chiffon cake made a sensation in 1948, when General Mills published a recipe pamphlet proclaiming it “the biggest kitchen news in 100 years.” Two years later, Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book described chiffon cake as being “light as angel food, rich as butter cake.”
For many decades, three basic foam cakes—sponge, angel food, and genoise—had held sway in the kitchen. See angel food cake and sponge cake. Foam cakes depend on the aeration of eggs, either beaten whole or separately as yolks and whites for the magnificent heights they attain in the oven. The newfangled chiffon cake was the brainchild of Harry Baker, a Los Angeles insurance salesman, baking hobbyist, and caterer. In the 1920s, he became a celebrity by baking his invention for many Hollywood personalities, as well as for the Brown Derby restaurant chain. Despite many pleas for the recipe, he refused to divulge it until General Mills paid him for the recipe in 1947. The mystery ingredient turned out to be vegetable oil.