Make a delicious angel food cake to pair with fruit, jelly, jam, or to dip into fondue. Bake this light and airy dessert as a summer treat.
Advanced bakers often look for a challenge. They want a recipe that increases their abilities and improves their baking technique. The summer favorite, Angel Food Cake, fulfills this challenge.
Rather than using baking powder as a leavening agent, the light, fluffy angel food cake using beaten egg whites. Although mixed in a vastly different manner than a typical cake, by following the recipe exactly, you can bake the perfect cake on your first try.
This is not a quick cake to bake. The preparation time ranges between 30 to 45 minutes and the baking time ranges between 35 to 40 minutes. That may not sound so bad, but the cake must cool for two hours. That means you can mix it and bake it early in the morning and it will have just cooled in time for lunch. Whether you use round pans or a rectangular one, you will get eight to 10 servings from the cake.
The Pan Means Everything
You need a tube pan to bake a traditional angel food cake. As mentioned, you can use circular pans, rectangle ones, or make this as little shortcakes, but your first time making this, you should stick with tradition. Similar to a Bundt pan, but not the same as one, a tube pan has a flat bottom and straight sides. The pan must be excruciatingly clean and free from grease or oil of all types. If you need to buy one, choose a non-stick since you cannot use any cooking spray or oil or butter to coat the pan.
Many of these pans feature small feet on the top. That allows you to cool the cake upside down, so it does not collapse on itself. For a pan with no feet, you can center the pan upside down on a kitchen funnel. This keeps it suspended off of the counter.
Tips on Mixing the Cake Batter
While this food does take longer than a typical cake, it does not present the complicated baking challenge that many people think it does. You will need to whip the egg whites for a few minutes to produce the air needed to result in the ultra-light batter.
This cake relies on little details. You need to set aside the proper amount of time to make it.
Preparing the Eggs
You can pick up an egg separator at a gourmet cooking shop or you can simply break the eggs and carefully separate the yolk. The most important thing is that no yolk can get into the egg whites. The fat from the yolk, even the smallest amount, throws off the whipped fluffiness. The egg whites must be able to trap bubbles.
The easiest way to separate the whites is to poke a small hole into the smaller end of the egg. A hole the size of a fork tine is perfect. Allow the egg white to drain from the egg. You need to watch the draining process, so you can turn the egg upright when the yolk begins approaching the hole. Since you use an entire dozen eggs in this recipe, it takes some time. Set aside the yolks for a tasty omelet latter.
Once you have separated the egg whites, use your electric mixer on high speed to whip them. Using a hand mixer requires more work. You can hand whisk them, but you need to have the biceps of Mr. Universe. Add the lemon juice and cream of tartar a little at a time as you get the eggs started in the mixer. This adds to their stability.
When the egg whites reach soft peak stage, they are done. When lifting the whisk beaters out of the eggs, you should see a small peak curling downward. Once you get this peak, stop. If you overbeat the egg whites, the cake will not turn out properly. Knowing when to stop is of the utmost importance.
Using an electric mixer lets you whisk the eggs while you take care of other things. You can sift the flour, for example. That might seem old school, but an angel food cake requires it. Even pre-sifted flour must get sifted before you use it in this type of cake.
Also, using the cream of tartar and lemon juice as you beat the egg whites will help them be more stable and less likely to collapse when you add the additional ingredients. And when you do add the rest of the ingredients, be sure that you gently fold them into the egg white fluff using a rubber spatula. Be gentle to keep as much volume as possible in the egg whites.
Mixing Baking the Angel Food Cake
Assemble your mixing bowls, mixer, spatula, measuring spoons, measuring cup, and ingredients. This represents the full ingredient list.
- One dozen eggs
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven or convection oven to 350 degrees.
- Separate the eggs, as directed above. Set aside the yolks. Pour the egg whites into a measuring cup. A dozen eggs should produce about 1 ½ cups of egg white.
- Sift the flour with ¾ of a cup of sugar and the salt. Repeat that process two more times.
- Pour the egg whites into the mixer bowl of the stand mixer, then add in the cream of tartar, lemon juice, vanilla, and water.
- Mix the egg whites with the wet ingredients on medium-high speed. When the egg whites appear about five times as large as when you began, you are done.
- Add the remaining sugar to the mix one tablespoon at a time. Mix it in for 30 seconds, then add another tablespoon. Mix for 30 seconds. Follow this procedure until you have completely mixed in all of the sugar.
- Remove the mixing bowl from the mixer. Sprinkle ¼ cup of the flour mixture on top of the egg white mixture.
- Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the dry ingredients. Repeat the slow-motion mixing until all of the flour is well blended into the egg mix.
- Spread the batter evenly into the tube pan.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes on the center oven rack.
- Remove the cake from the oven and turn it upside down to cool.
- Wait for about one and a half hours, then turn the cake upright. Use a butter knife to gently loosen the edges of the cake from the pan.
- Flip the cake out onto a cooling rack gently. Let it cool one more hour before slicing.
Pair the Cake with Toppings
This light cake pairs well with many berries and summer fruits. Fruit cocktail or compote on top also makes a tasty treat. It also makes a popular choice for fondue dipping and tastes great topped with jams, jellies, chocolate, or caramel.
You might notice that the angel food cake resembles a shortcake. It is essentially the same recipe, so if you have shortcake cups or want to make muffin sized mini-cakes, you can use a muffin pan.