The Renée Fleming Golden Chiffon

Rose’s Lemony Golden Chiffon Cake

Baking Bible - Renee Fleming Cake_2


Here is how I know Rose Levy Beranbaum loves me. Well, aside from her telling me that, she entrusted me with this golden chiffon cake from The Baking Bibleto re-create for you. (Read the full book review here). This might not seem like a big deal; it’s just a chiffon cake, right? Well, yes, and no. Technically it is a chiffon cake, meaning that it uses many eggs for loft and oil as fat, but that’s where its relation to other chiffon cakes ends. Rose said she told her publisher to let me have it because she knew I would treat the recipe with respect. What does that mean? Simply that I know well enough to trust Rose and I always follow her directions. Well, except when I don’t (and you can read about that here) but that’s a story for another time. This is about my experience baking Rose’s Renée Fleming Golden Chiffon cake, which she told me is her favorite in her new book. Why? Because it is soft and tender and velvety and delicious and can work on its own or as a base for so many other creations. Follow along…

  • The first thing I queried Rose about was the flour. Was this a typo in the uncorrected galley (this is a pre-published form of the book)? She often calls for bleached flour in her chiffon cakes. No, she explained, use the unbleached here. Her goal was to have a chiffon cake without a center tube and also with straight sides. The unbleached flour – along with the flower nail trick – help this cake rise high and have its gorgeous texture. You must use unbleached flour and a flower nail – and cool as directed; inverted!
  • Lemon oil is not lemon extract. Not even close. You know how when you cut into a lemon or orange and there is a spritz of fragrance that hits your nose? Like Pow? That’s the oil in the zest. It’s the purist flavor and very potent. 1 teaspoon oil does not equal 1 teaspoon extract in strength or taste. Boyajian has been making citrus oils for years. Order some before embarking on making this cake. And the ¼ teaspoon is correct. Not only is this enough to give you the lemon flavor you need, but more would be unpalatable and according to Rose more would affect the rise and ultimately the texture of the cake.
  • Trust the meringue directions and beat “until very stiff clumps form”. When do you ever see that in a recipe? Never before probably, but Rose and Woody tested this cake many times and realized that the egg whites needed to be this stiff to help create the proper structure. It might seem wrong, but do it! Because Rose says and it is the right thing to do.
  • Full disclosure, at that point I went rogue LOL. During one of our chats I said to Rose, “I am now going to ask you a completely random question…what is the most creative thing you have ever done with a kiwi?” To which she replied, “I ate one to stave off sea sickness!” We both laughed. I asked her if it worked. She said yes. I said that still wasn’t helpful; I had asked because a BFF’s favorite fruit is kiwi and I was trying to figure out a creative cake to make for her birthday. Rose mentioned a kiwi lime tart from The Pie and Pastry Bible and the next thing we knew we were riffing on the idea of a cake with those flavors, featuring this chiffon cake, but with a lime flavor. Ta da! That’s how a recipe is born. You can see that recipe, too: Kiwi Lime Chiffon Cake.
  • One thing I did change was with the powdered zest. Since I was making my version of the cake with limes and not lemons, I tried the powdered zest recipe with lime zest, too. The limes I brought home were incredibly powerful. I increased the sugar in the powdered zest recipe by 1 full teaspoon and it was perfect. Then I didn’t even end up using it, but it was delicious nonetheless, just FYI.
  • PS: do not use a loose-bottomed pan in lieu of a springform. I was tempted since I had a 3-inch deep one at hand but Rose said it would not work because the pressure of the cake trying to stretch downward (upon cooling) pulls the loose bottom down so you don’t get the full height in the cake. She even tried taping the pan pieces together; no go. It is little things like this that you just don’t realize play such a role, but they do. All the little nuances add up to make a cake that is just okay – or extraordinary. Follow Rose’s instructions and you will get to the superlative.

Excerpted from The Baking Bible, © 2014 by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Baking Bible Jacket

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.

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), 2 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.


4 large eggs, separated, plus about 1 additional white, at room temperatureyolks   whites       ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons (69 ml) ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (148 ml)       2.6 ounces   5.3 ounces       74 grams   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, page 88) 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 1¼ teaspoons . 5.6 grams
fine sea salt ¼ teaspoon . 1.5 grams
cream of tartar ½ plus ⅛ teaspoon . 1.9 grams

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.


Note Unbleached all-purpose flour prevents the cake from deflating significantly.

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3 Responses to The Renée Fleming Golden Chiffon

  1. Aidan Gilbert November 14, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    Pray tell, what purpose does the rose nail serve? It is not a piece of equipment I have in my kitchen — I am not prone to fussy decorations — and wonder if the cake can be made without it. Did you, by any chance, test the recipe without the nail?

    • Dede Wilson November 18, 2014 at 10:33 am #

      Hi Aiden, I followed Rose’s recommendations with the nail. She says it will not work without it and I trust her. I suppose if you have a food grade metal something…short skewer? You could try that. It’s purpose is to draw heat to the center of the cake to help it bake evenly.She doesn’t like to use a cake core as they make large holes.

    • Sakura Mendoza September 15, 2022 at 11:42 am #

      I didn’t use the rose nail or lemon zest and substituted yogurt for eggs and the recipe was delicious still.

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