Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Angel Food Cake for Mother's Day

I was excited when Mom requested an angel food cake for Mother’s Day. (It doesn't take a lot to make a food writer happy!) She had given me a 10-inch tube pan last year, and while I’d used it for a couple of recipes, I’d always wanted to try an angel food cake.

Now the cake is this summer’s go-to dessert!

For some reason, I thought angel food cakes were hard to make. Silly me! They’re not difficult at all, as long as you keep a few pointers in mind.

First, if you don’t have a tube pan with a removable bottom, I suggest you get one. Since angel food cakes must be baked in an ungreased pan so the cake can cling to the sides as it rises, a removable bottom will save you a lot of headaches when it comes time to take the cake out of the pan. However, if you don’t have one, don’t let that stop you. Just line the bottom with parchment paper before you add the batter.

The key to a great angel food cake is in how you whip the egg whites—soft and fluffy, but not stiff.  The cream of tarter in the recipe will help stabilize the egg whites, making your job a bit easier. Also, have the whites at almost room temperature (60 to 70 degrees) before whipping.

Another key is to cool the cake upside down. Some tube pans have little metal “feet” to hold them up, but you can also invert the pan and prop it on the neck of a bottle or an inverted funnel while the cake cool. Just don’t try to remove the cake from the pan for at least 1 1/2 hours.   

This angel food cake turned out light, moist, and delicious! However, it did look a little lopsided thanks to one side getting a bit squished during the trip from Kansas to Missouri. We topped each piece with sliced strawberries in sugar (the frozen kind found at the grocery store, per Mom’s request) and fresh whipped cream. (Here's Mom with her cake. I did see her munching on a plain, hand-held slice, too. Why not? It was her day!)

The best thing about this cake, besides being fat-free, is the variety of toppings you can serve with it. Fruits, flavored glazes, frosting…just use your imagination.

Next time, the only thing I would change, besides squishing the cake in transport, will be to add the optional almond extract. Mom noticed it was missing. Now I have an excuse to make it again…and again…and again.

Angel Cake
Adapted from Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker

1 cup sifted cake flour (sift the flour before you measure)
1 1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups egg whites (between 10 and 12 eggs, depending on the size)
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Separate you egg whites and set aside so they come to room temperature (between 60 and 70 degrees.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Have at the ready a 10-inch ungreased tube pan. If your pan doesn't have a removable bottom, line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift together the cake flour, 3/4 cup sugar, and salt, three times. (Yes, three times! You want everything light and airy.) Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large bowl if you’re using a hand mixer, place the egg whites, water, lemon
juice , cream of tarter and flavorings. Beat on low speed for 1 minute to combine, and then increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is a foam that holds a soft shape when you lift the beaters and has increased in volume 4 to 5 times, which takes about 3 to 5 minutes. (Mine took 4 minutes.)

Continue to beat on medium-high speed while adding the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, one tablespoon at a time, for 2 to 3 minutes. At this point the mixture should hold soft, glossy peaks that bend over at the top when you left out the beaters. (Do not beat until stiff!) You want a mixture that holds a shape but can still be poured into a cake pan.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Sift a fine layer of the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, over the top of the egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour until it is just combined. Continue to gently add the flour 1/4 cup at a time until it is all incorporated. Don’t stir or mix the batter…just keep folding until there are no traces of the flour left.

Pour the batter into the tube pan. Spread the top gently to level, and then run a thin metal spatula through the batter to release any large air bubbles. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. (Mine took 35.)

Remove the cake pan from the oven and cool the cake in the pan, upside down, for 1 1/2 hours to keep the cake from collapsing. Some pans have little metal feet to hold it upside down, but if not, just place the center of the tube pan onto the neck of a bottle or an upside down funnel to hold the cake while it cools.

To remove the cake from the pan, slide a thin knife between the cake and the pan to help it release, both the outside edge and the inner tube. With a removable bottom, you should now be able to lift the cake out of the pan. Then just slide the knife between the cake and the bottom to remove completely. (If the tube pan doesn't have a removable bottom, just turn the pan over and gently tap until the cake comes out.)

Allow the cake to cool completely before wrapping or frosting. If stored in an air-tight container (or wrapped in plastic wrap) the cake should stay moist and fresh for 2 to 3 days. When serving, cut the cake with a serrated knife in a gentle sawing motion.   

1 comment:

  1. You angel food cake looks delicious! :) I have never tried making one of these but I think I will give it a try using your recipe! thank you

    check out my site sometime, recent post: Ultimate Southern Pound Cake!