Angel Food Cake – a classic light and fluffy angel food cake with a hint of citrus flavoring and fresh whipped cream topping.
Angel Food Cake
You know I love my tall, decadent, layered cakes, but every once in a while it’s fun to switch things up and make an old classic. I’ve always loved angel food cake, but have never made my own! It wasn’t until I was browsing through my vintage cookbooks and saw angel food cake in every single vintage book I had, that I decided it was high-time I tackle this light and fluffy classic cake.
Angel food cake gets its well-known height and texture from a combination of egg whites, cake flour and sugar. We also use cream of tartar as a whipping agent that helps stabilize our egg whites. The biggest difference between angel food cake and a traditional cake is that there’s no fat in an angel food cake. No egg yolks. No butter. Not buttermilk. No oil.
What You Need to Know About Angel Food Cake
As you might have seen on my Instagram account, making this cake wasn’t quite as easy as I expected. It wasn’t because this is a hard cake to make. In fact, there’s only a few ingredients and there’s no decorating. Seems simple enough, right? Well, the trouble came because I didn’t know everything there is to know about making an angel food cake. Once I learned all of the do’s and don’ts, this cake was pretty basic.
So, to make things as simple and as fool-proof as possible for you, here’s everything you need to know about angel food cake:
- Room temperature egg whites – just like we do with my regular cakes, we want room temperature egg whites for this cake too.
- Higher oven temperature – I tested the cake a few times at a lower temperature (325 degrees F) and simply couldn’t get the cake to stick to the sides of my pan (even when I didn’t spray the pan). Using a higher temperature (375 degrees F) helps the cake to cook a little more quickly on the sides, which in turn helps the batter to stick to the sides so it doesn’t fall out when you flip it over for cooling later.
- Whip egg whites to soft peaks – this is different from stiff peaks that you may be used to seeing in recipes for meringues. We want soft peaks to ensure the right texture in the cake as it bakes. If you beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, your angel food cake will have a gummier texture. For reference, the picture below shows you how the egg white mixture folds over on the top of the whisk. As you run your whisk through the egg whites and pull it out, the peaks should gently fall over. This is soft peaks.
- Use cream of tartar – cream of tartar is an acid and stabilizes the egg whites. Without cream of tartar, your cake will collapse. Other acidic ingredients aren’t quite as strong, so I wouldn’t recommend substituting cream of tartar with anything.
- Sift some of the sugar and flour several times – four to be exact. This ensures you don’t have any clumps and that the consistency of your batter will be light and smooth.
- Gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites – to do this, you’ll actually add the dry ingredients in four separate additions, sifting each addition one more time as you add it in. My vintage cookbooks recommend using 10 strokes as you fold each time. I think they wanted to be super precise so bakers didn’t risk over-mixing and losing the fluffy texture of the whites.
- DO NOT spray your pan with nonstick spray, line the bottom with parchment or use a nonstick pan – we want the cake to stick to the sides and bottom of the pan so that while it cools, it holds its shape.
- Run a knife through the batter – once you’ve poured the cake batter into the tube pan and gently leveled the top with your spatula, use a kitchen knife and swirl it through the batter once or twice to remove any big air pockets.
- Bake the angel food cake until it’s a dark golden brown on top – I noticed that during my trial rounds, one of the reasons my cake wasn’t sticking to the pans and would sink was because I didn’t cook the cake long enough. In my fifth attempt, I bumped my temperature up to 375 for most of the bake time, and then, as the cake started to brown more and more on top, I reduced the temperature (without removing the cake or opening the oven door) to 350 for the remaining 10 minutes.
- Cool the cake upside down – your tube pan should have “feet” and/or a center tube that is taller than the sides of the pan. This is to allow the cake to have some room from the counter surface to cool. We want to cool the cake upside down so that the weight of the cake doesn’t fall in on itself. Cooling the cake upside down ensures that it holds its shape and air circulates underneath it.
- Once the cake is cooled, cut it out of the pan – using a sharp knife, gently run the knife around the edges of the cake and the center tube. Flip the cake over onto your cake stand and pat the top a few times to release the top of the cake.
Once I nailed all these tips and tricks, the final product took my breath away! Look how tall the cake rose and how light and fluffy those crumbs are.
I made a simple homemade whipped cream and served each slice with fresh peaches.
I’m so excited for you to try this cake. I think you’ll the hint of citrus I added to the batter. If you don’t want the lemon and orange extract, you can certainly replace them with vanilla extract.