Hello, Friends! I’m traveling today, so I asked Lindsey if she’d be up for sharing one of her favorite recipes. Happily she said yes — but I had no idea it would be a gorgeous recipe. I mean look at that cake! Plus, as you may or may not know, I’m a total fan girl of any lemon dessert. I can’t wait to try this.
Here’s what Lindsey says:
Today, I’m sharing one of my family’s very favorite cake recipes — Lemon Chiffon Cake with Berries. I can’t claim the credit on this one; I first made it when I was part of a baking group in the early days of blogging. It’s from a book called Sky High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. But I have tweaked it a bit here and there, and added the berry decoration (and sometimes I even place sliced berries between the lemon curd-filled layers).
This is a top-notch cake that isn’t as complicated to make as it seems.
Lemon desserts are my favorite. And with this cake, it was love at first bite — I make it regularly. I’ve tinkered a little here and there with the different components. I’ve tried different cake recipes and landed back on this one because it’s perfection — easy to make and so, so good.
This cake is special. We have made it for birthdays and other occasions. But that’s not why it’s special — it’s actually a kind of simple cake. Simple, yet so utterly delicious you’ll think it’s more complicated.
The soft, pillowy layers of chiffon cake are filled with a homemade lemon curd and frosted with the most delectable lemon whipped cream. I’ll explain more below about the whipped cream. Sometimes I make the lemon whipped cream by itself and we eat it in a bowl topped with fresh fruit.
A chiffon cake is slightly different than a regular butter cake. It falls into a category of cakes called “foam cakes.” In most recipes, you won’t see any leavening agents (baking soda and/or baking powder). Instead the cake gets its light and fluffy texture from beating air into eggs, particularly egg whites. This recipe does have a little baking soda in it, which I suspect is in there to help the cakes brown nicely and to offset the acidic lemon juice. (Any pros out there know for sure?)
In this cake the eggs are separated first, then the yolks are mixed with oil, lemon juice and zest, and water. The egg whites are beaten with cream of tartar, which helps stabilize the egg whites. (Tip: if you don’t have cream of tartar or access to it, use a teaspoon or so of lemon juice or vinegar.) Be aware: beating egg whites can be tricky if it’s not something you do on a regular basis.
Tips for Making a Perfect Chiffon Cake
- Separate eggs while they are cold because it’s easier. Be sure careful not to let any of the egg yolk drop into the egg whites. Even a small drop can prevent the whites from beating properly. Working one at a time, I use a small bowl to catch the white of each egg, then transfer the yolk to a separate bowl, and transfer the white to a larger bowl. This way if a little yolk does get in with the egg white, the whole bowl won’t be contaminated and you can start again with another egg.
- Allow the egg whites to come to room temperature because they will whip better.
- Start on low speed and work your way up — pay attention to the times given in the directions. Beating on high speed from the get-go can add too much air or larger air pockets and your cake may rise too quickly when baking, then fall or sink in the middle
- Add the sugar a little at a time on a lower speed, then raise the speed and bat until soft peaks form.
- Don’t over-beat the egg whites. If they are over-beaten, they will look dry and clumpy instead of smooth and glossy. This can also affect the structure of the cake — it may end up falling, too dry, or flat and rubbery.
- Keep egg yolks covered and in the refrigerator to prevent them from drying out on the surface. It’s helpful in this recipe to separate the eggs, then mix the oil and water in with the egg yolks.
- Sift the dry ingredients like a maniac. Or whisk if you don’t have a sifter or fine-mesh sieve. No lumps is the goal here, and so is incorporating air for a lighter texture.
- Don’t grease the pans unless the recipe specifies. The chiffon cake needs to be able to climb up the sides of the pan and stay there without slipping down. In other words, if you grease the pan, you run the risk of the cake not being able to stay risen because the batter will slide back down to the bottom of pan. If your recipe does call for greasing, be sure to flour the bottom and sides as well. ALWAYS line with parchment paper, even if you use a tube pan. This will be the only way you can remove the cake unless the cake has a removable bottom. Foam cakes like chiffon and angel food cake will stick like crazy, they’re supposed to.
Lemon Whipped Cream Frosting
Whipped cream has a tendency to separate after awhile. Stabilizing it is key. Adding a little bit of rehydrated and melted gelatin works well, especially for piping the cream. I add both lemon curd and sour cream instead. The culture from the sour cream and the acid from the lemon help thicken up the cream and keep it from separating. The lemon flavor is there, but a little lighter than in the filling. My recipe is very tart, just how I like it. : )
Because it’s such a light and airy cake, whipped cream frosting works the best for this cake. However, I have used Italian Meringue Buttercream for a layered chiffon cake and it worked great. Most buttercream or powdered sugar frostings are going to be too dense for the light cake. Whipped cream, as I said, is perfect.
In regards to the lemon curd, you can certainly use a jar of store-bought lemon curd in place of homemade. (I pretend I’m Ina Garten when I say that. Ha!) You may want to add a little extra fresh lemon juice if you don’t use the homemade because store-bought lemon curd tends to be way too sweet and doesn’t thicken the whipped cream as well.
Of course this cake can be decorated in myriad ways. I went for a sort of flower/sun pattern this time. I also love a pretty patchwork as shown on the yogurt sheet cake posted last year on Design Mom.
Berry Lemon Chiffon Cake
Adapted from: Sky High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne
Makes one 9″ triple layer cake
Ingredients for the Cake:
- 8 large eggs, separated
- 1/4 cup flavorless oil such as avocado, canola, or safflower
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour (see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, reserve a few whole strawberries for top, if desired
- 2 pints fresh blueberries
- 1 pint blackberries or raspberries
- Lemon Curd (recipe follows)
- Lemon Whipped Cream (recipe follows)
- Adjust oven rack to just lower than the center position. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of three 9-inch pans with parchment paper but do not butter or grease the pans.
- Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Allow to come to room temperature.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks with oil, lemon juice and zest, and water. Set aside.
- Start beating the eggs whites on low speed for 30-60 seconds. Add the cream of tartar and raise speed to medium. Beat until light and frothy and very soft peaks are starting to form. With mixer running, slowly add 1/2 cup granulated sugar one tablespoon at a time. Stop and scrape down bowl as needed. Continue beating on medium-low speed until soft peaks form, about 7-8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, sift flour, remaining sugar, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk vigorously to aerate the flour. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the egg yolk and lemon juice mixture into the well and gently mix with a large spatula until well-combined.
- Fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it. Fold in remaining whites gently using a spatula to cut down the center of the batter, across the bottom, and up, then turning the bowl and repeating until all of the whites are incorporated. DO NOT OVER-MIX.
- Divide the batter evenly between the three pans and gently smooth with an offset spatula. Rap the pans gently on the counter to release any large air bubbles.
- Place all three cake pans onto the center rack in the oven leaving a little space between the pans for air circulation. Bake for 16 minutes, or until centers spring back when lightly presses and a cake tester comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on wire cooling racks.
- Once cakes are cool, run a very thin spatula around the edge of the pans to loosen the cake. Gently turn the pans over one at a time, keeping a hand on the cake and un-mold the cakes. Slowly peel away the parchment paper and place cakes back on racks. Lightly wrap with plastic wrap and chill until very cold. This helps keep the delicate cake from crumbling during assembly. Also, at this point the cakes can be wrapped well with plastic wrap and refrigerated (for 2-3 days) or frozen (1-2 weeks wrapped a second time with foil) until ready to assemble cake.
- To assemble cake: place one of the chilled layers onto a cake plate or stand. Place 1/2 cup lemon curd in the center of the layer and spread almost to the edges. Leave a little border to allow for spreading once remaining cake layers are placed on top. Arrange some of the blueberries and sliced strawberries in an even layer over the lemon curd and press gently to nestle the berries into the lemon curd.
- Place the second layer on top of the first layer and gently press down on it so it is level. Repeat the filling process with another 1/2 cup lemon curd and more berries. Top with final cake layer and press down again so cake is level.
- Using a long, thin icing or offset spatula, spread a thin layer of the Lemon Whipped Cream over the entire surface of the cake. This is a crumb coating to help seal in any little crumbs or oozing lemon curd. Chill for 15-20 minutes to allow the cream to set.
- Spread remaining whipped cream over the entire cake and swirl or decorate as desired. Top with any fresh fruit, flowers, or other decorations and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours, or longer to allow cake to set up. During this time, the cake will start to absorb some of the liquid from the curd and whipped cream and become very moist and sturdy enough to slice.
- Cut into slices and serve. Store leftover cake well-covered in refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Notes: For DIY Cake Flour — 3/4 cup all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch is equal to 1 cup cake flour. Or measure out 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour and remove 3 tablespoons.
Lemon Whipped Cream Frosting
- 2 cups very cold heavy cream (not whipping cream!)
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup full-fat or reduced fat sour cream, chilled (see note)
- 1/4 cup Lemon Curd (recipe follows), chilled
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or using an electric hand-mixer, beat the heavy cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat again.
- Remove bowl from stand mixer. Whisk or fold the sour cream and lemon curd into the whipped cream.
- Place bowl back on stand mixer and beat for another 30-60 seconds, or until firm peaks form. Be careful not to over-beat. If this happens, remove bowl from mixer and whisk in a little extra sour cream or heavy cream.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble cake. Gently stir before using. The cream will thicken a bit as it sits.
Note: Creme fraiche, mascarpone, quark, labneh, or cream cheese can be substituted for the sour cream, if desired. The texture will be slightly thicker, so reduce beating time a bit.
Lemon Curd Filling
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- Pinch salt
- 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- In a non-reactive 3-quart saucepan, whisk together sugar and cornstarch to remove lumps. Add egg yolks and whisk until thick and lighter in color. Whisk in lemon juice and zest, and pinch salt.
- Turn heat on to medium. Cook, whisking or stirring constantly, making sure to cover the bottom and corners of the pan until curd starts to thicken. Let it simmer for 1 minute, still stirring constantly, then remove from heat.
- Whisk the cold butter into the curd one piece at a time, whisking until butter is completely incorporated before adding next tablespoon. Whisk well and pour through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl. Use a silicone spatula or spoon to gently press the curd through the sieve to remove the zest or any bits of cooked egg.
- Press a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper on the surface of the lemon curd. Refrigerate until very cold, at least several hours or overnight.
- Before assembling cake, whisk lemon curd to loosen it a bit. It will be thicker than regular lemon curd – the cornstarch is added both to thicken and stabilize the curd. Assemble cake as directed.
Holy moly, Lindsey. This is such a valuable post! I mean I’d be here just for the lemon curd, or just for the lemon whip cream, or just for the cake. And instead, I get all three!
Plus, I didn’t know there was a category called foam cakes — but I think they’re my favorite kind! I love airy types of cakes like Angel Food. Is this news to anyone else?
Recipe and photos by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.