Lemon Chiffon Cake
Just so we’re clear, lemon chiffon cake has no significance for me in terms of comfort food. But because it is cake, I’ll find any excuse to whip one up. And seeing as how it is National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day, then what better reason for making a cake and to really celebrate the humble lemon.
To be honest, lately I’ve been craving a lemon meringue pie. So as I was whipping up this little ditty I thought, why not just switch out the pie crust for cake, make a traditional curd – just lemon, yolks, and sugar – and give the classic meringue just a little more body by pouring hot sugar into the whites as I whipped them. Finally, using a torch, I toasted the meringue frosting to look like that of a lemon meringue pie. And I’ve got to say, this cake has not only relinquished my craving for lemon meringue pie, but I thought it was much, much better.
A chiffon cake is somewhere between a sponge and angel food cake. Unlike most cake recipes, it requires the use of oil rather than butter. Oil helps to keep the cake soft and moist. And like an angel food cake, it requires folding in the egg whites at a perfect consistency. It’s sort of like making a soufflé, only you cook it longer and how you treat it when it comes out of the oven matters just as much as before it went in.
Chiffon cakes, in general, are among the trickiest to nail perfectly. Aside from folding egg whites into a batter base, the cake also requires low heat and a pan that it can stick to. Not a lot of baked goods I can think of that you actually want to stick to the pan. And very importantly, the cake must be suspended upside down as it cools in order for gravity to work its magic. If you’ve never made a chiffon cake, then it’s definitely worth a try, but two points to remember: use the right ingredients, and use the right equipment. Of all the cakes I’ve ever made, it is the chiffon cake that has far more variables for success, meaning there are far more chances of error.
Lemon Chiffon Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups caster sugar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 egg yolks
- ½ cup oil
- 7 egg whites
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
Note* I would recommend cake flour so long as you can find it, but increase the quantity by a quarter cup, and omit the cornstarch.
1. Preheat oven to 165°C. Measure out flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar and oil. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Turn speed down to medium and add egg yolks, one at a time. Then add lemon juice and zest. In three parts, add the dry ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Do not over beat. Scrape bowl down and set aside.
3. In another clean bowl, add egg whites, ½ cup of sugar and 4 or 5 drops of lemon juice (this works as a stabilizer in lieu of cream of tartar). Beat on medium speed until egg whites form medium-soft peaks. Do not over beat or under beat.
4. Working quickly, add 1/3 of the whites to the batter. Fold in until completely blended. Fold in the remainder of the whites. Fold well, but not too much.
5. Bang the bowl on the counter to release any air pockets. Pour batter into an ungreased tube pan. Be sure the pan is NOT non-stick. Bake on lowest rack for 50-60 minutes. The cake is done when it springs back with a light touch.
6. Place the cake upside in the pan until completely cool. Letting the cake hang upside down from the neck of a bottle helps. Afterwards, run a sharp knife around the edges and carefully remove the cake from the pan.
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup lemon juice, about 2 lemons
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 150g unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
1. Using a double boiler over low-medium heat, whisk the sugar and yolks rapidly until the yellow of the yolks turns a pale yellow. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest.
2. Stir constantly until curd thickens, about 20 minutes. Temperature should be 80°C. Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh wire sieve.
3. Pour into a bowl and stir in a few cubes of butter at a time, until all the butter is incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap, with the plastic touching the surface of the curd. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
Fluffy Meringue Frosting:
- 6 egg whites
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- Zest of 1 lemon
1. In a medium saucepan, melt sugar and water over medium heat.
2. As the sugar melts, whisk egg whites into a medium stiff meringue.
3. When sugar reaches 130°C, remove from heat. While whisking meringue, slowly pour sugar in a thin stream into the meringue. Add the lemon zest and continue whisking for another 2 minutes. Use frosting immediately before it sets.