Angel food cakes have long been a part of my family's history. The Angel Cake, as it is also referred to, was pretty much always front and center for every birthday celebration and continues to be added as a nice light dessert either plain or fancied up. I continue with the tradition of baking Angel Food Cakes and putting them in the freezer for that special occasion one is needed. As an added benefit, it also helps to use up cracked eggs. In this blog I will walk you through the process of baking an Angel Food Cake from scratch to enjoy.
What is an Angel Food Cake
Angel Food Cake AKA Angel Cake is a light airy cake that is similar to a sponge cake. It gets it's light fluffy texture from the whipping of egg whites and contains no butter or fats. With its limited use of flour and sugar, it is the perfect dessert for those being mindful of their fat, calorie and/or carb intake.
The history of the Angel Food Cake
Although the Angel Food Cake has been front and center at all the major milestones in my family's history, I wondered what the actual history of the Angel Food Cake AKA Angel Cake was. So I went to Google to find out. The results were quite interesting.
The Home Messenger Book of Tested Recipes, 2d ed., 1878, by Isabella Stewart contained the first recipe for Angel's Food Cake. Stewart's detailed recipe called for eleven egg whites, sugar, flour, vanilla extract and cream of tartar. - Sourced from Wikipedia "Angel Food Cake"
Angel food cake was first developed in the 1880s in St. Louis, Missouri. The first detailed recipe of this cake was published in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book in 1884. By the 1930s, the angel food cake recipe was firmly established. - Sourced from Bakerpedia.com "Angel Food Cake"
Some historians think that the first angel food cakes were probably baked by African-American slaves from the South because making this cake required a strong beating arm and lots of labor to whip the air into the whites. Angel food cakes are also a traditional African-American favorite for post-funeral feasting. - Sourced from What's Cooking America "Angel Food Cake History"
Because egg whites beaten until a pillowy stiff cloud is the main leavener of this cake (no chemical baking powder or baking soda is used to give this cake its rise) and the amount of flour is comparatively little to that of the eggs, the texture that is produced is so light and airy, it might have been "angel's food". - Sourced from Yummy.ph "Do You Know How The Devil's Food Cake Got Its Name?"
How to make an Angel Food Cake
Gather the supplies
- Eggs, but more specifically egg whites - the main ingredient to this cake. Farm fresh eggs work very well but store bought eggs will work as well. You will need about a dozen depending on the size of the egg. As I explored in my earlier blog, What to do with cracked eggs, I use cracked eggs for baking rather than my saleable eggs. Although fresh eggs will give more rise to the Angel Food Cake, the eggs I am using are 13 days old and therefore, I am not expecting much rise. But that's okay because I need to use these eggs up. Allow the eggs to warm to room temperature as warm eggs will separate easier and will rise better.
- Cake flour - this is a low protein flour that yields a softer cake. All purpose flour will yield an Angel Food Cake that more resembles bread, so it's use is not recommended. However, if you are in a pinch, Sallysbakingaddition.com will walk you through how to make your own Cake Flour Substitute. I have not used it yet, but it is an option.
- Cream of Tartar - an acid that helps stabilize the egg whites. Lemon Juice can be used as a substitute for Cream of Tartar as identified in The 6 Best Substitutes for Cream of Tartar but may impart a flavor to the Angel Food Cake.
- Almond Extract
- Granulated sugar
- Liquid measuring cup
- Measuring cup for dry ingredients
- Measuring spoons
- Electric mixer or a hand whisk
- Flour sifter
- Angel Food Cake pan
Making the Angel Food Cake
- Preheat oven to 325 F (163 C).
- Measure out 1 1/2 cups of cake flour and put in the flour sifter. To the flour add 1/4 cup granulated sugar. I use a flour sifter that was my Grandmother's so it holds special meaning each time I use it. To think how many cakes were made with this sifter. Sift into a bowl. Return flour and sugar mixture to flour sifter. Sift. Repeat process twice more, for a total of 4 times, ending with the flour in the bowl. Set aside.
- Decide what I will do with the separated off egg yolks. As I want just the whites for this cake, deciding what I will be going to do with the yolks before separating the eggs will allow me to save them in containers necessary for the recipe. Things like prize yolk cookies, lemon curd, 12 egg yolk pound cake, scrambled eggs or egg noodles are all great ways to use up the yolks. I will be saving 6 yolks per container.
- Separate off the whites. There are a number of ways to separate eggs but I always use a soup bowl to capture the white from each egg prior to pouring into the measuring cup of egg whites. As any amount of egg yolk in the egg white will prevent the egg white from whipping up properly, doing this over a soup bowl rather than the main egg whites will make sure this does not happen. To separate the egg, either use an egg separator or rock the yolk back and forth between the two halves of the egg shell or, as happened to me with one egg, sometimes just putting the whole egg in your hand for the egg white to strain through your fingers is necessary.
- Continue separating eggs until you have 1 7/8 cups of egg white and the egg yolks separated into the bowls for use in the next recipe. Cover and refrigerate your egg yolks.
- Pour the 1 7/8 cup of egg whites into a mixing bowl.
- Clean up work area. Be sure to save your egg shells for drying and applying to the garden for a good way to add calcium and other minerals to the garden plants. Although air drying will work, I keep a pan in the oven at all times. When it is full I crunch them down and save for later use.
- To the egg whites, add 3/8 teaspoon salt.
- Beat the egg whites until foamy.
- To the foamy egg whites, add 1 7/8 teaspoons of Cream of Tartar.
- After adding the Cream of Tartar to the foamy egg whites, continue to beat until peaks form. Don't over beat as the egg whites will be too dry.
- Another way to tell if the egg whites are beat enough is too hold the bowl upside down. But when you start to tip the bowl, if the egg whites move in the bowl at all, continue to beat. When the egg white are beat sufficiently, the egg whites will remain in the bowl.
- To the beaten egg whites, add the remaining 2 cups of sugar into the sifter and sift 1-2 tablespoons into the egg white mixture at a time. Beat after each addition.
- Once all the granulated sugar has been added, you are done with the electric mixer. Using a spatula, gently fold in 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla and 3/8 teaspoon of Almond Extract. I make my own Vanilla extract following this recipe on Homemade Vanilla Extract.
- After I have gently folded in the extracts, I can now start adding the flour I had sifted earlier 4 times. Add the flour to the sifter and sift about 1/4 cup of flour directly over the egg whites.
- Once all the flour has been gently folded into the egg white mixture, it is time to put it into the Angel Food Cake Pan. Do not grease the pan.
- Once the batter is put into the pan, run a knife through the batter to remove any air bubbles
- Put the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour or until inserted knife comes out clean. Although during the baking of the cake it has fallen a wee bit in the middle due to being bumped or I did not get all the air out, the knife comes out clean.
- Remove the Angel Food Cake from the oven and turn upside down to cool for an hour. Some Angel Food Cake pans have legs on them to accomplish this, but as mine does not, I invert it on an empty glass extract bottle I have saved for just this purpose. Inverting the cake to cool is necessary to prevent the weight of the cake from falling in on itself.
- After the cake is cooled it is time to remove it from the pan by first running a knife along the outside edge of the pan.
- Run the knife around the center tube.
- Invert the Angel Food Cake onto a plate and remove outside ring of Angel Food cake pan. Out of habit and because I freeze Angel Food Cakes, I use a piece of wax paper as a barrier between the plate and the Angel Cake so that I can remove the Angel Food Cake easily after it is frozen prior to bagging. Remove the tube by running a knife between the cake and the pan.
- With this final step, the Angel Food Cake AKA Angel Cake can be completely cooled before icing for that special occasion, serving it with your favorite topping or throwing it in the freezer.
Serving the Angel Food Cake
As I mentioned earlier, I like to have a number of Angel Food Cakes AKA Angel Cakes in the freezer to pull out for that special memory making occasion of just for me to enjoy. Although not necessary, I also find that having it frozen helps to hold the crumbs onto the cake so that you are not fighting with crumbs in your icing. But whether you decorate it up or serve it plain with some fresh fruit and whipped cream or with a scoop or two of ice cream, it is sure to please. I decided to ice this Angel Cake with some Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting and top with fresh strawberries from the garden.
Being there is only 58.7 grams of carbohydrates, 32.9 grams of water, 6 grams of protein and 0.3 grams of fat per 100 grams of non iced Angel Food Cake, according to Bakerpedia.com, I am going to enjoy a slice with my coffee. The whipped cream frosting might tip the fat scales a bit, but the fruit will compensate. Okay fair enough, it is my justification for having a slice for brunch, maybe one for afternoon coffee and one for supper. But regardless, I will enjoy it.
Variations and uses
There are a number of variations and uses to this basic Angel Food Cake AKA Angel Cake.
- Sprinkles can be added to the batter to make a rainbow Angel Food Cake. Just be sure not to add too many as you don't want to take all the air out of the cake.
- Substituting 1/4 cup of cocoa powder for equal amounts of flour will make a nice Chocolate Angel Cake.
- Using individual Angel Food Cake pans you can make Mini Angel Food Cakes
- Angel Food Cupcakes would be a nice treat
I hope you will make your own memories with this light, delicious Angel Food Cake. If you would like a free download of the MBHL Angel Food Cake recipe, click here. Metric conversions are included in the free download.
If you enjoy this content, please consider joining the My Boreal Homestead Life community. By supplying your email address at the bottom of the page and hitting "sign up" or by clicking Join, you will ensure you get an email notification when I post new blogs to the My Boreal Homestead Life site.