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Kay's House of Treats: Angel Food Cake

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Angel Food Cake

The idea of an angel food cake has always fascinated me though I have never attempted it due to the large number of egg whites required. It's very easy to finish left-over egg whites, but the amount of cholesterol in egg yolks makes it highly unlikely that I will be making scrambled eggs for breakfast with them.

But the coconut custard cake that I made in the last post required 12 egg yolks leaving me with enough egg whites to experiment. The recipe that I tried was Cook's Illustrated (since it had exactly 12 egg whites) and the cake turned out beautiful. It rose up just right, and while the idea of putting the cake to cool on a bottle sounded absurd, it ensured that the cake did not sink once it was out of the oven. The crumb and texture of the cake was really light, however, the taste itself could be improved since it was bland. The next time I make the cake, I would either add more sugar, or pour sugar syrup or a simple glaze over the cake to add some much needed sweetness.

The Best Angel Food Cake
Recipe taken from: 

The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition by Cook's Illustrated Magazine, John Burgoyne, Carl Tremblay and Daniel J. Van Ackere (Oct 15, 2004)

1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 12 egg whites), at room temperature
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar, divided in 3/4 cup and 3/4 cup
1 cup sifted cake flour (3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp cornflour)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp almond essence (or any other flavouring)
zest of 1 small lemon
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice 

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to325 degrees. Have ready an ungreased large tube pan (9-inch diameter and 16-cup capacity), preferably with a removable bottom. If pan bottom is not removable, you must line it with parchment or waxed paper, but make sure you don't grease or the batter won't be able to climb the sides of the pan and you will have a very flat angel food cake.

Whisk together the flour and half the sugar in a small bowl. Place the remaining sugar in another small bowl near the mixer.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer at medium-low speed until just broken up and beginning to froth. Add cream of tartar and salt and beat at medium speed until whites form very soft, billowy mounds, 2 to 3 minutes.

With the mixer still at medium speed, beat in half the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is added and the whites are shiny and form soft peaks, another 2 to 3 minutes.

Add vanilla extract, lemon juice and almond extract and beat for about 30 seconds at highest speed.

Resift the flour/sugar mixture and spoon it over the egg whites, about 3 tablespoons at a time, folding in gently with a large spatula.

Gently scrape batter into pan, smooth top with spatula, and give the pan a couple of gentle raps on the counter to release any large air bubbles in the batter.

Bake on lower-middle rack at 325 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, until cake is golden brown and top springs back when pressed firmly.

If cake pan has feet, invert pan onto them. If not, invert tube of pan over neck of bottle (or two stacked wire cookie cooling racks) so air can circulate all around it. Allow cake to cool completely for 2 to 3 hours.

To unmold, run a thin serrated knife around the edges, being careful to dislodge as little of the crust as possible. Pull cake out of pan and use the same technique on the bottom, or peel off parchment or waxed paper if using. Place cake, bottom side up, on a platter. Cut slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife. Serves 10 to 12.

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