It is thought angel food cake derives it name due to the fact that it is such a light dessert, that the angels could eat it and still fly without being weighed down. Regardless of the origins of the angel food cake, it is my mother’s favorite cake so I began a quest to create the perfect recipe! This angel food cake recipe produces a beautifully aerated texture, which comes from the whipped egg whites, and a chewy brown exterior, which results from the high sugar to flour ratio in the recipe.
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The recipe below is for a lemon angel food cake but the lemon juice and zest may be replaced with a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract if the lemon is not desired.
This is a versatile cake for pairing with other flavors such as citrus, fruit curds or berries. Of course, a dollop of whipped cream always adds a nice touch for plating the dessert!
Tips for the Perfect Angel Food Cake:
- Use a tube cake pan and do not flour or grease the pan. An angel food cake gets its rising power from the egg white foam. As the cake is baking the batter needs to cling to the side of the pan and grease will prevent this from occurring.
- Measure all ingredients and set out all equipment before beginning to make this cake. A term often used in the culinary world is ‘mise en place’ which is defined in the dictionary as “the gathering and preliminary preparation of the ingredients and equipment.” The process of ‘mise en place’, which translates from French as ‘putting in place’ is a good habit to form as a baker. You won’t be searching for your whisk or salt when you need to move to the next step!
- Tips for using egg whites:
- Egg whites may be measured using a scale or a measuring cup. Each egg white weighs approximately one ounce. This recipe calls for 12 ounces of egg whites weighed on a scale or 12 fluid ounces of egg whites or 1.5 cups of egg whites.
- Bring egg whites to room temperature prior to embarking on this recipe. Eggs whites will whip to a greater volume when at room temperature and they will be less viscous and incorporate air more readily.
- Tips to create the egg foam:
- Combine the egg whites, warm water, lemon juice (if using) and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. A hand-held mixer may be used but the mixing process will be lengthy (12 – 15 minutes).
- Using the whip attachment begin whipping the egg white mixture on medium speed. The mixture will begin to turn foamy after a few minutes (see Figure A).
- Once the mixture is foamy, slowly begin adding the sugar measure #1 to the bowl while the mixer is running on medium speed (see Figure B). The process of slowly adding the sugar is of key importance for the structure of an angel food cake.
- Turn the mixer to medium-high speed once all of the sugar is added and continue to whip the mixture until stiff peaks form (see Figure C).
- Adding dry ingredients to the egg foam: Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold one-third of the dry ingredients (cake flour, salt, sugar measure #3, lemon zest (if using)) into the egg foam. Be gentle! Over-folding will compromise the airiness of the egg foam you just worked so hard to create. Once the first addition of the dry ingredients is incorporated, repeat the process again using the second third of the dry ingredients, and finally, the last third. The batter will still have stiff peaks associated with it (see Figure D).
- Adding batter to the pan. Gently pour the batter into the tube pan and smooth the top gently with a spatula (see Figure E).
- Cooling and unmolding the cake. Once the cake is well risen, has a golden top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove the cake from the oven and immediately flip the pan over onto a cooling rack. Leave the pan to cool upside down for one hour. After the cake is cooled, flip the pan over, push up on the removeable pan bottom and the cake should release. Run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan if the cake is sticks.
- Cutting the cake: A sharp, serrated knife is the best option for cutting slices. Slowly move the knife back and forth with limited downward pressure to avoid smashing the cake slice.
Angel Food Cake
- 1.5 Cups Egg Whites Room Temperature
- 1/3 Cup Warm Water Approximately 110°
- 1 tsp Cream of Tartar
- 200 Grams Granulated Sugar (measure #1) (1 cup)
- 150 Grams Granulated Sugar (measure #2) (3/4 cup)
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 Tbsp Lemon Zest (optional) (approximately 1 lemon)
- 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice (optional)
- 120 Grams Cake Flour (1 cup)
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Combine cake flour, sugar measure #2, salt and lemon zest in a bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Add egg whites, warm water, lemon juice and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Using the whisk attachment, begin mixing on medium speek until the egg whites become foamy.
- Slowly start adding sugar measure #1 into the mixing bowl while the mixer is running. This process will take 2 – 3 minutes.
- Increase mixer speed to medium-high and continue whipping until stiff, glossy peaks are reached.
- Remove the bowl from the stand mixer.
- Add the combined dry ingredients to the stiffened egg whites in three additions, folding gently between each addition.
- Pour the cake batter in to the tube pan. Carefully smooth the top.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until well risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and immediately invert the cake pan over onto a cooling rack.
- Let cake cool upside down for 1 hour.
- Gently lift the pan off the cake. If cake is sticking to pan, run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan to release.