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Homemade Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cake

Updated on October 20, 2017
DixieMockingbird profile image

Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over twenty years, and has cooked on multiple television stations, including Food Network.

Homemade Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cake

Served on its own or with a simple dessert sauce like this strawberry, homemade angel food cake is a glorious winner!
Served on its own or with a simple dessert sauce like this strawberry, homemade angel food cake is a glorious winner!

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!

Ingredients

  • 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 teaspoon 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.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F°.
  2. 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.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, sift together 1/2 cup of the sugar, the flour, and salt and set aside.
  4. Gently fold in flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Transfer batter carefully to an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove cake from the oven and invert pan immediately. Allow cake to cool, upside down and in the pan, completely.
  6. Using a butter knife or small cake spatula, loosen cake from the pan and transfer to a serving plate.
  7. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Egg whites are easiest to whip when they are 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Work carefully when folding in the flour - again the key is not to deflate the egg whites, while fully incorporating the flour.

Measure the Egg Whites

Even when consistently using the same size eggs, by the time you count out numbers, the volume can vary significantly. I like to simply measure - anywhere from 9 to 12 eggs will yield 1 1/4 cups of egg whites. The exact measure here matters.
Even when consistently using the same size eggs, by the time you count out numbers, the volume can vary significantly. I like to simply measure - anywhere from 9 to 12 eggs will yield 1 1/4 cups of egg whites. The exact measure here matters.

Cream of Tartar Helps Egg Whites Inflate

While not strictly necessary (if you're out), cream of tartar is helpful in getting egg whites to rise and form peaks. Since the egg whites are the only leavener in this cake, all the volume you can get is needed.
While not strictly necessary (if you're out), cream of tartar is helpful in getting egg whites to rise and form peaks. Since the egg whites are the only leavener in this cake, all the volume you can get is needed.

Slowly Add Sugar and Vanilla

Once you've gotten volume into the egg whites, it's time to add the sugar - slowly - to make sure you don't deflate them. Too much, too soon and the egg whites could collapse, so work slowly and carefully.
Once you've gotten volume into the egg whites, it's time to add the sugar - slowly - to make sure you don't deflate them. Too much, too soon and the egg whites could collapse, so work slowly and carefully.

Add Vanilla Bean to Egg Whites at Stiff Peak

The rich, dark color of good vanilla bean is striking against the pure white of the beaten egg whites. Use a sharp knife to scrape the seeds away from the pod. Every last one brings flavor!
The rich, dark color of good vanilla bean is striking against the pure white of the beaten egg whites. Use a sharp knife to scrape the seeds away from the pod. Every last one brings flavor!

Fold Flour Mixture in 1/2 Cup at a Time

Folding is a simple technique - you work with an over and under motion and a spatula to incorporate the flour into the beaten egg whites. This helps insure that the volume stays as high as possible.
Folding is a simple technique - you work with an over and under motion and a spatula to incorporate the flour into the beaten egg whites. This helps insure that the volume stays as high as possible.

Use an Ungreased, Regular Tube Pan

Use a plain, ungreased (not a nonstick) tube pan for your angel food cake. The egg whites will cling to the sides and rise in the oven. I love how the vanilla bean stands out against the start white of the batter.
Use a plain, ungreased (not a nonstick) tube pan for your angel food cake. The egg whites will cling to the sides and rise in the oven. I love how the vanilla bean stands out against the start white of the batter.

Bake for Approximately 40 Minutes

Bake until the cake has risen, set completely on top and turned a beautiful golden brown. AT 350F this takes just at 40 minutes, but start checking at 35 minutes in case your oven varies from mine.
Bake until the cake has risen, set completely on top and turned a beautiful golden brown. AT 350F this takes just at 40 minutes, but start checking at 35 minutes in case your oven varies from mine.

Invert Angel Food Cake to Cool Completly

Most tube pans come with little extensions that are for this very purpose - to cool a cake upside down. This helps keep the volume high - it doesn't deflate as it cools. Use gravity to help you out!
Most tube pans come with little extensions that are for this very purpose - to cool a cake upside down. This helps keep the volume high - it doesn't deflate as it cools. Use gravity to help you out!

Separate Cake from the Pan

Once completely cool, use a knife to run around all the edges of the pan. Don't forget to run the knife around the inner tube. Once loose, simply transfer the cake to a serving plate - you're ready to go!
Once completely cool, use a knife to run around all the edges of the pan. Don't forget to run the knife around the inner tube. Once loose, simply transfer the cake to a serving plate - you're ready to go!

Perfect Homemade Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cake

We love this cake plain, but to really go over the top, use fresh fruit or fruit sauce to dress it up. One of our favorites is strawberry sauce - it's absolutely amazing with the real vanilla bean flavor.
We love this cake plain, but to really go over the top, use fresh fruit or fruit sauce to dress it up. One of our favorites is strawberry sauce - it's absolutely amazing with the real vanilla bean flavor.

Homemade Angel Food Cake - Check out the Quick Tutorial!

How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract!

How to Make Vanilla Sugar

How to Make Strawberry Sauce

© 2017 Jan Charles

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    • DixieMockingbird profile image
      Author

      Jan Charles 4 weeks ago from East Tennessee

      Anytime - I use them for all kinds of stuff, from ingredients to kitchen equipment!

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 4 weeks ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Thanks, Jan. I might have to do the same thing.

    • DixieMockingbird profile image
      Author

      Jan Charles 4 weeks ago from East Tennessee

      Hey Rachel - I can't find much of anything here - we live in a very small town. But online shopping is my best friend. I order fresh vanilla beans from Amazon and love the quality!

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 4 weeks ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Jan, I love Angel Food cake. I use it alone and in other dessert recipes. One question. I can never find vanilla beans. Where do you get them in your area?

      Blessings to you.

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 4 weeks ago

      That cake looks so good. I will have to make one soon.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 4 weeks ago from Germany

      This looks delicious. I have not eaten or made Angel Food cake, yet. Thanks for sharing your recipe.