Confession… I haven’t baked since Christmas except for three birthday cakes for three very special people. I spent several months during the holidays focused on baking holiday treats and I needed some time to reset and refocus on healthy eating. I love baking so much, and I’m good at it, like really good, but I’m also an avid gym goer and very conscious about the amount of sugar and gluten I put in my body. Those two things don’t exactly mesh (real talk “healthy baking” is never as good as sugary floury baking) so I took a small break from the baking world.
During my brief baking hiatus, I didn’t realize how much I missed baking until my cousin’s husband reached out and asked me to bake a very special treat for my cousin’s 40th birthday bash. Her favorite flavor is mint. He sent me an idea for a vanilla mint chiffon cake, and I ran with it. I wanted this cake to be perfect for my cousin, Haley (also the 20+ people I had never met before, no pressure!). So I baked this cake, tweaked this cake, and ate this cake at least 3 or 4 different times before my taste tester and I crowned the recipe below the winner. Baking this cake not only relit my baking fire, but it created the most delicious, light, spongy, and minty chiffon cake you’ll ever bake and eat! Below you’ll find the recipe along with my tips, tricks, and don’ts that I did. Enjoy!
- 2 bunches (or 1 packet) fresh mint, leaves picked
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 2 ¼ cups plain flour
- 1 ½ cups extra fine granulated sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 8 large egg whites
- 7 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 bunch (or 1/2 packet) fresh mint, leaves picked (use the other half of the mint packet for cake decoration)
Directions for Cake
- Preheat oven 350 degrees. Combine fresh mint leaves and milk together in a saucepan and heat slowly until simmering. Turn off the heat and leave to cool completely to room temperature. Once cool, strain out the mint leaves ensuring you squeeze the leaves to release all the flavor.
- In a medium bowl, sift together flour, half the sugar, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, oil, mint flavored milk, and vanilla bean paste until smooth. Slowly stir in the flour mixture until smooth, the batter will be thick. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Continue whisking and slowly stream in the remaining sugar until stiff shiny peaks form. Stir one third of the egg whites briskly into the egg yolk-flour mixture. Then gently fold through the remaining egg whites. The mixture should be light and foamy.
- Scrape into a large, un-greased tube pan. Bake on the lowest oven rack for 60 minutes, or until springing back when lightly pressed. Check the cake at 30 minutes and if the top is browning or cracking, oil a piece of foil and cover the top of the cake.
- Remove cake from oven and turn the pan upside down immediately (the cake should stick to the pan) and leave to cool completely – this helps the cake keep it’s shape. When the cake is completely cool, run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it, and turn it out.
Directions – Icing
- Combine fresh mint leaves and heavy cream together in a saucepan and heat slowly until simmering. Turn off the heat and leave to cool completely to room temperature. Once cool, strain out the mint leaves ensuring you squeeze the leaves to release all the flavor.
- Whisk together powdered sugar and infused heavy cream to form medium or thick icing. Pour over the top, letting it drip down the sides. Decorate with mint leaves and edible flowers.
Tips and Tricks and Don’ts That I Did
- Don’t use skim milk with this recipe. WHOLE milk is necessary to infuse the mint. I used skim milk the first time, and the cake had zero mint flavor. ZERO.
- Make sure you slowly bring the milk to a simmer. Don’t burn your milk or heat it too fast. The mint needs to simmer for it to soak up that minty flavor. You’ll know it’s done when the milk has a light green tint to it.
- Don’t skimp on squeezing the mint. Most of the flavor in the mint is still there after steeping in the milk. Squeeze Squeeze Squeeze until there is not one drop of liquid left in those leaves.
- Sift all your dry ingredients. This will prevent clumps in your batter and icing.
- Folding egg whites is a lot harder than it sounds, but they must be incorporated slowly and carefully into the batter. If you’re too fast, you won’t get the light airy batter that makes it the chiffon.
- Don’t forget to check your cake halfway through the bake. If the top is browning add a piece of foil over the top.
- Don’t spray your cake pan. It will stick, but that’s part of this bake. It easily comes out when a knife slides around the edge.
- Be sure to let your cake cool completely before trying to remove it from the pan. I didn’t give the first couple of cakes time to cool, and they were a pain to remove from the pan. The last few I let sit on the counter for an hour or longer and they came right out.
- Icing… I tried it in what felt like a million different ways. I tried lemon icing (although delicious the lemon completely stole the show from the mint). I tried super thin, medium, and thick. The mint icing was the winner, and I went with a thicker icing for the party. Both the medium and thick icing worked great (add more sugar for a thicker icing and more cream for a thinner one), but make sure you go with mint or even a plain would be tasty.
- Dripping icing is tricky. I’ve found the best way is to pour it all on top and drag it down a little with a butter knife where you want the drips. I used a tiny mixing bowl with a spout, but a measuring cup would work just as well.
- Last but not least a little tip for myself. Keep baking. You love it. Don’t worry about the sugar and the gluten, that’s part of the fun. Cut a sliver to taste and share with hungry friends, family, and neighbors, but don’t ever stop baking. You enjoy it, baking is your creative outlet, it’s one of your happy places, it’s even at times therapeutic, and did I mention how good you are at it? If any of you bakers or bloggers or readers and eaters have tips on what to do with extra bakes, send them my way.
- As always… don’t forget to enjoy!