egg whites until very stiff and carefully fold…not stir… into the egg mixture.  Pour into an ungreased tube pan that has a removable tube. I was so intent on what I was doing that I forgot to take a picture of the cake batter in the tube pan…sorry…it fills the pan about 2/3 of the way up. When I want egg whites with lots of volume I make sure they are at room temperature and I wash the bowl and beater in hot soapy water to remove any tiny bits of grease that might be on them.  It’s a little step that can make a big difference in the volume of the whites.


Now, here is the fun part.  I can see in my mind’s eye a cake pan inverted on a bottle on my mom’s kitchen counter. She loved chiffon cake and it was a common sight in her kitchen.  When the cake is done immediately turn it upside down and place on a bottle with a long, narrow neck.  Plan ahead…find the right bottle before the cake goes into the oven.  Otherwise you will have one very thin, flat cake to deal with…and you won’t be happy. A wine bottle is an easy answer.  

Burnt Sugar Chiffon Cake

 This recipe for Burnt Sugar Chiffon Cake is from the 1963 edition of the BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS NEW COOKBOOK.  Chiffon cakes were so popular back then that  a whole section was devoted to them is this enormously popular cookbook.  I received an updated version a few years ago and wasn’t surprised that many of the recipes that were so popular in the 60’s and 70’s had been purged from the book.  Too bad…they were the best ones.

Burnt Sugar Chiffon Cake
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2-1/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup egg whites (about 6-7 large eggs)
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
Burnt Sugar Syrup
  1. In a heavy saucepan melt ¾ cup sugar over low hear, stirring constantly till medium brown and smooth. Remove from heat. Slowly add boiling water; stir over low heat till lumps dissolve; cool.
  1. Sift dry ingredients into mixing bowl, make a well in the center. In this order add vegetable oil, egg yolks, 6 tablespoons water, vanilla, and 6 tablespoons of the burnt sugar syrup. Beat till batter is satin smooth.
  2. Combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat till very stiff peaks form. Pour egg yolk batter over the entire surface of the egg whites, gently cutting and folding just till blended. Bake in ungreased 10-inch tube pan WITH A REMOVABLE BOTTOM AND TUBE in a slow oven (325 degrees)for 55 minutes, then in moderate oven (350 degrees) for 10 minutes. Invert pan and cool thoroughly. With a spatula or knife loosen the cake on the bottom and around the sides, bottom and the tube. Turn upside down and remove pan. Carefully place the cake on a cake plate bottom side up.


  1. says

    I can see why your posts are so picture perfect. You learned that from your mom. I just made a similar cake, and my first attempt was a dismal failure. I’ll share that, when I write up my own post. These are delicious cakes– so light and airy. They are a forgotten classic, and it’s nice to see them come back. I have that same cookbook!
    Foodiewife recently posted..Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie or Crisp– Have It Your Way!My Profile

  2. says

    Oh dear. These cakes go together nicely but every so often there is a BIG flop. I’m looking forward to your post, Debby. We will have to work at bringing back this classic. I can’t imagine anybody not loving this cake. Thanks for your comment.
    Cathy recently posted..Burnt Sugar Chiffon CakeMy Profile

  3. says

    I just pulled a little cake out of the oven too..something lighter than the Easter cheesecake etc:)

    It snowed today:( so it’s chilly and a bit grey..I thought the scent of deliciousness would cozy up the ambiance..It always does.

    Yours is so lovely and I LOVE the book and your reference to your mom dans la cuisine:)
    Monique recently posted..Soul Food #138~My Profile

  4. says

    Such a beautiful cake Cathy. I have a chiffon cake bookmarked to bake one of these days. I remember my mother and her friends back in the 60’s talking about chiffon cakes, and making a great fuss as they ate them. They are so good.
    Lynda recently posted..Basic Homemade White BreadMy Profile

  5. says

    How yummy that looks, Cathy! I remember my Mom making angel food cake many times.
    I just dug out my BH&G cookbook (new version) & found the chiffon cake recipe & will try it soon.

    If you get a chance, try the Gazpacho-Style salad on pg #342…Outstanding!!! I keep meaning to do a post with it, but it makes too much for just the 2 of us. I need a Party to take it to!!
    Rettabug recently posted..I Never throw away a Rubber band!My Profile

    • says

      Unfortunately my newer BHGCB (1996 edition) doesn’t have the salad recipe. I’ll look forward to your post about it. Sounds like a lovely summer salad. I’m going to take another look at this newer book. I’m sure there are many recipes I have overlooked. Just think, in 50 years this will be the classic book that cooks refer back to.
      Cathy recently posted..Burnt Sugar Chiffon CakeMy Profile

  6. says

    That looks beautiful! My grandmother was really big on Angel Food cakes. So much so, that when making a Chiffon cake, she would call it a “Custard” Angel Food Cake. :) I really need to try this one. I have her old Burnt Sugar cake recipe, but it’s covered in burnt sugar 7 minute frosting too, and it’s a little “too” much sweetness for me. This sounds perfect! Though the prospect of your Orange Chiffon is making my mouth water.
    Shane “Culinary Alchemist” Wingerd recently posted..Chickens Capering To-and-Fro – Chicken PiccataMy Profile

  7. says

    A couple of years ago I purchased a couple of copies of the 1962 edition of this cookbook because it reminded me of the one my mother used to cook from. I’m going to have to see it this recipe is in it. I love these cakes as well. Even though they are very challenging at 6300 feet, I’m going to try it anyway. Beautiful cake Cathy.
    Karen Harris recently posted..Something From Nothing #11: Sweet Milk BiscuitsMy Profile

    • says

      In all the years that Grandma and I have made this cake it has never once fallen out of the pan. Every time I wonder if its going to but so far it hasn’t happened. The pan isn’t greased and the batter really sticks to it. This is what makes the cake so light and tender. It’s so good.
      Cathy recently posted..Burnt Sugar Chiffon CakeMy Profile

  8. says

    That is my go to cookbook, a wedding gift so many years ago. I haven’t made this cake. It looks delicious. I was thinking about make ice cream tomorrow and this cake sounds like the perfect thing to go with ice cream.
    Marilyn recently posted..Small Pocket of TreasuresMy Profile

  9. Pondside says

    My mum had a collection of chiffon cake recipes when I was a girl. My favourite was one she called ‘Wind Cake’ and I think it took nearly a dozen egg whites. Mum always glazed it with a chocolate glaze.

    • says

      I remember several cakes like that that my grandmother used to make. It is a very spectacular dessert for the cost of a dozen eggs. A chocolate glaze sounds delicious, especially on an orange chiffon cake.
      Cathy recently posted..Burnt Sugar Chiffon CakeMy Profile

  10. says

    My BH&G cookbook is in tatters, but I still have it.
    My aunt used to make us a chiffon cake birthday cake every year…with 7 minute frosting. I made it for my kids too (was difficult to pry the recipe out of her, she was tricky about that and I had many fails with her other recipes). I have posted it…way back when I started blogging. I don’t know why we don’t make sponge cakes more often…they’re so much healthier for us.
    Love the burned butter idea.
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  11. says

    If you’ve ever spent any time with a mom in the kitchen, it’s hard to cook without remembering her and the wonderful things she made. I still prepare some of my favorites from Mother. BTW, I made the Vietnamese chicken and it was great.
    Linda recently posted..Antiquing….again!My Profile

  12. says

    My MIL used to make this all the time. I even have/had the new book and old version. I am going to wait for the orange version, but definitely want to make this. Some of my family want not-so-sweet, and some want more. One wants chocolate on everything so I think I can make some chocolate to drizzle over the orange and we can make everyone happy.

    I love that you share what went wrong. I love that you say what to do and I love even more your warnings of what not to do. I have had my failures and I wondered if all of you wonderful cooks/bakers ever run into problems.

  13. says

    I just love how this recipe brings us back to our roots in the kitchen with our mothers. I love those recipes that my mother made that I still make today. What a wonderful way to hold them dear to our hearts.

    I’ve not made this particular recipe before but it sounds absolutely delicious. I love chiffon cakes!
    Susan recently posted..Pea Gnocchi with Browned Butter RadishesMy Profile


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