For me, angel food cake is the cake of summer. Light, soft, and fluffy. With fresh summer fruit. Maybe with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. It was my mothers favorite cake and her (August) birthday cake each year. But the grocery-store versions just don't compare to the homemade variety. Which is why I make it from scratch.
The good news is that angel food cake is quick and easy to prepare once you get the hang of it.
You can go directly to the printable recipe or I'll show you how to make it, step-by-step...
...but angel food cake is really about eggs, specifically egg whites. Lots of them.
At least two pieces of special equipment are required: a 9" tube pan with a removable bottom and a flour sifter. Regarding the pan: I use a more multi-purpose non-stick tube pan. Ideally, you can use a specialized angel food cake pan, which is not non-stick. The reason, in theory, to avoid a non-stick pan is that you want the cake to cling to the pan. This helps support it as it rises during baking. However, I find that the cake sticks quite firmly to my non-stick pan - as you'll see later when I flip the pan upside down to cool. The cake does not budge even after hanging upside down for a couple of hours. To remove it I have to loosen the sides and bottom with a knife (which is just exactly what you want). So let's get started...
Position the oven rack to lower-middle position. Preheat to 325° F.
Start by putting the sifter on a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper.
Goal 1 is to get 1 cup of sifted cake flour (or 3 ounces). Here you want to sift the flour BEFORE measuring. So I put about a cup of flour into the sifter...
...and sift it onto the plastic wrap underneath.
And because I have a kitchen scale, I weight it out - to exactly 3 ounces. If you don't have a kitchen scale, you can gently scoop the flour into a 1-cup measure.
Transfer the measured flour to a medium mixing bowl.
Next, measure out 1 1/2 cups of sifted sugar (or 10 1/2 ounces). Again, this means sifting BEFORE you measure.
Here I've transfered the sifted sugar to the scale to weigh it - it's right on 10 1/2 ounces.
Transfer the measured sugar to a measuring cup (handy to use later to gradually incorporate the sugar into the egg whites).
But, not all of sugar stays in that measuring cup. Transfer 3/4 cup of the sugar to the bowl with the flour...
...and whisk to combine.
Now it's time to separate the egg whites. It's easiest to do this with cold, fresh eggs right out of the fridge. And though I've not personally attempted it, I've read that using those pre-packaged pasteurized egg whites is not a good idea for angel food cake. So, I get organized to separate the eggs by hand (literally)...
...by putting the egg in my hand and letting the egg whites run through my fingers into the cup below. You want a total of 1 3/4 cups of egg whites, which will take about a dozen large eggs. And don't toss those yolks! Stabilize and freeze them per the instructions and use suggestions at GourmetSleuth.
With the egg whites measured out, I get out the mixer and gather 'round my ingredients. Regarding the temperature of the egg whites: I don't bother to bring them to room temperature before whipping them. The folks at Cook's Illustrated compared side-by-side (room temperature vs. out of fridge) and couldn't detect a difference in volume. Interestingly enough many of their recipes still specify room temperature egg whites (recipes perhaps written before they did their research).
Pour the egg whites into the mixer bowl...
...and turn the mixer on low speed to just break up the egg whites a bit.
Add 1 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Increase the mixer speed to medium and whip the egg whites...
With the mixer running, incorporate the sugar about a tablespoon or two at a time...
...and continue beating until the egg whites are smooth, shiny, and form soft peaks.
Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract...
...1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice...
...1/2 teaspoon almond extract...
Sift into the egg whites about 1/4 cup of the flour/sugar mixture...
...and gently fold together. Repeat with remaining flour/sugar mixture until all ingredients are well-combined.
Transfer the cake batter into the UNGREASED tube pan...
...and smooth the top. Give the cake pan a couple of firm raps on the counter to remove any large air bubbles.
Bake in the preheated 325° F oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until cake is golden brown and springs back when pressed firmly near the center.
Immediately flip the pan upside down and cool completely (at least 2 hours). My tube pan's central cylinder is higher, so the pan here is actually elevated above the rack. The other way to do this is to put the pan over the neck of a bottle.
When cool, run a knife along the edge of the cake pan to loosen the sides. Be careful not to remove the golden crust from the cake.
Flip the cake over on a cake plate and remove the bottom (I actually had to cut this cake away from the bottom as well.)
Cut into slices by sawing back and forth with a serrated knife. There are so many serving options with angel food cake. We recently enjoyed it with fresh raspberries a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Strawberries with Balsamic vinegar is another favorite. As Baking Bites suggests, lemon curd provides a wonderful tart contrast to the cake. Enjoy!
Angel Food Cake
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
About 10 Servings.
Required equipment: large 9" tube pan with removable bottom; flour sifter
1 cup sifted cake flour (3 ounces)
1 1/2 cups sifted granulated sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
1 3/4 cups egg whites (requires about 12 large eggs)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position. Preheat oven to 325° F.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and 3/4 cup sugar. Put remaining 3/4 cup sugar in a large measuring cup (or other container that pours easily).
3. Using either a stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until they are just broken up. With the mixer running, add the cream of tartar and salt.
4. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat egg whites until soft and fluffy.
5. With the mixer still running on medium speed, gradually incorporate the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, about a tablespoon at a time. Beat until egg whites are smooth, glossy, and form soft peaks.
6. Remove bowl from mixer. Sift about 1/4 cup of the flour/sugar mixture over the egg whites. Gently fold together using a rubber spatula. Repeat with remaining flour/sugar mixture until all ingredients are well-combined.
7. Transfer the batter to the UNGREASED tube pan, smoothing the top. Give the cake a couple of firm raps on the counter to remove any large air bubbles.
8. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until cake is golden brown and springs back when pressed firmly near the center.
9. Immediate flip the cake upside and elevate by putting the pan over the neck of a bottle (if using a traditional angel food cake pan use the prongs around the side of the pan to elevate). Cool the cake in the pan for at least 2 hours.
10. When cool, run a knife along the edge of the cake pan to loosen the sides. Be careful not to remove the golden crust from the cake.
11. Cut into slices by sawing back and forth with a serrated knife.
I hope you enjoyed this recipe! To view more step-by-step recipes, see the complete recipe index.
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