Angel food cake
Angel food cake is an American invention that goes back to the late 1800's. The first recipe for Angel Food Cake was published by Fannie Merritt Farmer in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book in 1896. There were several recipes similar to angel food cake published prior, including a recipe by former slave Abby Fisher, in the first cookbook written by an African-American called What Mrs. Fisher knows about Old Southern Cooking: Soups, Pickles, Preserves, etc... Mrs. Fisher called her cake Silver Cake. If you like history and you like food you may enjoy both of these charming books.
Light and delicious
If you are used to only store-bought angel food cakes, you are in for a pleasant surprise. This homemade angel food cake is surprisingly easy to make, and is worlds better than the ones you buy at the grocery store. This cake is light and spongy, with a bit of caramelization on the crust. The recipe comes from Nick Malgieri and his beautiful cookbook Perfect Cakes. If you love to make cakes, I recommend his book. The pictures are very inspirational! The interesting thing about this angel food cake is it uses all-purpose flour. This is contrary to most angel food cake wisdom. Most angel food cake recipes calls for cake flour. I have to agree with Nick on this one; all-purpose flour delivers a delicious, light, textured, spongy cake.
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It is all about the egg whites
There are several tips to working with egg whites that are essential to making a successful angel food cake. Here are my best tips:
- Separate the egg whites when the eggs are fresh out of the fridge. Cold eggs are easier to separate than room temperature eggs.
- Crack each egg into a small bowl. Make sure there is no yolk in each egg white. Then transfer each individual yolk-free egg white into a measuring cup that you will use to collect all of the egg whites.
- Measure your egg whites by volume, rather than by number of eggs. Eggs vary in size and you are looking for 1 1/2 cups of egg whites, which will typically be 11 to 13 eggs.
- Let your egg whites come to room temperature before you begin whisking them.
- Make sure your whisking bowl is clean and free of any grease. Do not use an aluminum or plastic bowl. Stainless steel or copper work best.
- Whisk your eggs until they have large, glossy, soft peaks. Do not beat until you have stiff peaks.
A good Angel food cake pan helps
I have made this cake in a bundt pan, and it works OK, but it is tough getting the cake out. The crust gets a little chewed up and ugly and looks like this:
I am very reluctant to add specialty pans to my already overflowing collection, but I decided it was worth investing in a good angel food cake pan. The thing about angel food cake is that there is no leavening in it. Angel food cakes rise to their spongy glory via steam and the air you whisk into the eggs. It is common wisdom that you don't want to use a non-stick pan for angel food cake because the cake needs to "climb up the pan" as the cake rises in the oven and a non-stick pan won't allow the cake to stick to the sides of the pan.
I did a little research on this and found not everyone agreed. So thinking that like the cake flour conventional wisdom, there might be some myth to what is needed in an angel food cake pan, I took a chance on this well-rated, Chicago Metallic, heavy, non-stick pan with a removable bottom, and legs for cooling. It worked like a dream.
Do not butter or flour the pan
Whatever pan you use, do not butter or flour it. Remember you want your Angel food cake to stick to the sides of the pan. The cake needs to stick to the sides of the pan as it rises.
I generally avoid sifting whenever I can, but for this cake I sift. I use a mesh strainer and a spoon rather than a sifter. It takes only a minute and I avoid owning yet another cooking device.
If you have a stand mixer, use it for this cake. A hand mixer will work, but plan on beating the egg whites for a good 6 minutes. That's a lot of hand mixing!
Some Angel food cake pans come with little feet that allow you to cool the cake upside down. If your pan does not have feet, improvise with a beer bottle. Trust me, your cake will not fall out.
Removing the cake from the pan
Because the cake sticks to the sides of the pan you need to loosen it. The best tool for doing this is a small off-set spatula. Gently work the spatula up and down around the sides of the cake and around the core to free the sides. This spatula is also indispensable for frosting cakes and cupcakes.
Make Angel food cake with everyday ingredients
What I really like about angel food cake is you can make it with everyday ingredients. If you have sugar, flour, a dozen eggs, salt, lemon and vanilla in the house you have everything you need to make this delicious cake. I like to use vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract because of the flavor and the beautiful little vanilla seeds that are incorporated into the paste.
Serve with fresh whipped cream, berries, peaches or mango.
- 1½ cup sugar, divided
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups egg whites, typically 11 to 13 large eggs
- ¼ t salt
- 1 T fresh lemon juice
- 1 t vanilla paste or vanilla extract (or other extracts)
- Arrange the rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl put ¾ cup of sugar and the flour together. Sift back and forth between two bowls a total of three times.
- If using a stand mixer, attach the whisk. Put the egg whites and salt into a mixing bowl and whisk on medium speed until the the egg whites are foamy. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and continue to whisk until the eggs are opaque and just beginning to hold some shape.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium high and slowly add the remaining ¾ cup of sugar. Continue whipping until the egg whites hold big, droopy, shiny peaks. The total whipping time will take about 6 - 7 minutes.
- Sprinkle ⅓ of the flour and sugar mixture over the egg whites and use a rubber spatula to fold the sugar and flour into the egg whites, scraping around the edges and across the bottom. Add the remaining sugar and flour in ⅓ increments until all of the sugar and flour are incorporated evenly into the egg whites.
- Spread the cake mixture into an unbuttered and unfloured 10" bundt pan with a removable bottom and smooth the top with the spatula. Run a knife blade around the middle of the pan to remove any air pockets. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
- If your pan has feet, invert and cool the pan upside down. If your pan does not have feet, flip the pan over a beer or soda bottle so the bottle protrudes from the hole in the pan and the pan is hanging upside down. Trust me, the cake will not fall out. Let cool for one hour.
- To remove the cake start by smacking the sides of the cake pan against a cutting board. Smack firmly, all the way around the pan. Next, take a small, flexible spatula and slide it around the edge of the pan to release the sides as well as the inner edge of the pan. Invert the pan over a serving plate.