Light and yet satisfying. Angel food cake was originally described as the “food of the angels” and for good reason. Airy and light, a slice of this cake always seems perfectly fulfilling. You can frost it, or top with fruit, or glaze with honey and citrus flavored yogurt as I recently did.
Or you can just cut a slice — always with a serrated knife so that cake is not squished — and enjoy all by itself.
This is a sponge cake— flour, sugar and eggs with no leavening. And, in fact, only half the eggs: whites alone. The technique, dependent on those egg whites, requires a little care. You have to whip those egg whites, pure egg whites. If when breaking the eggs you get any yolk into the mixture, you are doomed. Egg yolk will prevent whipping into the meringue that is the base for the cake. With only meringue and no butter for a foundation, the flour needs to be light, so cake flour is employed, and that flour must be gracefully folded into the meringue. Last, and far from least, you need to bake this cake using the Goldilocks Principal: not too little and not too much.
Author Stephen Schmidt, whose Master Recipes version, is shown below, notes that he initially tended to over bake. Watch the cake carefully and follow the detailed, wise advice Stephen provides below.
In his recipe, Stephen suggests using vanilla and almond extract. Based on personal preference, I just doubled the vanilla. You can, at this point, employ other flavorings to create subtle flavor changes: citrus, coffee, …
Angel food cake dates from the late 1800s. I remember the first packaged angel food cakes appearing in the 1950s. Just add water, beat, and pour the liquid into the pan. No meringue needed. I had hundreds of those cakes in the 50s and 60s. Last week I made one. And then Suzen made this recipe, a real cake, from scratch, with a true meringue.
Homemade is decisively better. Certainly in flavor and texture. And, even just out of the pan, the home made cake has a distinct edge in seeming to be so much more fresh.
If you crave dessert but need to avoid molten chocolate and other too rich treasures, then you should give a try to old-fashioned, American-style angel food cake. Can’t ditch that chocolate craving? Substitute 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder for two of the cake flour. You might then be
Angel Food Cake
Yield: serves 4
- ¾ cup unsifted cake flour [measure by scooping cup into a large container of flour and sweeping off the excess with the back of a knife]
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 ½ cups egg whites [about 12 large eggs]
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
Bring all ingredients, particularly egg whites, to room temperature. Egg whites will not mount properly if chilled.
Set rack in middle or lower-middle level of oven. Preheat oven to 325°F 20 minutes before baking.
Select a tube pan measuring about 10 inches across, with a capacity of about 16 cups. (A 2‑piece tube pan—that is, a pan whose rim and bottom can be detached—makes for easier unmolding, but it is not essential.) Do not grease the pan, and be sure the pan is completely clean. An angel cake will not rise in the presence of grease.
Prepare the dry ingredients by measuring the flour into sifter or sieve; add sugar. Sift onto waxed paper. Set sifter or sieve on a plate and return the dry ingredients to it. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites. With an electric mixer set at low speed, beat egg whites with vanilla and almond extracts in a 5- to 6-quart glass or stainless steel mixing bowl for about 1 minute, or until they have become a loose, foamy mass. Add cream of tartar and salt and increase mixer speed to medium. Pushing beaters aggressively through the egg whites (or moving the bowl of a stationary mixer around under the beaters), beat egg whites until they are frothy and stand in soft peaks. Increase mixer speed to high and add the 1 cup sugar gradually, taking about 1 minute to pour all of it in. Continue to beat egg whites for 10 to 30 seconds after the last of the sugar has gone in, or just long enough for the whites to look thick and glossy, like shaving lather. Do not overbeat the whites and make them dry. As soon as the beaters form deep furrows and the whites seem to shrink back, stop.
Complete the batter by incorporating the dry ingredients into the meringue. Sift dry ingredients from Step 1 V3 at a time over the egg whites, folding in each addition before sifting on the next. Do not overfold, or you will deflate the egg whites.
Bake and cool the cake. Pour batter into ungreased tube pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and gently shake the pan back and forth several times to settle the batter into the corners. Bake about 45 minutes, or until top of cake is brown and covered with cracks and the cake has shrunk slightly from around the central tube. Do not overbake angel cake or it will toughen, deflate, and shrink, just like an overdone soufflé.
After removing cake from the oven, place the hole in the center of the pan over the neck of a bottle and let the cake hang upside down until completely cooled. (If the rim of your pan has built-in feet to keep the cake elevated, you need not use the bottle; simply invert the pan over a heat-proof surface.) To unmold, run a long knife around inside of pan and around the tube. Rap the pan sharply against the countertop two or three times to loosen the cake from the bottom, then invert cake onto a serving plate; it should drop out at once.
Store the cake. Wrapped in an airtight plastic bag, angel cake will keep for 2 or 3 days at room temperature. Freezing makes the cake rubbery, but stale slices of angel cake may be toasted and/or served with warm custard sauce.
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/3.5 for1/30th second at ISO 800