The Renée Fleming Golden Chiffon


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    10 to 12

Appears in

The Baking Bible

By Rose Levy Beranbaum

Published 2014

  • About
Oven Temperature 350°F/175°C
Baking Time 35 to 40 minutes

This lemony cake soars above all others in my repertoire, making it the soprano of golden lemon cakes. (It is the counterpart to the Chocolate Domingo from The Cake Bible, which I call the tenor of chocolate cakes.) It is extraordinarily light, tender, moist, and lemony—in a word: divine. It required seventeen tests between Woody and me to perfect the texture. The breakthrough came with the discovery of beating the whites beyond the stiff peak stage, which gave higher volume, and raising the oven temperature slightly to set the structure more quickly. This cake is dedicated to my favorite soprano of the golden voice: the incomparable Renée Fleming. The special garnish is a stardust trail of powdered golden lemon zest.



4 large eggs, separated, plus about 1 additional white, at room temperature
yolks ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons (69 ml) 2.6 ounces 74 grams
whites ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (148 ml) 5.3 ounces 150 grams
canola or safflower oil, at room temperature ¼ cup (59 ml) 1.9 ounces 54 grams
water ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (89 ml) 3.1 ounces 89 grams
lemon zest, finely grated 1 tablespoon, loosely packed . 6 grams
pure lemon oil, preferably Boyajian ¼ teaspoon (1.2 ml) . .
pure vanilla extract ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) . .
unbleached all-purpose flour (see Note) 1 cup (sifted into a cup and leveled off) 4 ounces 114 grams
superfine sugar ¾ cup, divided 5.3 ounces 150 grams
baking powder teaspoons . 5.6 grams
fine sea salt ¼ teaspoon . 1.5 grams
cream of tartar ½ plus teaspoon . 1.9 grams

Special Equipment

One 9 by 3 inch springform pan, encircled with 2 cake strips overlapped to cover the entire sides | A flat bottom rose nail (used for cake decorating), 2½ inches long (minimum) | A wire rack, lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray, elevated about 4 inches or higher above the work surface by setting it on top of 3 or 4 cans, coffee mugs, or glasses of equal height


Preheat the Oven

Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C (325°F/160°C if using a dark pan).

Mix the Liquid Ingredients

In a 2 cup or larger glass measure with a spout, combine the egg yolks, oil, water, lemon zest, lemon oil, and vanilla.

Make the Batter

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, mix the flour, all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Make a well in the center. Add the egg mixture to the well and beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until very thick, about 1½ minutes.

If you don’t have a second mixer bowl, scrape this mixture into a large bowl and thoroughly wash, rinse, and dry the mixer bowl and whisk beater to remove any trace of oil.

Beat the Egg Whites into a Stiff Meringue

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy. Gradually raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and continue beating until very stiff clumps form when the beater is raised, about 2 minutes.

Add the Meringue to the Batter

Using a large balloon wire whisk, slotted skimmer, or large silicone spatula, gently fold the meringue into the batter in three parts, folding until partially blended between additions and then folding until completely incorporated after the last addition. If using the whisk, you will need to gently shake out the meringue that gathers in the center as you fold.

Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the pan. Run a small offset spatula in circles through the batter to prevent air pockets and smooth the surface. Insert the rose nail, base side down, into the center of the batter so that it sits on the bottom of the pan. (The batter should fill a 3 inch high pan just under half full.)

Bake the Cake

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The cake will dome above the top of the pan. Avoid opening the oven door before the minimum baking time or the fragile cake could fall. Watch carefully. When the cake lowers slightly, and a wooden skewer inserted between the sides and the center comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven.

Cool and Unmold the Cake

Let the cake sit for about 1 minute, just until it is no longer higher than the rim of the pan. Immediately invert the cake, still in the pan, onto the prepared wire rack and let it cool for about 1½ hours, or until the outside of the pan is cool to the touch.

Invert the pan again. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing it firmly against the pan and moving it in a sideways manner. Remove the cake strips and the sides of the springform and release the bottom of the cake from the bottom of the pan, pressing the spatula against the bottom of the pan. Invert the cake and lift off the pan bottom. Remove the rose nail and reinvert the cake onto a serving plate.

Make the Lemon Curd

See recipe.

Make the Powdered Lemon Zest

See recipe.

Assemble and Serve the Cake

Shortly before serving, swirl the cream into the depression on top of the cake or scrape it into a bowl to pass on the side. Dust each plate with a little of the powdered lemon zest.


(Without the whipped cream) airtight: room temperature, 2 weeks; frozen, 6 months.

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