While we aren’t quite at peak egg production with 26 eggs a day from 30 hens, peak egg season is right around the corner. With that in mind, and armed with the two dozen eggs I collected from the ladies, I set out to test angel food cake recipes.
So few people make these cakes anymore and I simply do not understand it. If you have chickens there is no reason to buy an inferior, preservative filled cake at the store when they are so simple to make at home. They call for just a few ingredients (cake flour, sugar, eggs, salt, cream of tartar, vanilla) and very little prep. A good angel food is light and airy and divine, and fewer more perfect vehicles can be found for good whipped cream and berries. Because they are mostly air and egg whites, they are as diet friendly as a cake gets.
In all honesty, the hardest part of making an angel food cake is finding a decent pan. Or it would be if they weren’t cluttering the shelves of local thrift stores across the nation. I picked mine up for just 75 cents!
Look for a pan with the following characteristics:
- An uncoated pan. Non-stick surfaces will prevent the egg whites from climbing the sides of the pan as the cake bakes, leading to a denser, less airy cake
- A removable bottom. Don’t be too fussed if the two pieces don’t look like they fit together well enough to contain a typical cake batter – angel food batter isn’t runny at all.
- Inverted cooling feet. The best pans have 3 or 4 legs spaced around the rim of the pan, designed to allow you to easily turn the cake upside down for cooling (we’ll get to the why later)
- 4” – 6” in depth. The pan you select should be no shallower than 4”, but personally I think that bigger is better.
Once you’ve found a decent pan you are nearly there! The following recipe is my favorite for a good, old-fashioned, angel food cake, so happy baking!
- 12 large egg whites (approximately 1 ½ cups) at room temp
- 1 cup sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)
- 1 ¼ cups caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla (you may substitute almond extract if you prefer)
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ teaspoon salt
Sift together flour and ¼ cup sugar in a medium bowl. Tip egg whites into a very clean electric stand mixer bowl with the whisk attachment fitted. Whisk on medium until egg whites are frothy. Add vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt and whisk on medium high soft peaks begin to form.
With the mixer still running, spoon in the remaining 1 cup of sugar a tablespoon at a time. Continue to whisk until stiff, glossy (but not dry) peaks form.
Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add the sifted flour mixture to the bowl. Using a spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the egg whites until thoroughly incorporated. Do not over mix, and be careful to keep as much air in the egg whites as possible while still mixing thoroughly.
Once mixed, pour batter into the ungreased tube pan. It is very important that the pan be ungreased so that the batter will climb the side of the pan. Drag a knife through the batter to eliminate large air bubbles and smooth the top of the batter with the spatula.
Bake the cake at 325 degrees in the lower third of the oven until it is golden and a tester comes out clean, approximately 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool inverted. If the pan has legs just flip it over on a cooling rack. If it does not, invert the pan on a beer or soda bottle.
The cake may fall out of the pan once cool, or you may need to remove the bottom from the outer ring and gently convince the cake off. Serve with lemon curd, fresh berries, vanilla whipped cream… anything you like! Cut slices of cake or tear into bite sized pieces to make a fool.
Traditionally, angel food cakes were torn using special angel food forks. Modern serrated knives work nicely for slicing.