Traditional Angel Food Cake
Last weekend Betsy and I celebrated our two year anniversary. Instead of going out to eat or something, we just cooked a fabulous feast at home.
I’m not planning on posting on the meal itself. I didn’t take photos of it really because I just wanted to relax and enjoy it.
I did photograph the dessert though which turned out better than I thought it was going to honestly.
One of Betsy’s favorite desserts is angel food cake and I’ve always been a bit scared to try to make it from scratch. It seemed almost impossible to get the cake super-light and fluffy.
I wasn’t sure that I would have the skills for it.
Turns out to be pretty straightforward though and something that I think almost anyone could make assuming that they have access to a few pieces of equipment and some patience.
Angel Food Cake
Yield: Serves 10-12.
1 3/4 cups sugar, ground
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour, sifted
12 egg whites, room temp
1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Simple Strawberry Topping:
1 pint fresh strawberries, halved or quartered
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Stand Mixer or hand mixer
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a food processor, process sugar for 2 minutes to make it superfine.
3) Sift half of the sugar with the cake flour and salt and set aside.
4) Separate egg whites and yolks. Add whites to stand mixer or large bowl and whisk or mix on medium with the whisk attachment. Add in water, extract, and cream of tartar. After a few minutes of mixing, slowly add in 1/2 of the sugar not sifted with the cake flour.
5) Once the whites are holding medium peaks, remove from mixer. Dust the tops of the whites with about 1/3 of the flour mixture and carefully FOLD the flour into the whites using a flat spatula. Don't stir the flour in or you'll break up all the air bubbles. Work around the edges of the bowl and fold the flour into the whites.
6) Continue dusting with flour and folding until all the flour is just incorporated.
7) Add batter to a ungreased bundt or tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes and check for doneness with a wooden skewer.
8) Cool cake upside down on a wire rack for about an hour. Then carefully remove it by sliding a knife around the outside. Serve with whipped cream and/or strawberries.
Simple strawberry sauce:
1) Combine ingredients in a small saucepan.
2) Bring to a light simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently.
3) Simmer for just a few minutes and then turn off the heat. Let cool and serve with cake (or ice cream)
Adapted from an Alton Brown recipe.
There are two steps that I consider annoying in this recipe. First, you’re supposed to grind up the sugar in a food processor to make it a super-fine texture. I did this and I’m not really sure it’s necessary. I processed my sugar for a few minutes and it didn’t seem to change the texture all that much.
I would say do it though if you have access to a food processor. If you don’t, I think you would be okay skipping this step.
The second step that is sort of annoying is to take half of the super-fine sugar and sift it with the cake flour and salt.
I didn’t do this just because my strainer that I use to sift broke. My final cake came out fine without sifting the flour, but it did make one later step (folding the flour into the batter) a lot harder I think.
I would do it if you can.
You’ll need a full dozen eggs for this recipe.
And just the whites.
I’m not really sure what you could do with 12 egg yolks that you’ll have leftover. You could make a gallon of homemade mayo or maybe you are interested in an all-yolk omelet?
In any event, it’s very important to separate one egg at a time and be careful to use a small bowl to catch the white and then add it to your larger bowl with the other whites. If you screw up and get yolk in with the whites, you’ll have to start over!
One drop of yolk and your whites won’t whip correctly.
Assuming you are able to get all your egg whites separated, let them come to room temperature for about 30 minutes and then add them to a stand mixer or just a large bowl.
Start mixing them on medium. It’ll take a few minutes until they get to the right consistency.
Besides the egg whites, you’ll want to add the other half of your super-fine sugar to the mixing bowl along with some cream of tartar and almond extract. You could use any flavored extract that you want, but I like almond a lot.
The cream of tartar will help stabilize the egg whites and give them some extra volume.
Once all of this stuff is added in, just whip the egg whites like crazy until they hold medium peaks. That means if you pull your whisk out, a small mound of egg white should stick on the surface.
These are about medium peaks.
The most important part of bringing this batter together is how you incorporate the flour into the egg whites.
You have to use cake flour. No other flour will be fine enough.
Once you have your flour sifted with the salt and sugar, take about 1/3 of the flour and dust it lightly on the surface of your egg whites.
Then use a flat spatula to gently fold the whites until the flour is incorporated. When I fold, I scrape my spatula against the inside edge of the bowl and follow the bowl down and up, bringing some batter with the spatula and then fold it over the top. Basically, you should never put your spatula in the middle of the batter. Always start on the outside and fold in to the center.
You don’t want to stir the batter or all the air bubbles will disappear. You want to keep the batter as light as possible.
When that flour is folded in, repeat until all your flour is mixed in with the batter. Again, fold the batter. Don’t stir it.
Baking the Cake
Ok. The hard part is over. Now just scoop your batter into a bundt pan. Don’t grease the pan! It’s actually really important to not grease the pan because the fat from the grease will cause your batter to break down.
Bake the cake at 350 degrees until the cake is golden brown. It should take about 35-40 minutes and use a wooden skewer to make sure it’s cooked through.
The finished cake is a thing of beauty!
Cool it down!
When this thing comes out of the oven, cool it upside down!
Gravity will help keep the cake nice and light as it cools. If you cool it right side up, it will probably collapse as it cools.
Once the cake has cooled, just run a knife around the outside of the cake and it should just fall right out!
There are a lot of toppings that go great on angel food cake. Since our meal for our anniversary was pretty heavy, I went with just a light strawberry topping.
I just simmered a pint of strawberries with a small amount of water and sugar for a few minutes and then let them cool. It was the perfect topping for the cake.
It’s kind of hard to see but the cake is super-light and really springy. It turned out perfectly.
I don’t fancy myself as a great baker (I still can’t do croissants), but I was really pleased with how this turned out.
If you give this a shot, it’s really fun to grill angel food cake slices also. It gets kind of crispy on the outside which is awesome.
Anyone else angel food cake fans? It has some annoying steps, no doubt, but the end results are really worth it.