Lemon Chiffon Cake is a famously fluffy lemon sponge cake that’s delicious on its own or topped with whipped cream and berries. The ultra light texture makes this cake a summer favorite.
lemon chiffon cake is a game changer
It may not be such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but in the little universe that is our kitchen, a great new cake recipe can be a game changer. This one is different from anything I’ve shared before, in fact I had to get a brand new tube pan for it, and now we’re obsessed.
the history of chiffon cakes
“The recipe is credited to Harry Baker (1883–1974), a Californian insurance salesman turned caterer. Baker kept the recipe secret for 20 years until he sold it to General Mills, which spread the recipe through marketing materials in the 1940s and 1950s under the name “chiffon cake”, and a set of 14 recipes and variations was released to the public in a Betty Crocker pamphlet published in 1948.”Wikipedia
let’s talk texture (it’s dreamy)
You can’t have a discussion about lemon chiffon cake without talking texture. Woa. Light, spongey, feathery, airy, diaphanous…and it slices like a dream. It’s really unlike any other type of cake, and so worth making. You can eat a piece and hardly even know it!
The secret to the fluffy texture of a chiffon cake is that it’s made with oil, not butter, and the egg whites are beaten before being folded into the batter. This results in an airy sponge-like cake that stays moist and tender longer than regular cakes.
everything you need to know about chiffon cakes
Both cakes are tall and light and baked in a tube pan, and both are made with beaten egg whites, but chiffon cakes contain oil and egg yolks, while angel food cakes do not. A chiffon cake has a slightly more open, spongy texture than an angel food cake. A chiffon cake is a little richer, with better flavor, and a more appealing texture, in my opinion.
Make sure your bowl and beaters are clean and free from oil. Even a tiny bit of oil can deflate your whites. Use a glass or metal bowl, not plastic, and room temperature egg whites beat up easier than cold.
Yes, you can. You want to whip them until they just hold their peaks when you lift up your beaters. If you beat them too much they’ll get coarse and grainy.
Chiffon and angel food cakes are super delicate, and the structure of a tube pan helps them rise tall. You can theoretically bake this batter in other pans but you’d have to adjust the amount of batter for the pan (the cake rises high and can overflow.) It would still need to be cooled upside down.
Chiffon cakes are very airy and light, so cooling the cake upside down takes pressure off the just baked cake and ensures that it won’t collapse. If your pan has ‘legs’ like mine, below, that makes it easy.
You can use a good gluten free baking mix in place of the all purpose flour in this cake.
Yes, leave out the lemon juice, zest, and extract. Add more water to compensate for the lemon juice, and extra vanilla extract in place of the lemon extract.
lemon chiffon cake has a subtle lemon flavor
This isn’t one of those super tangy lemon cakes like my lemon velvet sheet cake or lemon drizzle cake. This one speaks in soft citrusy tones, but is no less delicious. Sponge cakes need flavoring to make them interesting, whether it’s vanilla, almond, rum, chocolate, or some sort of citrus. I think a lime or orange version of this cake would be delicious.
You can double down on the lemon flavor in this cake depending on how you serve it. If you like you can make a simple glaze with powdered sugar and lemon juice to spoon over the top (see instructions in the recipe notes.)
how to serve lemon chiffon cake
This cake is a blank slate for so many different serving variations (the flat top makes it easy to decorate.) It can totally work on its own with just a dusting of powdered sugar, but if you want to take it to the next level, you have options.
- the most traditional way to serve this cake is with whipped cream and fresh berries. It’s simple and classy. You can pile them on top of the cake, or just serve them on the side.
- macerate strawberries for a juicy topping: toss sliced berries with sugar and let sit for at least 30 minutes to coax out the juices.
- it lends itself to all sorts of glazes, from chocolate or vanilla bean to lemon. Spread it over the top and let it drip over the sides. Delicious.
- a full on fruit sauce like strawberry, raspberry or cherry would be really nice. Blueberries go especially well with lemon.
- serve with lemon curd on the side.
- drizzle with chocolate or caramel sauce.
- frost the entire cake with a sweetened whipped cream or a simple buttercream frosting.
- it’s excellent as a base for any flavor ice cream you like. Serve a slice topped with a scoop and the spongy cake will absorb the melting ice cream…it’s wonderful.
more lemony desserts
- Lemon Crunch Cake
- Raspberry Lemon Cake
- Blueberry Lemon Cake
- Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Poppy Seed Frosting
- Triple Lemon Brownies
- Strawberry Lemon Blondies
Lemon Chiffon Cake
- 10" angel food cake tube pan
- 8 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup water
- zest of two large lemons (about 2 Tbsp)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 325F. Have a 10 inch angel food tube pan ready, but don't grease.
- Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar just until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the egg yolks, oil, water, lemon zest, lemon juice, and extracts to the flour mixture, and whisk well, until very smooth.
- Add a small amount of the beaten egg whites to the egg yolk mixture and fold together gently until well combined.
- Add the egg yolk mixture slowly back into the rest of the egg whites, in a few batches, folding everything together gently between each addition until everything is combined. Don't over mix, and be gentle so you don't lose all that air you whipped into the egg whites.
- Pour the batter into an ungreased 10 inch angel food cake pan.
- Bake for 55 minutes, then turn the oven temperature up to 350F and bake for about 10 more minutes, until a tooth pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out without wet batter clinging to it.
- Allow the cake to cool completely with the pan turned upside down. You can invert your pan over a bottle to let it cool, or if your pan has little legs like mine does, you can rest it on those. When it's cool, gently run a thin knife between the cake and the edge of the pan, and remove the cake from the pan.
- Serve with whipped cream and fresh berries, if desired.
- For this cake you do not grease the pan, this way the batter can cling to the walls of the pan to help it rise high. It does help to have a pan in good condition. If your pan is old or scratched, the cake may be more difficult to remove.
- To make a simple citrus glaze for your cake, whisk together 2 cups confectioner’s sugar with about 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice to form a glaze. Spread over the top of the cooled cake and let drip down the sides.
Questions and Reviews
Great recipe- tasted great the first time. I’ll definitely make it again.
What a wonderful recipe! My mother was the family source of all incredible chiffon cakes—one for each birthday each of us had. I have not ever attempted to make one, but now that Mom is gone, I tried this recipe. Easy. Delicious. Beautiful. Just now a second cake came out of the oven for my youngest brother for his birthday this weekend. Thank you soooooo much!!
Delicious Sue!!! A few things…I didn’t have cream of tartar or lemon extract so just left out. Added a little extra lemon zest. I also forgot to add the salt. I hadn’t made a cake from scratch for years, so I had low expectations of my abilities. I made a strawberry cream cheese glaze/frosting and it was super delicious. Oven timing per the recipe was perfect!
Sounds delicious Patti 🙂
I’m baking this cake now…looks awesome…was wondering if you could make it as a layer cake instead of in a tube pan?
I haven’t tried that Kim but I’m sure you can.
I’m baking this cake right now and it’s beautiful as it’s raising up in the oven. I didn’t feel like I had to beat myself up as I made it, just kind of threw it together, no crazy unnecessary prep. My only question is the zest from the lemons. 2 lemons zested is far more than 2 tsp. I used it all because you can never have too much lemon flavor.
Thanks Diana, and I changed that to 2 Tbsp, don’t know how that happened, and you are right, you can NEVER have too much lemon flavor 🙂