Lemon Chiffon Cake (two ways)

Have you ever come across a cake or recipe that you obsess over? For me, lately, it has been the chiffon cake.

I first tried a chiffon cake at Beatrix and certainly enjoyed it, but didn’t think there was anything special about making them until I read this article in Epicure in which Nat Paull talked about them needing to be ‘hung’ overnight. I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant. So I did some research. And my interest was piqued.

I set about searching for the tin. There was debate online over stick or non-stick. To me, non-stick was counter intuitive. If you’re going to turn the cake upside down after baking it, surely you’re just tempting fate by using a non-stick tin? I decided not to go with non-stick and found a tin at my local kitchenware store. While I was on the hunt for the tin, I bought Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible as I was keen to try her recipe.

Eventually I was all set. Or so I thought. I baked my first chiffon, turned it over and it stayed in. Happy days! Below is what it looked like when I first turned it over.

Below is what it looked like three hours later. It shrunk into itself. All I could think of was that it looked like a male *ahem* appendage after jumping into ice-cold water!

A bit devastated, I reached out to some bakers on Twitter and they all said they had never seen anything like it before! Lucky me. At least it didn’t actually fall out, right?

Phillippa Grogan from Phillippa’s offered me her Jewish neighbour Gillian’s recipe, which I gratefully accepted, but I was determined to get Rose’s one right first before moving on.

I ended up asking Nat for some help and she was very obliging with her time. On her suggestion, I made some slight adjustments and gave it another go.

It was perfect. I was thrilled. I took some in for Nat to try and she gave it her seal of approval.

So then it was time to try Gillian’s recipe. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two cakes as the methods are pretty different, as are the quantities of the ingredients. I was curious – can you get a similar result from two different sets of methods and ingredients?

Well, it took me a little while to find out. You see, for some reason, the first time I made Gillian’s recipe, I misread the oven instructions.

Although the instructions were there in clear black and white, I baked it at 180 degrees fan-forced, rather than 155 degrees fan-forced. After 55 of the 65 minutes, I smelt burning. I ended up with this. Sigh.

I had another go and I got there.

I made both cakes one weekend so that I could compare them side by side, lemons with lemons. They were both delicious, but I preferred the texture in Rose’s version more – it wasn’t as dense. That said, it doesn’t have the same lemon kick as Gillian’s, but I think I actually prefer the subtle flavour in this instance. I have provided both recipes below.

Rose’s cake on the left and Gillian’s on the right.

Lemon Glow Chiffon Cake

Adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
  • 225g self raising cake flour
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 3.5g salt (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 108g canola oil
  • 130g egg yolks
  • 300g egg whites
  • 156g water
  • 30g lemon juice
  • zest from 3 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 4g cream of tartar (1 1/4 teaspoons)

Heat your oven to 155 degrees celcius, fan-forced.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, all but two tablespoons of sugar and the salt. Using a handheld beater or stand mixer, mix the dry ingredients for one minute until well incorporated. Make a well in the centre of the ingredients and add the oil, egg yolks, water, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix for about one minute or until smooth. Stir in the lemon rind.

In a second large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they are frothy and add in the cream of tartar. Continue to beat on medium speed until stiff peaks are formed.

Using a slotted spoon or balloon whisk, fold the egg whites into the batter until just blended and no traces of egg whites remain.

Pour the batter into the (ungreased) pan and run a small metal spatula or knife through the batter to prevent air pockets. Bake for 60-65 minutes (63 was good for me) or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed in the center.  Once cooked, take the cake out of the oven and immediately turn it upside down over a bottle* until it is completely cool – approximately three hours.

Using an up and down motion, use a palette knife to loosen the sides of the cake away from the tin. Pull out the cake and use the palette knife around the bottom of the cake to release it from the base. Turn it over so that the base becomes the top and sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar to serve.

* I suggest you test some bottles when the cake tin is empty to make sure you have one on hand that fits. I found a bottle of worcestershire sauce works for me.

Lemon Chiffon Cake

Gillian’s recipe as provided by Phillippa
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups of caster sugar
  • 2 cups of self raising flour
  • ½ cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • zest from 3 lemons
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius or 155 degrees celcius fan-forced.

Beat egg whites in a bowl with a pinch of salt and gradually add the vanilla and one cup of the sugar. Beat for about 10 minutes until you have peaks.

In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with the other cup of sugar for 10 minutes or until well beaten. Add in the lemon juice and oil, mixing well. Mix in the self raising flour and beat for five minutes. Gently stir in the lemon rind (I mix it in with a spatula rather than using the mixer so that the rind doesn’t get stuck to the beaters).

Gently fold in the whites using a slotted spoon or whisk until all mixed together and pour into (ungreased) tin.

Bake for 65 minutes and immediately turn it upside down over a bottle* until it is completely cool – approximately three hours.

Using a palette knife, use an up and down motion to release the cake from the side of the tin. Pull out the cake and use the palette knife around the bottom of the cake to release it from the base. Turn it over so that the base becomes the top and sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar to serve.

* I suggest you test some bottles when the cake tin is empty to make sure you have one on hand that fits. I found a bottle of worcestershire sauce works for me.

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9 thoughts on “Lemon Chiffon Cake (two ways)

  1. Ouch… I had a similar problem the second time (and the third) I made the chiffon cake. First time all right, the other times it imploded into itself (the third time it splattered in the oven too °_°) … There wasn’t anyone who could help me sort out why. I finally realized it had to do to the beating of the liquid stuff, it must be “fluffy”.
    At least we’ll have some funny trivia to share with others 🙂

  2. Ah ha! Self raising flour! That’s what I was missing! I think someone told me to use plain flour cos the egg white will make the cake puffy itself… Obviously not.

    Hehe at male appendage shrunken cake :p

    • That is the idea with angel food cake, and usually with chiffon, but clearly these two recipes are different and by the photos work perfectly (eventually! – loved reading about the trials and errors on this one and seeing the perfect results at the end. Happens to us all!)

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