Angel Food Cake

My first try at making angel food cake was a box mix I found in my aunt’s cupboard and I read the instructions only enough to know what the ingredients were.  I mean that’s all you really need to know for boxed mixes right?  Wrong.  I filled one pan to the brim with my cake mix and set the oven to go.  Within thirty minutes, the house smelled of smoke and the cake looked like a large lava rock.  Now, my aunt and uncle had a dog that ate anything – he ate potato peels!  So I figured I would feed the dog my mistake and no one would be the wiser.  The dog ran off with my masterpiece and I breathed a sigh of relief.  When my uncle got home, he asked why there was charcoal all over the lawn.

I want to share with you an excerpt from the Fannie Farmer cookbook because it is 100% spot on. Air, the cheapest of all ingredients and always available, is essential to the success of these delicate cakes.  It is captured in the batter during the beating of the egg whites…because trapped air easily deflates back into the atmosphere, it is important to move along, to complete the recipe in one smooth operation, without pauses or interruptions, especially after you pass the egg-beating step…collect and prepare all ingredients so they are at hand before you start the batter.

My recipe is an alteration from the Fannie Farmer recipe, I like the addition of lemon zest and the zing of flavour it adds.  I would suggest to use fresh eggs, it seems the older the eggs, the less egg whites they produce.  It takes about one dozen egg whites for this recipe, presuming the eggs are fresh.  I also use a whisk instead of a hand mixer, because I can control the mixing a lot better.  If you overbeat the batter and it falls – your cake will be flat.  I use my hands to work the flour into the batter, you can really get a good feel for it this way without running much of a risk of letting the eggs lose the air they built up.  Also, you really need a cake pan with the funnel middle and it works best if it has prongs so you can invert it after baking.  A sifter is almost a must, though with a colander you can make do.

Ingredients

1 cup flour, packed

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

12 egg whites

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon iodized salt

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

  • Add 3/4 cup of the sugar to the flour into a sifter.  Sift at least three times to make sure they are well blended.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, add egg whites.
  • Hand beat with a whisk rapidly until eggs begin turning white and have a runny texture, with little foam.
  • Add in vanilla, salt and tartar.
  • Continue whisking eggs until it thickens to a whipped cream consistency.
  • Add in remaining 3/4 cup of sugar gradually.
  • Continue beating, working edges and bottom of bowl while tilted, until the whites are stiff, holding shapes of peaks in the bowl.
  • Add one handful of flour mixture to eggs, using your fingers to gingerly fold the flour in.
  • Continue adding the flour in, using your fingers to blend the flour and eggs.  You can use a spatula for this step, just work the mixtures together slowly and thoroughly.
  • Add in the lemon zest, stirring it in lightly with your fingers.
  • I like using an aerosol spray with flour on my pan, using grease or butter makes the cake oily.
  • Slowly scoop the batter into the pan evenly.
  • Use a knife and drag it slowly through the batter in the pan to remove possible pockets.
  • Place into the oven at 375 degrees F.
  • Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.  When you press lightly on the top it should pop back up.
  • Remove from oven.
  • Place a plate over the pan and invert the cake, allowing the prongs to hold the pan up.
  • Allow to cool until the pan is able to be touched.
  • Slide a spatula between the edge of the cake and the wall of the pan, gently loosening it from the pan.
  • Remove the funnel center of the cake pan and repeat with the center.
  • Slide the spatula between the base of the cake and the bottom of the pan and turn out onto serving plate or waxed paper.
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