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Lemon Chiffon Cake

4.3

(26)

A lemon chiffon cake baked in a tube pan dusted with confectioners sugar and served with raspberries and whipped cream.
Photo by Travis Rainey, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich

Lighter-than-air lemon chiffon cake gets its lofty stature from whipped egg whites, cream of tartar, and a bit of baking magic. Lemon zest and juice provide tangy lemon flavor, though lime or grapefruit zest and juice work, too, if you’d like to veer off course.

The key to any chiffon cake recipe is the fold: Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form—an electric mixer on low speed will give you the most control, or use a stand mixer with the whisk attachment—then combine them with the egg yolk mixture. Use a light hand and work quickly in batches to fold one into the other before the egg white meringue deflates. This is one of the times when you actually really do need to use the cake pan the recipe calls for. The straight sides of an ungreased tube pan help the tender crumb reach its loftiest potential; swap in a nonstick Bundt pan, and you’ll be left with nothing but dense, flat disappointment.

It’s similarly crucial to set the cake upside down to cool as soon as you take it out of the oven so it maintains its shape as it comes to room temperature. If your pan has “feet,” you just need to flip it; if not, place an empty bottle in the hole of the pan and invert, then let the bottle hold the pan aloft. When cool, run a sharp knife along the sides of the pan to loosen the cake, then transfer the lemon chiffon cake to a plate and dust with a generous amount of powdered sugar, or garnish the top of the cake with whipped cream or lemon curd and a pile of berries.

Recipe information

  • Total Time

    1 hour 35 minutes (plus cooling)

  • Yield

    Serves 12

Ingredients

2 cups (223 g) sifted cake flour
1½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. plus ⅛ tsp. Morton kosher salt
8 eggs, separated, at room temperature
½ cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 large lemons)
½ cup fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. cream of tartar
Powdered sugar for serving
Whipped cream and raspberries, to garnish (optional)

Preparation

  1. Step 1

    Place rack in lower third of oven; preheat oven to 325°F. Sift 2 cups (223 g) sifted cake flour, 1½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar, 1 Tbsp. baking powder, and ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. plus ⅛ tsp. Morton kosher salt into a large bowl; set aside.

    Step 2

    Whisk ½ cup vegetable oil, 8 large egg yolks, room temperature, 2½ Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest, ½ cup fresh lemon juice, and 2 Tbsp. water in a medium bowl to combine; set aside.

    Step 3

    In another large bowl, beat 8 large egg whites, room temperature, with ½ tsp. cream of tartar with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff but not dry; set aside.

    Step 4

    Add yolk mixture to flour mixture and beat on low speed (no need to clean mixer) just to combine and no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Fold one quarter of beaten egg whites into batter to lighten. Gently fold in remaining whites. Pour cake batter into an ungreased 10"-diameter tube pan. Tap pan on counter or run an offset spatula through batter to release air pockets.

    Step 5

    Bake cake until springy to touch, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Immediately invert cake in pan over neck of bottle and let cool completely (about 2 hours). Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Transfer cake to plate and dust with powdered sugar. Serve slices with dollops of whipped cream and raspberries (if using).

    Photo by Travis Rainey, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich

    Editor’s note: This lemon chiffon cake was printed in the July 1991 issue of ‘Bon Appétit’ and first appeared on Epicurious in 2004. Head this way for more of our favorite Mother’s Day cake recipes

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  • This is one of my favorite cakes to make for myself! You must love lemon flavor if you are to enjoy this cake (which I do). It is also very light tasting and when I want to dress it up, I add a Grand Marnier glaze. Just delicious!

    • Anonymous

    • 10/27/1999

  • I LOVE Lemon! Especially FRESH LEMON! Will try this. I wonder how Cream of Tartar would do in it instead of baking powder. I don't have a lot of luck with BP. I had a delightful cake with Corn Oil in it and LOST the recipe.

    • Nita

    • Macon GA & Franklin NC

    • 7/2/2002

  • I won't rate this recipe as I made two changes, but I will say this: I wouldn't make it again! I used regular flour instead of cake flour, and baked it in a sheet cake instead of a tube pan. It looked beautiful, but had the consistency of a dry unsweet corn muffin, and it stuck to the pan! I don't know if it was me or the recipe, but in the future I'll try an easier recipe for lemon cake.

    • Anonymous

    • Leesburg, VA

    • 8/19/2002

  • I have made this cake so many times that as much as I like to tamper with recipes, this is one recipe you have to follow precisely and you will get great results. When I want a real pronounced lemon flavor, I will replace the water with fresh lemon juice. You have to be patient with letting it cool before you try and remove it from the pan and even then it can be tricky, but it is by far the best lemon cake that I make!

    • Anonymous

    • Welland, Ontario, Canada

    • 9/18/2002

  • This angel food style lemon cake was both a hit at home and the office. It was great as written and later I made another and cut it horizontally and spread with lemon curd before making up a lemon juice and confectioner's sugar glaze to pour over the top. To the cook from Leesburg, VA, the two modifications made to the recipe are most likely the reason it did not turn out well. Cake flour is relatively low in protein and chlorinated (making it slightly acidic), meaning it will yield a more tender cake than all purpose flour and may react differently with other ingredients. Additionally, the use of a sheet pan may inhibit the rising of the cake as a tube pan provides a high side to 'climb' up and a means of keeping it inverted while cooling, both help prevent it collapsing upon itself.

    • Anonymous

    • Davis, CA

    • 10/5/2002

  • This cake is delicious! If you love lemon, you have to make this easy to bake cake. Made it for Easter and it was a great,just-right, light dessert after our meal. I topped it with some strawberries and the taste just blended together wonderfully. To the person who made it as a sheet cake--do yourself a favor and follow the directions, you won't be disappointed. I usually tinker with recipes but followed this one exactly. You should never back a chiffon cake in anything but a tube pan. This is what makes the cake a chiffon cake--light, spongy and delicious! veryone I have shared this with wants the recipe. A+!

    • Anonymous

    • AL

    • 4/14/2004

  • I love anything lemony. I made this cake and after it cooled, divided it into three layers and spread a thin layer of lemon curd and fresh sliced strawberries between each layer and then frosted the cake with whipping cream folded in with the leftover lemon curd and it was the prettiest thing in the world. And it tasted even better. Great for a shower or anniversary party

    • Anonymous

    • Chashmonaim, Israel

    • 4/26/2004

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