Ready for a slice of heaven? Try angel food cake.
This tall, tender, and timeless cake has a cloud-like texture and light flavor. Angel food cake is a low fat cake recipe made mostly from egg whites, cake flour, and sugar.
Angel food belongs to the family of foam cakes, which depend on a beaten egg foam for leavening rather than a leavening agent such as baking powder or baking soda. The preparation of the egg whites is crucial to the success of this delicately textured cake.
To make a great angel food cake, you need more than a magnificent recipe; you also need an understanding of baking techniques. Follow these easy tips to become a pro at baking an angel food cake!
All equipment that comes in contact with the whites must be grease-free! Trace amounts of fat will prevent peaks from forming. Wipe all your equipment with a paper towel dampened with white vinegar to be sure.
For a fine-crumbed, tender texture angel food cake, use cake flour. Because it’s low in protein, there’s less gluten, which can toughen a cake. Sift the cake flour to remove any lumps.
Confectioners’ sugar, when added to the dry ingredients, helps evenly disperse the flour particles, making it easier to fold into the egg whites. Its fineness makes a tender, close-grained cake.
Pulse the granulated sugar in a food processor to create superfine sugar. You can purchase superfine sugar, which may be called ultrafine sugar. Adding superfine sugar to the egg whites makes a meringue, which gives you a more stable and airier foam than egg whites alone.
Egg whites are the single leavening ingredient providing all the cake’s rise. Whipping egg whites means incorporating millions of little air bubbles within the white. As the steam forms with heat, it pushes out the walls of the air cells and expands them.
Separate the eggs while they’re cold from the refrigerator and let them stand at room temperature for about an hour before making the cake. Carton egg whites or egg whites that have been frozen won’t expand as much during the whipping process. You’ll have a lot of leftover egg yolks, so make some lemon curd and serve it with the cake!
When you whip the egg whites, start on a low speed; this breaks up the proteins in the eggs and starts to create the foam. Once the mixture appears foamy, raise the speed to medium. Pour the sugar in a slow stream. Whip the egg whites into soft peaks. If you whip the whites too stiff, incorporating the dry ingredients will require extra folding, and the batter will lose volume. If the air cells collapse in the oven, the cake will be tough and chewy.
Gradually sprinkle the dry ingredients over the whipped whites, one-quarter at a time, to keep it from clumping and deflating the whites. Fold no more than is necessary to incorporate the dry ingredients into the egg whites.
Angel food cakes require a tube pan so the batter can cling to the sides as it bakes; otherwise, the cake would collapse in the center. Pour the batter gently into an ungreased tube pan, then with a dinner knife, make several strokes through the batter to eliminate any air pockets. Carefully smooth the surface of the cake with a spatula.
The ideal temperature for baking angel food cake is 325°F. Baking the cake at the right temperature allows it to fully expand and bake through before the cake’s structure is set. When the surface is golden and springs back when you touch it lightly, the cake is done.
Once the cake is out of the oven, immediately turn it upside down. If the tube pan doesn’t have legs, invert pan over the top of a narrow-necked glass bottle. The structure won’t be completely set until the cake has cooled. Left upright, the cake would quickly deflate.
One the cake has cooled, flip it back to right-side-up. Take a thin, flexible knife, boning or filet knife, and run it around both the center tube and the outer edge of the cake pan. Use the tube to pull the cake out of the pan. Place the cake on an inverted baking pan. Cut the bottom free.
To slice fluffy cakes like angel food or chiffon, use a serrated knife and saw very gently to cut through the cake without losing its airiness. Clean the knife after each slice.
Humidity/High Altitude Tips
Angel food cake can be sensitive to external conditions. If you live in a humid area, it may be necessary to add a smidgen more flour or a touch of corn starch to help stabilize your meringue. If you live at high altitudes, you may find it necessary to increase the temperature slightly or reduce the amount of sugar.
Making angel food cake from scratch is a delicious way to learn some baking skills. Now that I have you prepared to make this heavenly dessert, just follow these basic tips for a homemade slice of cake.