Coffee Chiffon Cake with a ‘kopi’ twist

Coffee chiffon cake – almost as airy as a cloud.

Considering how widely available and affordable chiffon cakes are, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a local invention.

However, it was created in 1927 by Californian insurance salesman Henry Baker, who kept his recipe a secret for 20 years before selling it to American food manufacturer Betty Crocker.

While no one knows when or how chiffon cakes arrived in this part of the world, ours has pandan in it to suit local taste buds.

In fact, the Pandan Chiffon Cake is such a classic that CNN named it the national cake of Malaysia and Singapore in 2017.

Here’s a coffee version with a local twist.


• 230g cake flour

• 12g (1 tbsp) baking powder

• 3g (½ tsp) salt

• 7 eggs, separated (this should yield roughly 225g egg whites & 120g yolk)

• 200g castor sugar

• 4g (1 tsp) cream of tartar

• 63g vegetable oil

• 70g coconut cream (santan)

• 13g (2 tbsp) local coffee powder

• 50ml hot water

Special equipment

• Aluminium tube pan/chiffon pan with a removable base

• Electric mixer

• Metal mixing bowl

Part 1: Preparation

• Preheat oven to 180°C.

• Mix local coffee powder with hot water and let it steep until the liquid cools to room temperature.

• In a regular mixing bowl, sift cake flour, baking powder and salt three times. This helps aerate the flour and prevent lumps which can weigh down the batter. You’ll notice that the flour gets a little fluffier with each sift. Set aside.

• To make meringue: in a metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until bubbly and foamy right through.

• Add cream of tartar and continue beating until egg whites become glossy and firm, but not stiff – you are not making Pavlova. Cream of tartar helps stabilise the egg whites. If you’re an expert at making meringues, you can omit cream of tartar if you prefer.

Add cream of tartar to help egg whites stiffen.

• Add 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, to your egg whites and continue beating until egg whites are glossy and firm peaks form. Set aside.

A nice, curly firm peak.

• In a separate mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and the rest of the sugar on high speed until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy.

Combine yolks and sugar.
Beat until pale yellow and fluffy.

• In another bowl, combine steeped coffee (don’t forget to run the coffee liquid through a sieve to remove most of the coffee grounds), oil and coconut cream, and stir until completely mixed.

Such a beautiful marbling effect.
Stir until completely mixed.

Part 2: Combining the ingredients

• Start whisking the egg yolks again on medium speed, while slowly adding in the coffee mixture, pouring it down the walls of the bowl.

Slowly pour in the coffee mixture.

• Continue mixing on medium speed until both mixtures are thoroughly combined.

Combine the mixture evenly.

• Add in the thrice-sifted flour into the egg yolk and coffee mixture in three batches, folding it in to combine.

Add flour to mixture in three batches.
Fold to combine.

• Next, add 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the batter, gently folding it in. Once again, work in three batches, folding until the batter is smooth and just combined.

Add in egg whites in three batches.
The final batter looks smooth, foamy and absolutely delicious.

Part 3: Baking and resting the coffee chiffon cake

• Pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan and bake it in the oven for 50 to 55 minutes, rotating the pan after 25 minutes. To test if your cake is done, poke a toothpick into the cake. If it comes out clean, your cake is ready. If it doesn’t, give it another five minutes.

Important: The chiffon cake pan must be ungreased as it’s a delicate cake that needs to cling to the walls of the pan as it bakes. If the pan is greased or non-stick, the chiffon cake can collapse during the baking and cooling process.

• Once the cake is done, take it out and invert the pan over a cake plate until it is completely cool. Inverting the pan prevents condensation from forming that weighing the cake down, and allows air to circulate around the pan. Cooling times will vary according to the room temperature.

While you may be tempted to eat this cake straight out of the oven, letting it cool thoroughly ensures the air-pockets in the batter remain firm and the cake fluffy.

Removing the cake before it cools not only removes the support the walls of the pan provides, but will expose the air pockets to cool air too quickly, which can cause the cake to collapse.

The chiffon cake looks amazing.

• Sometimes, the cake will automatically drop from the pan once it has cooled sufficiently. However, if the cake has cooled but hasn’t dropped, turn the cake over (so the base it at the bottom) and run a knife along the edges of the pan to separate the cake from the pan’s walls.

• Invert the cake once again (so the base is on top) and remove the outer part of the pan.

Then, run a knife under the base of the pan, separating the cake and allowing it to gently fall onto the plate. Be quick, as you don’t want the cake to break apart.

If part of the cake has been detached while another remains stuck to the base for too long, your cake can and will break. If you are a little cautious of your skill to execute this part swiftly, turn you cake right side up again and run the knife along the base.

Then, while gently but firmly supporting your cake, invert the base with the cake over your plate, allowing the cake to slowly drop onto the plate, before removing the base completely.

• Cut into wedges to serve.

Coffee chiffon cake – best served in wedges.

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