There’s something about eating an old-fashion cake, that brings back memories of waiting eagerly to lick the remaining batter from Mama’s mixing bowl. As a kid, I eagerly watched as a knife glided through the creamy, smooth icing and the first slice of cake was lifted onto my plate. I remember those tall, enticing cakes sharing the kitchen table with platters of fried chicken, frosty glasses of squeezed lemonade and an array of fresh garden vegetables.
This Lemon Chiffon Cake comes out of such an era. The moist, airy delicacy is lemony and not-so sweet, making it perfect for warm-weather gatherings. One of the advantages of the chiffon cake is that it doesn’t harden or dry out like typical butter cakes. Its fluffy texture comes by beating egg whites until stiff and folding them into the batter before baking.
A Celebrity Cake
In the 1920s, angel food cake was quite popular, but an insurance man named Henry Baker thought he could make it ever better. In 1927, he came up with a lighter, richer cake. He served it at the Brown Derby in Los Angeles, where it was a hit with Hollywood stars and big shots for 20 years. Henry was the only one baking the cake until 1947, when he sold the secret recipe to General Mills and it took on the chiffon name.
As with any long-time favorite, there’s lots of variations, including recipes from Martha Stewart, Betty Crocker, Williams-Sonoma, King Arthur flour, and leading food bloggers. Variations in the icing go from the inclusion of heavy cream and lemon curd to a simple Meyer’s lemon and confectioners’ sugar topping. Printable recipe here for cake shown below.
Lemon Chiffon Cake
7 large eggs, separated
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 4 tsp. grated lemon peel
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 4-1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- Dash salt
- Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325°.
- Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together twice; place in another large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks, water, oil, lemon peel and vanilla until smooth. Add to flour mixture; beat until well blended.
- Add cream of tartar to egg whites; with clean beaters, beat on medium speed just until stiff but not dry. Fold a fourth of the whites into batter, then fold in remaining whites.
- Gently spoon batter into an ungreased 10-in. tube pan. Cut through batter with a knife to remove air pockets. Bake on lowest oven rack 50-55 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert pan; cool completely in pan, about 1 hour.
- Run a knife around sides and center tube of pan. Remove cake to a serving plate.
- In a small bowl, combine frosting ingredients; beat until smooth. Spread over cake. Yield: 16 servings. (Originally published as Lemon Chiffon Cake in Taste of Home, April/May 2008, p. 37)