Mmm, Lemon Chiffon Cake! The first time I made lemon chiffon cake, it was for a class and we were making all sorts of different cakes to prove we understood how the texture of a cake would be altered by different ingredients and baking methods. Chiffon cakes use egg whites beaten stiff, but unlike angel food cakes which have no fat, chiffon cakes also use vegetable oil.
We used this lemon chiffon cake recipe in class and I've made it a couple of times since then. Everyone loves it and insists I share the recipe. When I did my write up of it in class, I mentioned that the cake was so good, my roommate had a small slice but then came back for a slice that was a quarter of the cake. My professor who led the class declared the lemon chiffon cake to be her favorite and promised to take care of any extra cake anyone might have. The texture is luscious and the icing is really just perfect - not overpoweringly sweet, but not so dainty that the flavor is lost. No, I think I have to declare this my favorite cake, too.
It really helps if you use a tube pan with a removable botteom and make sure you let the cake cool completely in the pan. I made this once for my mom and the cake was still in the oven when I had to run out for a little bit, so I told her to remove the cake from the oven when the timer sounded. Well, I forgot to tell her to let it cool upside down in the pan. Since she didn't have any experience baking angel food cake or chiffon cake, she didn't understand that when you bake a cake that uses egg white foam for structure, the thin cell walls of the cake need a chance to set with the least amount of strain on them. So she removed the cake from the pan before it had cooled and I came back to a lop-sided cake. It was still tasty and she had me bake another for a party she was going to. This time, the cake got plenty of time to cool in the pan.
Curious about the history of chiffon cakes? Apparently chiffon cakes were invented in Los Angeles by a man named Harry Baker. He eventually sold the recipe to General Mills, who released the recipe in 1948 where it was called the first new cake in a hundred years. What's Cooking America has a nice write up of the history of chiffon cakes. And Food Timeline has a bit of history along with a smattering of historical recipes.