Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over 20 years. She has cooked on multiple television stations, including the Food Network.
How to Make Angel Food Cake
Angel food cake is one of the first cakes I learned to make—my grandmother loved it. She taught me the tricks to making this lovely vintage recipe come out perfectly every time. I actually used her recipe (the one I'm showing you now) and tips to win a blue ribbon at a county fair about a million years ago.
I've updated my grandmother's original recipe with real vanilla and included vanilla bean for even more flavor. I love the result. It has the same lighter-than-air texture that is unique to angel food cake, but with a gorgeous, vanilla flavor that is unmistakable. I think this one would also take the blue ribbon!
One of the lovely things about angel food is that it is fine all by itself, but it is also the perfect vehicle for any number of sauces. The vanilla bean in this recipe ensures that this cake can easily stand alone. But if you want to really serve something spectacular, use the favorite dessert sauce of your choice. The color of the finished cake makes sure that beautiful dessert sauces, such as raspberry, strawberry, or blackberry, really show off well. It's the perfect palette for fresh fruit too. I'll include a link to a simple strawberry sauce below.
Give this simple recipe a try. It's a hit at our house and will be at yours too!
- 1 1/4 cups egg whites, about 12 large egg whites, room temperature*
- 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided**
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Seeds from one whole vanilla bean
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
*I've discovered that even when using large eggs, the volume of egg whites can vary significantly. It's best to measure to make sure you have the correct amount.
**If you'd like, you can use vanilla sugar for even more intense vanilla goodness.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Measure egg whites into a large mixing bowl. Add cream of tartar and beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form, about 10 minutes. Working 2 tablespoons at a time, beat in 1 cup of the sugar. Add vanilla bean and vanilla extract.
- In a separate mixing bowl, sift together 1/2 cup of the sugar, the flour, and salt and set aside.
- Gently fold in flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Transfer the batter carefully to an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove cake from the oven and invert the pan immediately. Allow cake to cool, upside down and in the pan, completely.
- Using a butter knife or small cake spatula, loosen cake from the pan and transfer to a serving plate.
- While it's great all on its own, use can certainly dress up this beautiful cake with any number of sauces. Chocolate, of course, is always a favorite. But I actually think that fruit sauces are better here. Strawberry is spectacular, especially with the colors. But blackberry or raspberry are also wonderful. Give them all a try!
Tips for Success
Angel food cake has the reputation for being hard to manage, but the tricks come down to just a few.
- Use an ungreased tube pan. Angel food cake doesn't like fat of any kind, and this includes the pan it's baked in. Using fat or a nonstick pan won't let the cake 'grab' the sides of the pan, so it won't rise well in the oven.
- Let the cake cool upside down. This helps it from losing the volume it gained in the oven—gravity is your friend here. Most tube pans come with little extensions designed for just this reason—that's what those little prongs are for. If your pan doesn't have them, use a bottle to keep the cake suspended and upside down while it cools. The air pockets will set as it comes to room temperature.
- Egg whites are easiest to whip when they are at room temperature. Setting out the egg whites while you prep the rest of the ingredients will help when it comes to obtaining the volume you want.
- Add the sugar a little at a time. If you use too much too soon, you'll deflate the egg whites. The egg whites are the key to the texture of this cake, so a little patience at this stage will pay off well.
- Work carefully when folding in the flour—again, the key is not to deflate the egg whites, while fully incorporating the flour.
© 2017 Jan Charles