angel food cake
Long before I was able to appreciate the fabulousness (and rarity!) of using zero butter and zero egg yolks in baking, I was a huge fan of angel food cake. I still remember my mom asking us to pull out the “special pan”, and then gasping as she would flip it over as soon as we removed the cake from the oven. (Ok, that step still always makes me a little nervous!!) But then once it cooled, we would pile our slices high with warm berries and whipped cream, and have the best time eating “like angels”. :)
To this day, I still adore angel food cake as much as ever. Although now I’ve bid farewell to the box mix and discovered the joy of making it homemade!
It turns out that the “from scratch” version really isn’t too complicated. Granted, you do need literally a dozen eggs to make one cake, and it’s important to use sifted cake flour (instead of all-purpose). But otherwise, after some whisking and folding and baking, a light and fluffy cake with that yummy crust is yours to enjoy. So here’s my favorite recipe, adapted from Cooks Illustrated, for this simple, classic, and deliciously “angelic” cake that everyone can enjoy.
- 1 cup sifted cake flour
- 1 1/2 cups sifted sugar
- 12 large egg whites (about 1 3/4 cups), room temperature
- 1 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice (or orange juice)
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 F degrees. Prepare an ungreased large 9-inch tube pan, preferably with a removable bottom. If the pan bottom is not removable, line it with parchment or waxed paper.
Whisk together the flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar in a small bowl. Place the remaining 3/4 cup sugar in another small bowl.
Using a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer at low speed until just broken up and beginning to froth. Add the cream of tartar and salt and beat at medium speed until the whites form very soft, billowy mounds. With the mixer still at medium speed, beat in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is added and the whites are shiny and form soft peaks. (If you lift the beater up from the batter, the top of the peaks will droop down slightly.) Add in the vanilla, lemon (or orange) juice, and almond extract and beat until just blended.
Sift about 3 tablespoons of the flour-sugar mixture into the egg white mixture, then gently folding it in, using a large rubber spatula. Repeat until all of the flour-sugar mixture is incorporated (this will take about 6-8 batches).
Gently scrape the batter into the tube pan, smooth the top with a spatula, removing any large air bubbles. Bake until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when pressed firmly, 50-60 minutes.
If the cake pan has prongs around the rim, invert the pan onto them once it is removed from the oven. If the pan does not have prongs, invert the pan onto the neck of a bottle. Let the cake cool completely, 2-3 hours.
To remove the cake, gently run a knife around the edge of the pan, being careful not to separate the golden crust from the cake. Slide the cake out of the pan and cut the same way around the removable bottom to release, or peel off the parchment or waxed paper, if using. Place the cake bottom-side up on a serving platter or pedestal. Cut the slices by sawing gently with a long serrated knife. Serve cake immediately or cover.
Some of my favorite ways to serve angel food cake include:
- any kind of fruit (especially berries!)
- especially delicious when it’s warmed up
- or mixed with a little liquor or wine to give it a kick!
- Nutella or chocolate sauce
- homemade whipped cream
- dulce de leche
- grill the angel food cake slightly after baking to give it some beautiful (and yummy) grill marks
Source: Adapted from Cooks Illustrated.