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Martha Stewart's Lemon Chiffon Cake

Anyone in need of a pick-me-up would probably appreciate a good chiffon cake made with lots of fresh citrus.  Chiffon cakes are classified under the sponge cake family, just as angel food and jelly roll cakes are.  What sets them apart from other cakes is that they don't contain any butter whatsoever, and the fact that they are baked in ungreased cake pans so that the batter can cling to the sides during baking. They are immensely delectable, delicate and very easy to make.  I find them to be the ideal choice for weekend get-togethers, a birthday luncheon or for those occasions when a little sweetness is in order.

I recently turned to a Martha Stewart recipe that I hadn't tried before but had noticed in several of her publications.  Intrigued by the recipe's use of freshly-squeezed orange juice, orange and lemon zest, I decided to have a go at this scrumptious cake.

A variation of the cake covered in a Swiss Meringue icing, much like a lemon meringue pie, can be found in her 'Cakes' book.  

For the recipe, click here.  

It's important when making chiffon cakes or any type of cake really, to have all of your ingredients premeasured and accessible next to the mixer(s) before starting the recipe.  The oven should be preheated and the cake pan(s) should also be handy at this point.

Because chiffon cakes call for adding the egg yolks and beaten egg whites separately, I like using a handheld mixer to whip up the whites when making these types of cakes. To be honest, I should have done the entire recipe with the handheld mixer! It would have made things easier for me.

Stiffly beaten egg whites not only lighten the batter, they provide leavening. It's important to add the egg whites in stages, folding them into the batter gently but thoroughly.

As soon as the batter is completely mixed, gently pour the mixture into a baking pan which has NOT been buttered and floured.  Martha's recipe calls for a small 7" tube pan with a removable bottom.

When the cake comes out of the oven, it has to be cooled upside down so that the cake doesn't collapse.  Recipes always call for cooling the cake on a bottle of some sort, but I find it precarious to do so.  Use a Ball jar or empty jam jar and balance the center cone of the angel food cake pan on it.  Leave the cake alone until it is cooled completely.

Proceed with the recipe as you see fit.  For this citrusy cake I split it in half and filled it with some homemade jam.

Note: the cake is best sliced if you place it in the freezer for a good hour. Even so, it is still tender and delicate.  Use a serrated knife and a sawing motion when slicing the cake, otherwise you might tear it.  I like using my large spatulas to remove the top part of the cake.

My dear friend Dennis sent me a set of homemade jams which I've been enjoying a bit at a time.  Grouped together on that large jadeite platter (Martha by Mail), I wasn't sure whether to use an apricot jam, blueberry or an apple jelly for the filling.  

Lemon and blueberry go well together, so I spread a good amount of it on the bottom layer.  Because it is a sponge cake, the majority of it was absorbed by the cake.  Delicious!

Rather than cover the cake in a thick frosting, I drizzled a simple glaze of confectioners sugar and milk.

Slice the cake up into big wedges for those who want a lot of cake or portion out smaller slices for those who ask.  All you need is a cup of coffee or some tea to go with the cake.  Sponge cakes are light as a feather and incredibly delicious.  What's even better is that there is no reason to feel any amount of guilt having some, because the cake hardly contains any fat.

Martha's Lemon Chiffon cake is great served plain, filled & glazed like I've done here, or covered completely in heavenly meringue.  I'm telling you, cake baking doesn't get any easier.


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