Monday, June 7, 2010
I decided to bake myself an Angel Food Cake. This wasn’t prompted by health and/or caloric concerns – I genuinely adore angel food cake and prefer it to most frosted and layer cakes.
None of my cookbooks seemed to have a recipe for this fluffy concoction, so I used google to find a recipe. And frankly, there isn’t much variation. Angel Food Cake seems is the rare baked good about the preparation of which something like consensus has been achieved. Some recipes use slightly more or less sugar (I used less), and some use slightly more or less cake flour (again, I used less). The basic setup, however, does not vary from recipe to recipe.
I’d never tried to bake an Angel Food Cake before. Because I like the kind that you get at the store or can make from a box so much, I was hoping that a homemade version would be revolutionary – the ne plus ultra of Angel Food Cake. Doubleplusgood Angel Food Cake.
This is really tasty, but I would be lying if I said it were vastly different from what you’ve gotten from better bakeries (or even better box mixes). Still, there’s something to be said for going through the trouble of doing it yourself. If you’re a bit fuzzy on what differentiates soft peaks from medium peaks in egg whites or cream, or if you feel as if your folding technique could use a little bit of practice, this is the recipe for you. It might be a slight challenge if you don’t bake often, but you should still be able to pull it off.
Do note that it’s very important not to get any yolk mixed in with the whites and to use an ungreased pan. Any fat will cause the egg whites to fall, and then you’d have more of an Angel Food Lump. I used a tube pan with a removable bottom, and I think that helped me get it out of the pan intact, but you’ll see that mine isn’t perfect – there are some gouges and scars from my attempts to force the cake from the pan.
Because there’s no fat, the cake even sticks to nonstick, and there’s nothing to be done about it. Just use patience and care in dislodging the cake from the pan, and you should be able to remove it in one piece.
Angel Food Cake
adapted slightly from Alton Brown
12 large egg whites, room temperature (discard yolks or save for another use, such as crème brulee or pots de crème)
¼ cup warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon almond extract (or use flavorings other than vanilla and almond that you prefer)
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1 ½ cups sugar, ground super-fine in food processor
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift half of the sugar and salt with the cake flour. Set the remaining sugar aside.
In a stand mixer or using a good hand mixer, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and water. Slowly add the reserved sugar, beating continuously, until you have medium peaks. Add extract.
Once the egg whites are at medium peak, sift atop it enough of the flour mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Use a spatula to gently fold it into the egg whites. Continue until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.
Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan.
Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with a toothpick (which should come out dry). It might take 40-45 minutes to bake all the way; mine was done at 35, but my oven runs hot.
Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least an hour before removing from pan.
Printable recipe here.
I recommend serving it with strawberries -- fresh if you can get them, but frozen and made into syrup (just add 2 tablespoons sugar to a bag of frozen berries and heat until bubbling) is also nice.