Heavenly Angel Food Cake

Yum

 For the longest time, I was terribly intimidated by angel food cake.  Store-bought mixes yielded something more like sweet, edible Styrofoam than the effortlessly light confection kissed with a hint of sweetness that I was trying to emulate.
To add insult to injury, angel food cakes can easily “fall,” making your delicious, feathery delight into a nice little brick just right for hurling into the trash with a satisfying “thunk.”  There’s nothing like spending hours preparing a dessert, your mouth watering for it, only to end your day, hungry, in despair and defeat. How could something so angelic be so . . . evil?
So let’s not do the defeat game, anymore.  With a little practice, anyone can make classic Angel Food cake.  And when you unveil this little beauty, smothered in freshly whipped cream and glistening strawberries, don’t be surprised if you feel positively . . . angelic.
What are we waiting for?  Let’s do this!

Heavenly Angel Food Cake:

(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)
1 1/4 cup flour
1 3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cup egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Directions:

Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl.  Whip with whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.  Add in vanilla and almond extracts and whip for 30 seconds, until combined.  Meanwhile, sift together flour and sugar.  When the egg whites are finished, fold in dry, sifted ingredients until combined, but not deflated.  Place batter in a powdered sugar dusted Bundt pan and smooth the top of the batter with a spatula.  Bake at 325 for 50-60 minutes, until cake is golden brown and springs back lightly when touched.  Allow to cool, upside down, before inverting cake onto a plate.
Now, in pictures! 🙂
To begin, get your egg whites and cream of tartar going.  (Going?  Going where?  Are we there yet?  I want snacks!  Waaahhhhh!!!)  Hmm.  You obviously travel much the same way as my kids do.  😉
I’ll show you exactly where we’re going.  Traditionally, angel food cake takes, like . . . 12-14 egg whites.  WHEW.  That leaves a “wholelotta” egg yolks to use up.  Unless you are planning to make Crème Brûlée (as we did, here) for a crowd, or homemade ice cream, or . . . I don’t know . . . custards galore, you’re not going to want that many egg yolks hanging around.   Egg yolks are like unexpected company– nice, at first, but increasingly difficult to manage the longer they hang around. This recipe is nice, because it takes good ‘ole cartoned egg whites.  Yep.  You can buy a box of egg whites and have no leftover yolks.  You can whip up cakes as light as a feather, with no excess waste.  Someone please push the “awesome” button.
Start those egg whites and cream of tartar whipping with your whisk attachment.  This meringue process will take a little while, and I never have any time to waste, so let’s make the most of the time while we are waiting.  Sift your dry ingredients. WHAT???  You mean I have to use that decrepit, antique tool my Grandma used?
Grandmas got old for a reason– they are smart.  Do like Grandma did.  Get a sifter.  You will definitely need one if you make macarons (try the strawberry or mint chocolate ones we made, the other day).  Sifters are also awesome for “dusting” ingredients with powdered sugar in a light, even layer (like those funnel cakes we made).  You can’t go wrong with a nice, old fashioned sifter.
So sift your dry ingredients.  And when you get down to the little squidge of stuff at the bottom that won’t go through the strainer, just pitch the granules.  Those rough pieces will just tear up your delicate meringue, and we can’t have that, now, can we?
When you’re done sifting your flour and sugar, place a few teaspoons of powdered sugar in your sifter and gently dust the Bundt pan with it.  Normally, you could just spray this baby up with cooking spray, but let me say this as simply as I can.
Egg whites + oil of any kind = heartache
That’s right.  Think of egg whites as the single mom, and the oil as the greasy, oily baby daddy who doesn’t pay child support.  They just hate each other.  If they get too close, things are going to get ugly.  You know how you can’t get even a speck of egg yolk into your egg whites, when you are separating eggs?  Same principle– yolks have fat in them, and even a speck will keep your whites from dancing their dance and getting nice and fluffy.  So we are using powdered sugar, instead, to keep the cake from really sticking.
By now, your egg whites should have whipped up to an enormous volume.  WHEW!  Lift your whisk out of the whites– the peak should be firm and not “bend over” when you pull the whisk out of the mixture.  This is called the “stiff peak” stage– and that’s exactly what you want.  Add your vanilla and almond and whip for 30 seconds or so, just until combined.
Immediately take your whites off of the mixer and gently start to fold in your sifted dry ingredients.  (Random, but if I didn’t know any better, I’d think we were talking laundry . . . take your whites off and immediately fold them . . .) “Folding” just means that you aren’t really “stirring,” but more “wrapping” your spatula around and around the ingredients, without squashing them, to keep that foam intact.
This is what your batter should look like, when you have folded in your dry ingredients, correctly.  All the dry stuff will be mixed in (you shouldn’t see any gritty, unmixed parts), but the whites will still be nice and foamy, and not deflated.  It should be nice and shiny, also.
Gently spoon your batter into the prepared Bundt pan.  Smooth the top with your spatula so that all the “foam” is even.  Bake your cake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes, until it is golden brown (not burned looking) and springs back lightly, when you touch it.
When the cake is finished baking, allow it to cool, upside down, on a cooling rack, before sliding a butter knife down the sides, gently, to loosen it, and inverting the cake onto a plate.  Cooling upside down helps the cake to stabilize , in the “foamy” position, without deflating (the dreaded “falling” of the cake.  Oooh . . . it’s bad).
Such a finicky little dessert.  Oh . . . but it is so worth it.

Heavenly Angel Food Cake

Serve this little beauty at a fancy tea honoring Mom for Mother’s Day.  Garnish it with freshly whipped cream and load it up with ruby red strawberries for a show-stopping summer dessert centerpiece.  Cut it into delicate, feathery cubes and layer it with Decadent Chocolate Mousse and vanilla pudding for a gorgeous trifle.  It’s so beautiful.  And those delicious, lightweight slices are low-cal, too.
Sigh.  It’s love.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.

 


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