Lemon Meringue Chiffon Cake features fresh lemon cake with tart lemon curd filling and sweet and fluffy meringue frosting. Perfect for Easter!
Every once in a while I get the idea to make something I've never made before, never eaten before, and in some cases, never even heard of before. It's like a specific food item will just pop into my head, and I can't stop thinking about it until I try making it. Sometimes my experiment is a success, sometimes it's not.
This Lemon Meringue Chiffon Cake just happened to be one of those experiments. And luckily, it was one of the successful ones.
I started thinking about making a lemon meringue cake around Christmastime. Don't ask me why. It's not like lemon desserts are common around the holidays. But I got it in my mind, and it didn't leave.
I knew I wanted to make a lemon-flavored cake, and since I love the light texture of a chiffon cake, that's what I decided to try. I also knew I wanted some type of lemon filling.
Originally I was going to make a layer cake, but baking the cake in a tube pan changed my plans a little bit. I was also originally going to use a store-bought lemon filling (and you totally could), but since I had lots of yolks left after making the meringue frosting, I decided to make homemade lemon curd.
And speaking of that meringue frosting, I think this may be where the whole idea to make this cake originated. When I was a kid, 7-Minute Frosting (aka boiled icing) was one of my favorite things. My best friend's mom would make it, and I loved the fluffy, light texture of it.
Fast forward to now, and it's still one of my favorite things. There's a truck stop/bakery near my parents' cottage that is famous for their chocolate cake with boiled icing, and we will often get a whole cake just for the sake of it because it's just so good!
How to Make Lemon Meringue Chiffon Cake:
Let me start by saying that this cake is a project. Like many special occasion cakes, it involves making three different components: the cake, the filling (lemon curd), and the frosting.
So if you're looking to make a quick cake that will be ready in a couple of hours, this isn't it. Maybe try Super Easy Sprinkle Cake, Lemon Zucchini Loaf Cake, or Easiest Ever Ice Cream Sandwich Cake instead.
However, if you've got the time to tackle it, this cake is SO WORTH IT! It was a huge hit when I served it to my family a few weeks ago.
The first step to making this cake is making the lemon curd. Since it takes a couple of hours to chill and set, it can hang out in the fridge while you make and cool the cake, and it will be ready to go by the time you're ready to assemble the cake.
Next is the cake. To make a chiffon cake you will need a tube pan that is UNGREASED. This is the same type of pan you would use to make an angel food cake. I find that it's easiest to remove the finished cake from tube pans that come apart in two separate pieces, but a one-piece pan will work fine too.
The frosting is the final step, and shouldn't be made until just before you're ready to serve the cake, as it doesn't hold that well. The frosting can be toasted with a torch (either a small kitchen torch or a more powerful gas torch).
Toasting the frosting will give it a flavor similar to roasted marshmallows, or baked meringue. As a bonus, it does make the frosting hold up a little better, so if you need to make the cake a few hours before serving it, toasting the frosting is the way to go.
Lemon Meringue Chiffon Cake Ingredients:
- All-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Baking powder
- Kosher salt
- Large eggs
- Canola oil or other neutral-flavored oil
- Vanilla extract
- Cream of tartar
- Unsalted butter (replace with dairy-free butter alternative to make this cake dairy-free)
Why aren't my egg whites whipping properly?
If you egg whites aren't whipping up to reach the stiff peak stage, it's probably because they were contaminated with fat. Even as much as a light residue of oil on your bowl or whisk, or a speck of egg yolk breaking into your whites can prevent egg whites from whipping properly.
To avoid this, make sure all of your bowls and utensils are completely clean before using them. Also, separate your eggs very carefully one at a time, and if the yolk breaks into any of them, toss that one, or you risk ruining all of the other whites.
Why isn't my lemon curd thickening?
Often lemon curd doesn't thicken because it hasn't been cooked long enough, or didn't get hot enough. If you've already chilled your lemon curd and find that it hasn't thickened, don't worry! You can still try to save it. Simply add the curd back to the double boiler, and heat it again, whisking while it cooks to prevent curdling. Wait for it to be thick enough to coat a spoon.
If you still find that it's not thickening, add another egg yolk, and continue cooking. If this STILL doesn't work, mix a teaspoon of cornstarch into a Tablespoon of water, add it to your curd, and cook until it thickens. Chill completely before adding it to the cake.
Want more lemon dessert recipes?
Lemon Meringue Chiffon Cake Nutrition Notes:
The only dairy in this cake is the butter in the lemon curd, which can easily be replaced with a dairy-free butter alternative to make this cake dairy-free.
Like most cakes, this Lemon Meringue Chiffon Cake is high in fat, calories, and sugar. I don't recommend making changes to the recipe to try and reduce sugar or fat content. Instead, reduce portion sizes if this is a concern.
Lemon Meringue Chiffon Cake
- 5 large eggs
- 3 lemons
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened and cut into 6 pieces (replace with dairy-free butter alternative to make this cake dairy-free)
Lemon Chiffon Cake
- 3 large lemons
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 7 large eggs separated, ensuring no yolk gets into any of the egg whites
- ½ cup canola oil or other neutral flavored oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 5 large egg whites (saved from lemon curd recipe, above)
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Stand Mixer optional
Lemon Curd (make first as it takes a couple of hours to chill/set)
- Carefully separate the egg yolks from the whites, making sure not to get any yolk in the whites. Put the egg whites in a small airtight container and put them in the fridge. You will use them later to make the frosting.
- Zest the lemons with a microplane. Measure out 1 Tablespoon of the zest and set it aside. Juice the lemons, straining out any seeds and measure out ⅓ cup. Set it aside. Save the remaining zest and juice for another use, or discard it.
- Prepare a double boiler, or set a glass or stainless steel bowl over a small saucepan. Add about an inch or two of water to the saucepan, ensuring that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
- In the bowl of the double boiler, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and salt. Continue cooking it in the double boiler, whisking constantly to prevent curdling, until it becomes thick enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes. If it still doesn't thicken, turn up the heat slightly and continue whisking.
- Remove the bowl from the double boiler, and stir in the butter until it's melted and incorporated. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the lemon curd, and refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours (note that the curd will continue to thicken as it chills).
Lemon Chiffon Cake
- Move oven rack to the bottom position. Heat oven to 325°F.
- Using a microplane, zest the lemons. You should end up with about 1 ½ Tablespoons. Set the zest aside. Now juice the lemons into a measuring cup, straining out any seeds. Add enough water to the juice to make ¾ cup. Set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice-water mixture, egg yolks, oil, and vanilla. Fold the liquid ingredient into the dry ingredients, and stir until the mixture is combined and smooth.
- Pour the egg whites and cream of tartar into a large glass or metal bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk the eggs until frothy. Beat the eggs on high (if using a hand mixer) or medium-high (if using a stand mixer) with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter using a spatula until no more streaks of white remain. Pour the batter into an ungreased angel food cake tube pan.
- Bake on the lowest rack for 50 minutes, or until the top is golden at set, and springs back when gently pressed.
- Invert the pan by using the feet on the bottom of the pan or by fitting the center hole of the pan over a tall bottle. Cool for at least an hour.
- Gently run a knife around the sides and center of the cake pan to remove the cake. Place the cake on a platter or cake board.
Meringue Frosting (make only once the cake is cooled and ready for frosting)
- Add the egg whites and cream of tartar to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large glass or stainless steel bowl). Whisk until frothy. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk until combined.
- Set up a double boiler with a saucepan that's the right size to fit the bowl you're using to mix your frosting - it doesn't need to be perfect, but avoid having the bowl touch the water. Place the bowl over simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture reads 160°F on an instant-read thermometer (2-3 minutes).
- Fit the bowl onto your stand mixer (or move to the countertop) and mix on medium-high speed with the whisk attachment (with a stand mixer) or high speed (with a hand mixer) until stiff peaks form (5-7 minutes). Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.
- Use a small serrated knife and or a spoon to make a small trough (approximately 1 inch wide and 1 inch deep) on the top of the cake. Fill the trough with the chilled lemon curd.
- Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the meringue frosting all over the cake, and into the center hole, creating "peaks" with the back of a spoon. Serve immediatley after frosting, as this type of frosting doesn't hold well.
- If desired, the frosting can be "toasted" with a torch. Make sure to keep the torch moving to avoid any burnt spots. Toasting the frosting will allow it to hold a little longer, so the cake will be okay for a couple of hours before serving.
Nutrition Disclaimer: I try my best to make sure the nutrition information I provide is accurate to provide you with the best information possible. However, due to ingredient discrepancies and other factors, the above nutrition information should be considered an estimation only.