Nineteen – {Lemon Chiffon Cake}

It’s just after 8, and I’m failing to drift back to sleep. Sheltered from the morning chill outside, it’s warm under my blankets. My pajamas comfortably enslave my limbs, but my mind aches to break free from the confines of my comforter. Under the sun’s warm and welcoming glow through my window, I struggle to coerce my eyes back into a state of unconscious repose.

But I fail.

It’s been like this for awhile

On my feet, I take all of three steps to the bathroom. Undoing the lock – quietly – I step inside with the clothing I had laid out on the dresser the night before grasped tightly to my chest. Placing the pile on the thin bathroom shelf is like piecing together a puzzle, but once methodically deposited, I catch a quick glimpse of myself in the mirror.

Remnants of the previous night are written on my face. My hazy eyes are encircled by smudged eyeliner and ornamented by trails sweeping over my temples. It’s exactly what I was expecting; when I returned to my room after watching a basketball game at S’s apartment, I had only enough energy to brush my teeth, slip in my retainer, shimmy into my pajamas and happily drift under the covers. My phone, lying dead on the dresser, is but another testament to the previous night’s exhaustion. I remember thinking to plug it in before drifting off, but I simply couldn’t be bothered to stand and fit the cable to the phone as I lay contentedly between my sheets and covers.

Just under two years ago, this never happened. Sure, I stayed up late, but I wasn’t out having fun with friends into the early hours of the morning and I seriously doubt I was wearing eyeliner or makeup. I don’t think I even owned either until the tail end of my senior year. I can’t even remember why I started wearing it.

I strip my face of the memories and brush my teeth, staring absentmindedly at the lower-right corner of the mirror. It needs to be cleaned.

I’ll get to it later.

I’ve changed a lot in the past year, I think as I zip my hoodie and step into the hall. The door protests loudly as it swings shut, and I reprimand it with a swift turn of a key.

In recent years, I haven’t considered my own birthday very significant or at all monumental. I did in the past, of course, when I was much younger and wide-eyed over the thought of parties and cake and friends and gifts, but I feel like I grew out of that phase quickly. As I aged, I craved less and less attention. I realized, as one is apt to do, that a birthday is just another day. I understood that I wasn’t going to magically feel different. I knew that I wouldn’t suddenly transform into an older version of myself. I was ok with it.

The years are just another thing to tirelessly remember.

But this birthday seems different. I do actually feel older. Not at this instant, mind you, but in comparison; I know where I was at this point in my life one year ago, and I know that I’ve grown since then. A lot. I was happy then, but I’m happier now. I can see the new places and faces in my life, the ups and downs, the new experiences and the old indulgences. It’s the first time that I’ve really felt this way in my life.

This is the first birthday that I’ve actually felt older for.

Today I am nineteen.

Today I am happy.

Lemon Chiffon Cake
This cake is very light, perfectly lemony and just the right thing for welcoming spring. It was the only thing I wanted for my birthday!
Printable Recipe

Lemon Cream via Fanny of FoodBeam
This is the most delicious stuff I have ever tasted. This is one of the few recipes that I make over and over and over again. It’s amazing, and so is Fanny!

1/2 c (100 g) sugar
1 1/2 lemons, zest of
2 large eggs
1/4 c (65 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
10 1/2 Tbls (150 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into big chunks

First thing: fill the sink with 3-4cm of cold water (I use a large bowl). You will be placing the hot pan of lemon cream in it, so make sure whatever you’re using is large enough!

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl (I use the bowl of my Kitchenaid stand mixer) that can be set over a pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and start stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 185F, stirring constantly – be prepared, as it can take quite a lot of time.
As soon as it reaches 185F, remove the cream from the heat and place the bowl into the sink and allow to cool down to 140F. Gradually incorporate the butter, whisking after each addition (at this point, I like to use my Kitchenaid fitted with the whisk, hence the use of the Kitchenaid bowl).

When all the butter as been used, blend the cream with a hand-held blender for 8 minutes. It might sound long, but will ensure a too-smooth-to-be-true lemon cream.
Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of cling film against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate overnight.

Chiffon Cake via Alton Brown
It’s official; I’m addicted to chiffon.

1/2 c (62 g) cake flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 egg whites, at room temp
2 egg yolks, at room temp
1/3 c + 1 Tbls (85 g) sugar, divided
1/8 c (31 ml) water
1/8 c (31 ml) vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 325F (160C) and prepare two 6″ round baking dishes by oiling them, lining the bottom with parchment, and oiling again.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Place the egg yolks and 2 1/2 ounces of the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture becomes pale yellow and ‘ribbons’ when lifted. Add the water, vegetable oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients and whisk just to combine. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl while you whisk the egg whites.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar into a clean bowl and whisk on high using the whisk attachment, until it becomes foamy. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the remaining sugar. Increase speed to high and continue whisking until stiff peaks form, approximately 2 minutes.

Transfer 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and whisk until well combined. Add the remaining egg whites and fold in gently. Transfer batter into prepared pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean or the top springs back when lightly pressed. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack, and cool in pans 10 minutes. Cut around the perimeter and invert onto cooling rack to cook completely.

Italian Meringue Buttercream For step-by-step directions for making Italian Meringue Buttercream, please click here!

1/4 c (63 ml) water
1 c (210 g) sugar
5 egg whites
1/4 c (53 g) sugar
1 c (237 g) butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla, more if desired

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer.

Heat the 1 c sugar and water on the stove to 245F stirring occasionally only after the sugar has been dissolved. When it is within the range of 230F to 235F, begin whipping the egg whites. When they get to soft peaks, begin adding the remaining 1/4 c sugar and continue whipping to medium peaks, being careful not to overbeat. When the syrup is the correct temperature, slowly pour it into the eggs with the mixer on high. After fully incorporated, beat the frosting 7-10 minutes until the outside of the bowl is room temp (I usually go a little longer than this; often times the bowl is not room temp when I begin adding butter. If the mix seems to soupy, put it in the fridge for a few moments or try briefly chilling some of the butter in the freezer before adding). Begin adding the butter, tablespoon by tablespoon, beating until fully incorporated. The frosting will deflate a little, but it’s ok. Keep whipping until the frosting comes together, add the vanilla and continue whipping until it’s light and fluffy.

I screwed up and ended up mangling half of one of my layers when I sliced it. Don’t do that 😀

Slice each chiffon layer in half horizontally. Spread one with a thin layer of lemon cream, then a layer of buttercream. You could simply combine the two, but I didn’t want to mix up more than I would need. This way I can freeze the leftover buttercream for my next baking adventure. Top with another layer of cake, and spread, again, with a thin layer of lemon cream followed by a layer of buttercream. Continue until all of the layers are filled, and top with the last piece, flat side up. Crumb coat with the lemon cream, then frost with buttercream. Decorate as desired.


  1. says

    I adore lemon cakes and this one looks unbelievable (and the icing skills are impeccable). And so are you! I&#39;ve enjoyed your blog since the beginning and I still wish that I had half your talent for cakes.<br /><br />Happy Birthday Kaitlin! x

  2. says

    Happy Birthday Kaitlin!!! :-D<br />What beautiful cake…I love it very very much and thank you so much! I&#39;m looking for this recipe for a long time and your interpretation is delicious! :-)<br />Many Kisses <br />xoxoxoxo<br />Ago 😀

  3. says

    Happy Birthday dear!! This is such a GORGEOUS cake! Straight up to my bookmark list 😀 I love chiffons but never done a great job with it before. I&#39;m going to try the recipe you post though :)<br /><br />P.S.<br />nice shots!! Omg I love your pictures!

  4. says

    You&#39;re only nineteen?<br />You talk with much more maturity than I&#39;m used to from 19 year olds. <br /><br />Happy birthday!<br />That cake looks delicious.<br />Can you do something diabetic friendly one day? That would be awesome.

  5. says

    Seems I&#39;m not the only one. As I was scrolling down your images and the description of the cake, my hand reached for my mouse and quickly bookmarked this page. What a fabulous looking cake. The fine detail is amazing. I hope you had a great day. I do love birthdays if only to look back, reflect, and then look forward!

  6. says

    Happy Birthday! What a lovely post. The cake is fabulous. <br /><br />I know I&#39;ve changed a huge amount in the past year – I&#39;m turning 21 in June and when I think how much has changed since last June it&#39;s incredible. I suppose this is the age for &#39;finding ourselves&#39;!

  7. says

    very nice, it has been a long time since I bake a cake, I think I&#39;m gonna make one this weekend.<br />thanks for stopping by my blog.

  8. says

    Happy Birthday. I&#39;m only a few years older than you, but still so envious of your youth. I&#39;m turning 23 next month and I&#39;m pretty much an adult now, which is kind of terrible. Enjoy being a kid and going out and making yummy beautiful desserts.

  9. says

    Happy Birthday. :)<br />I think everyone flipflops from being really happy, to really down/confused on their birthday.<br />It&#39;s one of those days that&#39;s makes you think.<br /><br />Cake looks delicioussssss. Wish I could bake.

  10. Anonymous says

    You&#39;re a fantastic writer. Start sending stuff in to the New Yorker. Write a memoir (heck no, it&#39;s not too early–why should only recovering addicts have access to the memoir market?) Or maybe some travel/food writing. Something. You need to get published!!!

  11. says

    Happy Birthday! You are an amazing chef and photographer. I just love looking at what you make and it makes me inspired to find something I am as passionate about as you are baking. <br /><br />Im throwing my best friend a surprise birthday party and she is going to be SO excited when I cut into the rainbow cake that YOU gave me the recipe to make. :)

  12. says

    Happy birthday! Oh, to be 19 again. Your birthday cake is glorious. I&#39;ve never had chiffon–I always imagined it to be light and dry but yours doesn&#39;t appear dry at all. What is it about chiffon that has you addicted? Just out of curiosity–I guess I want to know why I should bother.

  13. says

    Thank you so much for all the birthday wishes! And I&#39;m so glad that you like how I write! You&#39;re all so sweet :) <br /><br /><b>@Zoe Sotet</b>: I will definitely try to come up with something diabetic-friendly. You would think I would have done that already considering the fact that my dad is diabetic! I am a terrible, terrible daughter! Haha<br /><br /><b>@Poires au Chocolat</b>: I

  14. says

    Thanks for satisfying my curiosity–that sounds perfect and I&#39;m now ready to try it. It sounds like I would have been much better off adapting a chiffon cake recipe for my orange cake in the Peeps cake disaster!

  15. says

    <b>@Veronica</b>: You&#39;re welcome! When I read your peeps post and saw something about light cake, I was wondering if you had used chiffon or not 😛 I wonder if it would be easy to make it orange-y or not… I have had terrible luck finding a really good orange cake!<br /><br /><b>@Anonymous</b>: Yeah, I used a six inch pan. My brother doesn&#39;t eat sweets and my step-dad hates lemon so

  16. says

    mmmm I LOVE Lemon cake! I love lemon anything! lol <br /><br />happy birthday! :) Aww I love the fact that I have found another fellow food blogger who is the same age as me! (Well I turned 19 25 days ago – the 6th- but that&#39;s besides the point :P)<br /><br />wo0t for march babies! 😉

  17. says

    Happy Birthday! What an amazing cake! I am an avid lover of chiffon cakes and I love how this one is in layers without with the white buttercream! yummo! Your pics rock. I can almost reach into my screen and taste it!

  18. says

    Happy birthday! I hope you had a great one. What a beautiful cake accompanied by such a well told story. You have a lot of talent, girl.<br /><br />I simply must try this cake. Is it sad or weird that I&#39;ve NEVER tried chiffon?

  19. says

    I totally agree, my birthdays never seemed that important to me. Much more did the birthdays of other people, mainly the ones close to me.<br /><br />But I did like baking my own birthday cake, this sounds like a great one – Happy Birthday !!!

  20. says

    Happy Birthday! That is one stunningly perfect cake. Oh my, 19 seems like such a long time ago from where I&#39;m standing :). Lovely to meet you and thank you for visiting my little space.

  21. says

    Happy Birthday! I cannot look at these pictures enough. Just gorgeous. And the recipes! I want to make each and every one.. just divine!!<br /><br />Seriously… how did you get so talented for NINETEEN?? You rock. :)<br /><br />Blessings-<br />Amanda

  22. says

    Happy Birthday! Your lemon cake is so beautiful! You are a year older but you are still young and talented. You&#39;ll have a wonderful life ahead of you!

  23. says

    I made this for Easter and there wasn&#39;t a crumb left in the end. Great recipe! Thanks for sharing…I&#39;ll be making this again soon, I&#39;m sure.

  24. says

    What, you&#39;re only 19? Wow. Happy birthday!!!<br /><br />Wish I had your skills when I was 19 — sure would have saved a lot of many for birthday cakes we bought for friends. :)

  25. says

    Beautiful cake! I&#39;ve just happened upon your blog. Love it! Never would have imagined with your writing skills and kitchen expertise that you were only 19. Oh to be 19 again 😉 Hope you had a great day!!

  26. says

    We are totally born in the same month and the same age (you&#39;re 16 days after me) and food bloggers! Awesomeee.<br /><br />Oh and this cake is fabulous :)

  27. Anonymous says

    LOVEEEEEEEE your blog! what an amazing pictures,stories and recipes you have! And you are just 19!!! <br /><br />I&#39;m planing to bake this for my sister&#39;s birthday this week and wondering if it&#39;s ok to add color to the recipes and make it into a rainbow cake? I&#39;m deciding between the rainbow cake and this…but I&#39;m a lemon lover so..just asking the posibility to combine the 2<

    • says

      Thanks! You certainly could, butthere&#39;s actually no lemon in the cake. Maybe make the lemon cream and just add that to the construction of the rainbow cake?

  28. says

    I really, really love this cake… and so does my family. My little brother (who is NOT a cake person at all and hardly ever eats sweets) has specially requested it for his 22nd birthday this weekend– THAT&#39;S HOW GOOD IT IS!! <br /><br />Haha, so guess what I&#39;ll be making this weekend? &lt;3

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