This raspberry and lemon curd chiffon cake recipe is a baller recipe, guys. There’s fresh raspberries smashed into a lemon curd mascarpone, and the cake is lighter than air. It’s like going to a wedding in your sweatpants, since you can feel elegant while eating it from the comfort of your home.
Baking can be such an intentional, calming ritual when it’s not completely chaotic and messy. I certainly always set out fully believing that whatever I’m baking will center and soothe me. I’ll cut soft chunks of butter, weighing each dollop carefully into a prep bowl. I sift flour, shaking it like I used to do with my moneymaker back in my 20s. Next, I’ll rain droplets of rich vanilla, shower salt so it’s dotted like wet sand on top of dried, and crack eggs and watch them slither down a floury landscape.
It’s all part of the meditative, soothing process of creating until I forget a vital ingredient (baking powder — oops) or realize that the oven is too hot. My first attempt at baking this cake ended horribly because I realized that somehow I don’t have any matching round cake pans to bake the layers, and ended up just using one very deep one instead. The cake didn’t bake all the way through, leaving me with pockets of lukewarm batter and a broken ego.
Have your baking fails ever completely ruined your day? Don’t give up! I wanted to, but I forced myself to set out a second time using Smitten Kitchen’s strawberry chiffon cake as a starting point. I love chiffon cake because it’s lighter and fluffier than regular vanilla sponge cake. The secret is in whipped egg whites, which get folded in to a batter of egg yolks, oil and sugar at the very last minute to infuse air and structure into the cake. The egg whites act like a bike pump, inflating the cake batter and increasing the volume.
While my layers baked, I rummaged through the refrigerator to see how I’d top my cake. Out came whipping cream and mascarpone, an Italian soft cheese that’s like the sweeter cousin to cream cheese. We had a carton of fresh raspberries, which was an outright miracle because my kids eat them like candy. I also found a languishing jar of Fortnum & Mason’s lemon curd. It was fate. My cake was making itself.
Luckily, my second attempt turned out much better than the first. The chiffon cakes came out golden brown and springy, ready to become their best selves. I triumphantly set them on wire racks to cool while whipping together the whipping cream and mascarpone. Assembling this cake is easier than it looks — just sandwich a thick layer of cream and fresh raspberries, then ice the whole thing.
Decorating this cake may look fancy, but it’s really just smashing raspberries throughout while you spread luxurious layers of mascarpone icing around and around the sides. If you have flowers laying around, then you’ve got an instant topper to make this chiffon cake really pop. And honestly, what’s keeping you from pouring yourself a nice glass of bubbly, slicing into this cake, and watching the most over-the-top Netflix show you can?
Nothing, I say. Absolutely nothing.
- For the cake:
- 2¼ cups sifted plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1½ cups caster sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup cold water
- ½ cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 large egg yolks at room temperature
- 8 large egg whites at room temperature
- For the icing:
- 1 cup soft Italian mascarpone cheese
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup confectioners' sugar
- ½ cup lemon curd
- 2 cups fresh raspberries
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F or 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease the bottom of 2 9-inch pans with butter or canola oil, then line the bottom of each pan with parchment or baking paper. Leave the sides of the pan ungreased.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, 1¼ cup sugar, salt, baking powder twice. In a separate, medium-sized bowl, beat the egg yolks, lemon zest, oil, water, and vanilla on high speed until smooth. Stir this mixture into the flour mixture.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg whites until soft peaks form, then add ¼ cup sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form and the egg whites are glossy.
- Using a large spoon, scoop out a large scoop of the egg whites and stir quickly into the batter. Then, gradually fold the remaining egg whites into the batter until all of the egg whites are incorporated, but do not over mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for at least 40-45 minutes. Check the cakes by gently pressing them with your finger; the top should spring back and should be golden brown (you can double check by inserting a toothpick in the center to see if it comes out clean).
- Remove the cakes and set them on wire racks to cool for at least an hour. While the cakes are cooling, make the mascarpone icing. In a large bowl, whip the whipping cream and confectioners sugar together until soft peaks form, then add the vanilla. Run a spoon through the mascarpone to break it up a little, then add it to the whipped cream and beat again until it's thick and spreadable. Add the lemon curd and swirl through with a spatula.
- To assemble the cake, use a serrated cake knife to cut the top off the layers to make even layers. Use a spatula to spread a thick layer of icing on the top of one layer, then sprinkle the top with raspberries. Add the second layer on top and then spread icing all over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with the remaining raspberries. Refrigerate this cake until it's time to serve.
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