Airy Lemon Chiffon Cake Recipe

Decadent and delicious, a chiffon cake tastes as if it's as light and thin as air with a multitude of flavors infused throughout. If you've never had a chiffon cake before, you are in for a real treat. It's made with egg whites, which makes it light and airy. If you love anything lemon flavored, you will absolutely love this lemon chiffon cake.

This lemon chiffon cake by recipe developer Jessica Morone of Jess Loves Cooking is absolutely bursting with flavor. It's also a time-tested recipe that was invented in 1927 by a man named Harry Baker who worked as an insurance salesman and caterer. According to, Baker kept the recipe under wraps for two decades until he decided to sell his delicious recipe. The company he sold it to was General Mills, and it was dubbed "chiffon cake." In 1948, Betty Crocker (owned by General Mills) unveiled 14 chiffon cake recipes and spins on it in a pamphlet they produced.

How to obtain that lovely lemon flavor in your cake

This particular lemon chiffon cake recipe requires lemon juice as well as lemon zest. Although, of course, you will need 3 lemons for the zest, bottled lemon juice could work in a pinch for the lemon juice this recipe calls for. The juice from actual lemons is always the first choice.

Interestingly enough, lemon trees bloom and yield this fantastically tart and yellow fruit all year long in suitable climates throughout the U.S. (via SF Gate). But if you don't live in those consistently warm climates, you can't pluck one off a tree or buy one at a seasonal farmer's market. Thankfully, it's easy to find fresh lemons in the produce section of the grocery store in any season, which just adds extra kick to this rich recipe. There's just something about the natural lemon taste used in a recipe versus bottled lemon juice.

Gather up the ingredients for your lemon chiffon cake

Thankfully, this recipe only takes 20 minutes to prepare and 50 minutes baking in the oven, during which time you can whip up the glaze and then clean up the kitchen. You'll want to be ready with your fork and a plate when it's done. 

For this recipe, you'll need the basics of a cake, including flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, water, vanilla extract, and oil. To make it lemony, squeeze the juice from a lemon and zest. The delicious lemony glaze comes from confectioner's sugar, more lemon juice, and melted butter. Trust us — this lemon chiffon cake is worth the extra effort working with fresh lemons. If you want to convert this to a gluten-free cake, be sure to use gluten-free flour at a 1:1 ratio, Morone says.

How to successfully separate the yolks from the whites

Separating the yolks from the whites can be messy and end in serious mishap if not done correctly. "I always separate eggs the way my mom taught me as a kid, which is you get two bowls, then crack the egg, gently pull it apart letting the white fall into one of the bowls and leave the yolk in the egg shell, then transfer the yolk to the other bowl," Morone explains.

Working with both wet and dry ingredients

Preheat the oven to 325 F, then grab three bowls. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 ½ cups of granulated sugar, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Make sure the dry ingredients are thoroughly blended before moving on. 

Take another bowl and whisk together the 7 egg yolks, ½ cup of water, ½ cup of vegetable oil, ¼ cup of lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of lemon zest, which equals approximately 3 lemons for the zest. To glean enough juice from a lemon, you'll need an additional 2 medium-sized lemons. Add in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then, combine the wet ingredients with the flour mixture until thoroughly blended.

Fill your un-greased baking pan with the cake batter

Next, grab a bowl and add ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar to the egg whites. Use a stand mixer or a hand mixer and beat the two ingredients together on medium speed until the egg whites form a stiff peak, which would take approximately 5 minutes. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter. Once the egg whites are mixed in, pour the batter into an un-greased 10-inch tube pan. Don't forget to hold the pan with both hands evenly and gently tap it on the counter or the table to push out any air pockets.

Let the cake cool completely

Slide the cake into the oven on the lowest rack setting, and bake for approximately 50 minutes until the top is golden brown and springs back when touched. As soon as you pull it out of the oven, invert the pan onto a cooling rack and let the chiffon cake sit in the pan for at least an hour. 

As soon as it's cool, carefully run a knife around the sides and center of the pan to loosen it from the pan, then gently wiggle the cake from the pan onto a serving plate. Make sure it's completely cool before you try and remove it from the cake pan, or else pieces of it will stick and ruin your beautiful masterpiece.

Whip up the amazing glaze

Whisk together 1 ½ cups of confectioners' sugar, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of salted melted butter until the ingredients are smooth. The glaze should be a bit thick, Morone advises, but still flow off a spoon easily. Drizzle the lemony glaze across the top of the cake. It will run down the sides and create a beautiful pattern. Let the lemon chiffon cake sit for approximately 15 minutes until the glaze is set, and then serve.

"My grandmother made a lemon chiffon cake, but she never wrote down her recipes so I don't know how close this recipe is to hers, but I call it an ode to her cake," Morone says.

Airy Lemon Chiffon Cake Recipe
4.9 from 34 ratings
If you love anything lemon flavored, you will absolutely love this light and airy lemon chiffon cake.
Prep Time
Cook Time
slice of lemon chiffon cake
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 7 large eggs, separated
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest (approximately 3 lemons)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, water, vegetable oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix together until well blended.
  4. In a separate bowl, add cream of tartar to egg whites. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat on medium speed until egg whites form a stiff peak (approximately 5 minutes). Gently fold egg whites into batter.
  5. Pour the batter into an un-greased 10-inch tube pan. Gently tap the pan onto the counter or table to get out any air pockets.
  6. Bake on a low oven rack for 50 to 55 minutes until golden brown and the top springs back when touched.
  7. Remove from the oven and immediately invert the pan onto a cooling rack. Cool the cake completely in the pan, for at least an hour.
  8. Once cool, run a knife around the sides and center of the pan. Gently remove the cake from the pan onto a serving plate.
  9. To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, and melted butter until smooth. The glaze should be a bit thick, but still flow off of a spoon easily. Drizzle glaze onto the top of the cake.
  10. Let the cake sit for about 15 minutes until glaze is set, then serve.
Calories per Serving 403
Total Fat 16.0 g
Saturated Fat 2.6 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 133.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 58.7 g
Dietary Fiber 0.8 g
Total Sugars 38.1 g
Sodium 285.9 mg
Protein 7.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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