I’ll admit it, after reading the ingredient list and the instructions for how to make an angel food cake, I wondered, “Why would anyone want to go through with this?” Making angel food cake sounds about as intense as performing open-heart surgery. Okay, maybe not that intense, but involved. I mean, all those eggs, all of that whipping and sifting, and cream of tartar, what’s that for? And I have to cool it upside-down? Oh my! It might as well be called “too-scary-to-make-cake.”
While it may seem daunting, creating an angel food cake is simply an exercise in patience and practice. The reward for all that patience and practice is that a homemade angel food cake is far superior to any store-bought knockoff. The texture and flavor far exceed any boxed variety and because it’s homemade, it’s free from dyes, stabilizers or other additives.
Made with egg whites, this cake is naturally fat-free and while it does have sugar, it’s lower in calories than most other cakes. Paired with fresh summer berries, this is one dessert that most registered dietitian nutritionists agree fits into any healthy diet.
Food Safety Note: When working with eggs, it’s imperative to keep utensils and surfaces clean. Be sure to separate your eggs using separate bowls and clean up your workspace with hot, soapy water when you’re done. Also, be sure to wash your hands after working with raw eggs to prevent the transfer of any unpleasant foodborne pathogens like salmonella.
Tips for Success:
1) Eggs are easiest to separate when cold. Do this task first and then allow them to get to room temperature while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
2) Keep food safety in mind! Egg whites only require 30 minutes to get to room temperature. Set a timer to remind yourself. (And don’t let them sit out for over two hours.)
3) Sifting the flour seems like a silly task, but it’s completely necessary. It aerates the flour, which helps keep this angel food cake light!
4) Measure the flour by using a spoon to scoop and drop into a measuring cup. Scooping directly with a measuring cup will yield more flour than you need.
5) Cream of tartar and salt act as stabilizers for the egg whites. Using them makes the task of whipping them to perfection easier.
6) Make sure your mixing bowl is clean! Any amount of fat will disrupt the egg whites’ ability to be whipped properly. Stainless steel, aluminum, glass or copper bowls work well. Avoid plastic as it has a tendency to hold onto fat residue.
Citrus Angel Food Cake with Fresh Strawberries
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons), wash lemon first
- Zest of 1 lime (about 1 ½ teaspoons), wash lime first
- 1 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ quart fresh strawberries, stems removed, washed and sliced
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place rack in the middle of oven.
- In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of the sugar with all of zest.
- Sift together the flour and the remaining ½ cup sugar onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper.
- Using the whisk attachment of a stand or hand-held mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add the lemon juice, vanilla, cream of tartar and salt and continue beating on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2-2 ½ minutes.
- With the mixer running, gradually add the sugar-zest mixture to the whipped egg whites. Increase speed to medium-high and whisk until firm, thick, shiny peaks form, another 2-3 minutes. Don’t over-beat the egg whites, they should be firm, not stiff.
- Sift ¼ of the flour mixture over the egg whites. Gently fold flour into the egg whites using a rubber spatula. Continue folding in the flour mixture, in ¼ increments until all flour is incorporated.
- Gently pour the batter into an ungreased, 10-inch angel food cake pan. Run a thin knife or metal spatula through the top of the batter to release any air bubbles.
- Bake 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden and slightly cracked. The cake is done when it springs back when lightly touched.
- Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan onto a heavy bottle (such as a glass soda bottle). Let rest suspended for 1-1 ½ hours, or until cake is completely cooled. If pan has feet, you can rest the cake on those feet on a cooling rack for the same amount of time.
- Once cooled, run a long, thin metal spatula or knife around the sides of the pan to loosen, then remove the cake from the pan. Gently run the knife along the bottom and core and carefully remove the cake. Slice into pieces and serve topped with fresh berries.