Of all the chocolate cake recipes I’ve created, this one is the lightest in texture and chocolate flavor. It’s super airy, light, and has a deep and delicious chocolate flavor from cocoa powder. It’s the perfect chocolate cake for those who want a lighter cake style or to complement a rich and heavy meal.
This recipe will show you how I make the chiffon cake layers in the cake you see above. If you want to see how I put this cake together, you can watch the video further down in this post. If you're interested in the chocolate mousse cake filling, check out this post here.
Also, note that this is my lightest chocolate cake recipe I've developed. If you’re curious, the order of my chocolate cakes from most to least dense and chocolatey are: Chocolate Indulgence, Chocolate, and then this one, Chocolate Chiffon.
My chiffon cakes are what I call a “hybrid” chiffon cake because I’ve combined the airy texture of chiffon with the stability of a classic butter layer cake. I built the recipe like this so we wouldn’t be restricted to a specific type of pan when baking chiffon cakes. (Traditionally, these cakes are baked in chiffon cake pans. They look like a giant metal donut with a big hole in the middle to facilitate even heat transfer when baking.)
My hybrid chiffon recipes play well with all shapes of pans in the Cakeculator now; we will have no problem making any cake we like: layer cakes, cupcakes, and even mini cakes!
Water is the main liquid ingredient for this cake. Most of my chocolate cakes use water instead of milk (or buttermilk or another dairy) because it provides moisture to the cake and rehydrates the cocoa starches without interfering with the chocolate flavor. (King Arthur Baking explains why water is better for chocolate cakes in this article.)
Oil is the only fat used in this cake recipe, which is typical of chiffons. We need liquid fat to achieve a light and airy texture for chiffons. (liquid fats = oils, solid fats = shortening, butter, coconut oil) I use canola, but any other flavorless kind should work.
Egg yolks are separated from their whites and mixed into the liquid ingredients for my chiffons. The yolks are essential to many of my recipes because they provide emulsifiers or molecules that hold fat and water-based ingredients together.
Cake flour is a finely milled and lower protein content type of flour. I always use unbleached because I prefer the taste, but you can also use bleached.
Dutch-processed cocoa powder is the chocolate flavor and color source for this cake. Dutch-processed also is called European-style, but it’s an alkalized form of unsweetened cocoa powder that produces desserts with a mellow (rather than astringent) chocolate flavor and deep brown or red color.
White granulated sugar is divided into two portions in this recipe. The larger amount is sifted into the dry ingredients and provides a sweet taste and moisture for the cake.
Baking powder is the primary leavening agent for chiffons. The acid-base reactions produce carbon dioxide gas in the hot oven. The gas expands the air bubbles we made when whipping up the meringue to create a super light and airy texture for the baked cake.
Salt is a flavor enhancer.
Egg whites are whipped to form stiff peaks. The meringue gives the final cake a fluffy texture but also provides the cake structure.
Cream of tartar is an acidic powder added to the egg whites before whipping. The acidity slightly detaches the egg white proteins from one another, so you get a fluffier result after whipping.
Sugar is added to the meringue to help hold the air bubbles in place when whipping the egg whites.
Step 1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F/177 °C.
Make sure to have a rack that's positioned in the middle of your oven.
Step 2. Prepare pans.
Line the bottoms of two 8” (not non-stick) cake pans with a circle of parchment paper. Do not paper, flour, or grease the sides of the pans.
Step 3. Mix liquid ingredients.
Pour water, oil (3a), and egg yolks (3b) into a cup and mix with a fork until solid yellow (3c).
Sift cake flour, Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Whisk until everything is evenly distributed (4a).
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the center well, and continue to whisk until all the flour has been mixed in (4b).
Add cream of tartar and egg whites to a bowl and mix until frothy (5a). Slowly pour a couple teaspoons of sugar, mixing after every addition (5b). Continue mixing the whites until you reach stiff peaks (5c). The meringue should be glossy and hold a firm peak at the end of the whisk (5d).
Mix in a small amount of meringue using a whisk (6a). Then switch to the spatula and fold the meringue into the batter in three parts (6b). Use a scooping motion to gently pull the batter over the meringue (6c). Repeat until all the meringue has been added and no streaks remain (6d).
Distribute the batter evenly between the pans and gently tap the pans to remove any large air pockets.
My chiffon cakes can be cooled either right side up or upside down, though upside down creates an ever so slightly taller cake. Once the cakes are cool to the touch, run a knife around each layer and flip the cakes out.
Peel off the parchment paper bottoms and use immediately or wrap in plastic and save until you're ready to assemble your cake.
Whipped cream frostings are a dream with this cake. You can flavor whipped cream frostings, stabilize them (I did a whole video on that), and even color them if you like.
Since this is a hybrid cake, you could go for one Swiss meringue buttercream, which is lightly textured and less sweet.
The chocolate chiffon cake recipe I used to make the cake layers are below.
*Dutch-processed or European-style cocoa is a type of unsweetened cocoa powder that is more mellow in flavor than natural cocoas. They range from deep browns to bright reds and are less acidic. My favorite brands are Droste (buy from Amazon, here) and Ghirardelli.