It has awkwardly occurred to me that many of my Recipe posts start with the reason why I don’t like the key ingredient. It might be that, deep down, I do relish the challenge of making something I will enjoy with a main ingredient I don’t particularly care for.
As far as Angel Food Cake goes, the reason why it and I have a controversial relationship is that I failed more than once to achieve the feathery consistency this cake is known for. One particular Sunday afternoon, a few years ago, I had to make the damn thing three times before achieving what I considered a worthy Angel Food deserving of being served, with berries and cream. Since then, I have gone through a wide range of recipes before settling on the one hereunder, which comes from our kitchen archives.
Angel Food Cake was a request I received from a dear friend who tasted it somewhere in Italy not long ago . I wonder how she found it, as it is a quintessential American cake, that became popular at the end of the 19th century.
Anna and I met at work, in Milan, let’s just say some time in the mid ’90’s. We share a passion for books, especially English literature, and exotic travels. And food – she is an excellent cook and a courageous woman. So, babe, this is for you.
The cake by itself is rather plain (although dunk in coffee or tea it meets a respectable end) and it’s traditionally served with berries, whipped cream or a fruit compote of some sorts. As berries are unavailable in our hemisphere this time of the year, I would recommend serving it with marmalade or lemon curd.
A few pointers – there are no leavening agents in this cake. Its airy texture is achieved by folding, VERY GENTLY, whipped egg whites into a soft flour. Typically, it is baked in a so-called “angel food cake” pan, that has tiny legs to better invert the cake and allow some space for a gentle release. It’s important to invert the cake once it comes out of the oven, to prevent it falling on itself.
1 C (140 g Cake flour, sifted (or 00 flour)
1 1/4 C (250 g) Sugar
12 Egg Whites
1 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 teaspoon Salt
- Sift flour and 1/2 C sugar. Set aside
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, using the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites for about a minute. Add cream of tartar, vanilla extract and salt and whip until soft peak form. With the mixer running on low/medium, start adding the remaining sugar in an even stream.
- Increase the speed to medium/high and whip until firm (but not stiff and dry) peaks form.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and sprinkle some of the flour mixture over the egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine with wide strokes. Add the remaining flour in a couple of additions and fold gently.
- Pour the batter in an angel food cake pan and gently tap it on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Immediately bake at 325F (160) for about 45 minutes or until a skewer in the center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and invert the pan on its legs (if not using an angel food cake pan, invert your pan on a rack and rise it with a couple of inverted bowls or cans)
- Let cool a minimum of 1 hour. Run a knife around the edge and the tube of the pan and invert cake on a platter. If it sticks to the bottom, gently use a knife to “unglue” it. Cover any patches with powder sugar, frosting or whipped cream (all of them, a pastry chef’s best friends…)