Angel food cake is a type of sponge cake originating in the United States that first became popular in the late 19th century. It is so named because of its airy lightness that was said to be the “food of the angels”.
Angel food cake requires egg whites (a lot!!! 10 or 12) whipped until they are stiff; cream of tartar (or weinstone) is added to the mixture to stabilize the egg whites. Remaining ingredients are gently folded into the egg white mixture. For this method of leavening to work well, it is useful to have flour that has been made of softer wheat; cake flour is generally used because of its light texture. The softer wheat and the lack of fat cause angel food cake to have a very light texture and taste.
Angel food cake should be cut with a serrated knife, as a straight-edged blade tends to compress the cake rather than slice it. Forks, electric serrated knives, special tined cutters or a strong thread should be used instead.
Angel food cake is usually baked in a tube pan, a tall, round pan with a tube up the center that leaves a hole in the middle of the cake. A bundt pan may also be used, but the fluted sides can make releasing the cake more difficult. The center tube allows the cake batter to rise higher by ‘clinging’ to all sides of the pan. The angel food cake pan should not be greased, unlike pans used to prepare other cakes this allows the cake to have a surface upon which to crawl up helping it to rise. After baking, the cake pan is inverted while cooling to prevent the cake from falling in on itself. Angel food cake is sometimes frosted but more often has some sort of sauce, such as a sweet fruit sauce, drizzled over it. A simple glaze is also popular. Recently, many chefs (Alton Brown in particular) have popularized the idea of adding aromatic spices such as mace and cloves to the cake.
Angel food cake is a white sponge cake made with only stiffly beaten egg whites (yolks would make it yellow and inhibit the stiffening of the whites) and no butter. The first recipe in a cookbook for a white sponge cake is in Lettice Bryan’s The Kentucky Housewife of 1839. Since there is no butter in the cake, the angel food cake is not related to the butter cakes: snow-drift cake, silver cake or lady cake.
Ingredients: 1 cup cake flour, 3⁄4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 12 large egg whites, MUST be room temperature1 1⁄2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, 3⁄4 cup sugar, 1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla, 1⁄2 teaspoon almond extract
Note: For those not use to making angel food cakes don’t get any yolk in the whites, if you do throw out and start over. I always separate the egg in a glass first. Then if no yoke pour into measuring container. DO NOT GREASE PAN.
- Heat oven to 375°.
- Sift the cake flour and 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar; set aside.
- Combine the extracts in a small bowl; set aside.
- Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until it forms peaks.
- Add the other 3/4 cup of sugar slowly, then beat on high until stiff peaks form.
- If you have a mixing guard for your mixer bowl now would be a good time to attach it.
- Beating on LOW, add flour mixture and extracts slowly.
- Make sure you fold in the sides and bottom of your mixing bowl.
- (You can fold in flour mixture by hand but this way is faster.) Spoon into an angel food cake pan.
- Move a knife through batter to remove air pockets.
- Bake 30-35 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly with finger.
- Invert pan onto a tin funnel to cool completely.
- To remove the cake from the pan run a knife around the rim of the cake pan just to get the ‘crust’ away from the pan.
- Then firmly spank the sides of your pan.
- You could use a knife but this sometime tears the sides of the cake.
- Invert onto your serve plate then take the knife to the now top which was the bottom of your pan and gently cut cake away from the pan insert.
- No need to cut around the center tube as you just give the cake a gently but firm tap or downward shake on to the plate.
- Or you can pick up plate while holding onto the pan insert with your thumbs and firmly strike the bottom of the plate onto a folded towel. (Just give it a slam down on the towel/table).