Jun 27, 2019 Last Updated 6:31 AM, Nov 9, 2017

Light Lemon Layer Cake

Tish Boyle’s Light Lemon Layer Cake. Photography by Andrew Meade.

Lemon chiffon cake, lemon syrup and lemon buttercream by Tish Boyle, Co-Editor of Dessert Professional.

Here’s a vintage American chiffon cake, frosted with a classic French buttercream. A lemon syrup lends extra tang to the cake and toasted almonds sprinkled on top add a nice crunch.


Makes one 9” cake, serving 8 to 10

Lemon Chiffon Cake:

  • 1 cup (114 g/4 oz) cake flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 g/5.3 oz) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g/0.17 oz) baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.6 g/0.06 oz) salt
  • 4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (68 g/2.4 oz) vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons (12 g/0.42 oz) finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons (45 g/1.6 oz) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g/1 oz) whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 g/0.07 oz) vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon (0.77 g/0.027 oz) cream of tartar

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour the bottom only of a 9-inch springform pan.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, 1/2 cup (100 g/3.5 oz) of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the yolks, oil, lemon zest and juice, milk, and vanilla at medium speed until blended, 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, one-quarter at a time, mixing just until blended.

4. Place the egg whites and the cream of tartar in a clean mixer bowl and, using the whisk attachment, beat at medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/4 cup (50 g/1.76 oz) sugar; raise the speed to high and beat until the whites are stiff but not dry. Using a rubber spatula, briskly fold about one-quarter of the whites into the cake batter. Gently fold in the remaining whites. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

5. Bake the cake for 22 to 28 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan, set on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and let cool, upside down, completely.

Lemon Syrup:

  • 1/3 cup (80 g/2.8 oz) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (100 g/3.5 oz) granulated sugar

Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small nonreactive saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat.

Lemon Buttercream:

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g/10.5 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (118 g/4.16 oz) water
  • 28 tablespoons (397 g/14 oz) unsalted butter, slightly softened (slightly cooler than room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons (12 g/0.42 oz) finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons (45 g/1.6 oz) freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, begin beating the eggs at medium speed. Fill a cup with water and place a pastry brush in it (this will be used for washing down the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization). In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly and occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with the wet pastry brush, until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to high and cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 238°F on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer running, immediately pour the hot syrup in a steady stream over the eggs, between the side of the bowl and the whisk attachment. Raise the speed to high and beat until the egg mixture is completely cool, about 5 minutes.

2. With the mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, into the egg mixture. Add the lemon zest and juice, raise the speed to medium-high, and beat the buttercream until it is smooth and shiny, about 4 minutes. (The buttercream must be used at room temperature.)


  • 1/2 cup (60 g/2.1 oz) slivered almonds, toasted

Place the cake, bottom side up, on a cardboard cake round or piece of parchment. Using a long, serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into 2 layers. Remove the top layer (the flat, even one) and brush the bottom layer with the lemon syrup. Spoon 1 cup of the buttercream onto the cake and, using a metal spatula, spread it into an even layer right up to the edge of the cake. Top with the second cake layer, placing it cut side down. Set aside about 3/4 cup of the buttercream to garnish the cake. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream. Spoon the reserved buttercream into a pastry bag fitted with a medium plain tip, such as Ateco #6. Pipe a row of dollops around the top edge of the cake, and sprinkle the dollops with the almonds. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 5 days; bring to room temperature before serving.


Click here to read more about this and related recipes in the article "Flavor of the Month."

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