Every so often in a baker’s life, there are going to be moments where the fridge is just swimming in spare egg whites. Of course, you can make industrial quantities of meringue with them, but there’s something even more special that you can make. Angel food cake.
Angel food cake is so wonderful and delicious, its actually worth saving up those egg whites you didn’t use from custards and brioches and storing them in the freezer until you reach the magic quantity, just so you can go forth without egg wasting guilt and make this cloud of a cake.
There are more guilt free moments – angel food cake is completely fat free.
Hah, I say that like its a good thing, and I won’t lie, there’s a fair amount of sugar in there, but if cholesterol rather than diabetes is your problem, here is a cake for you. It’s also high in protein, thanks to all those egg whites, and its a whole lot tastier than an egg white omelette.
But best of all, it lends itself to the simplest of decoration. It doesn’t need icing, just a drizzle of ganache or even a simple sprinkling of icing sugar will do just fine. Add fresh fruit, and you have a heavenly simple dessert.
Yum. This is how angels get their wings. My recipe is from the Betty Crocker Cookbook.
Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cake
Makes a deep 25cm ring cake. You need a large stand mixer to make this cake because the egg whites foam up in a big way. If you’re patient and have a really large mixing bowl, you could use a hand held electric mixer, but be prepared for a bit of a mess!
This recipe is all about sifting and folding – don’t be tempted to short cut the mixing steps!
Angel food cakes are special because they go into a tin that has not been greased or lined. Once baked, the cake is inverted and “hangs” while it cools, to ensure maximum loft!
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 1/2 cup egg whites, room temperature (frozen and thawed is fine)
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground vanilla bean (such as Equagold)
3/4 cup caster sugar
To decorate: icing sugar; chocolate ganache (about 150mL); fresh berries or fruit (about 250g)
Mix the flour and icing sugar together in a bowl, then sift them together three times. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, salt and vanilla bean in a large bowl stand mixer until soft peaks form. Tip in the caster sugar, a little at a time, while the mixer is running and beat until firm glossy peaks form and the sugar is all dissolved (test this by rubbing a little meringue between your fingers, there shouldn’t be any sugar crystals apparent).
Working with about 3 tbsp of the flour mixture at a time, sprinkle over the meringue and then, using a spatula, make cutting and folding movements through the mixture until all the flour mixture has disappeared. Continue until all the flour has been incorporated. Make sure that you scoop all the meringue from the bottom of the bowl during the folding process to make sure your mixture is as homogenous as possible. Adding the flour will collapse the meringue a bit – this is normal!
Spoon the batter into an ungreased, unlined deep ring pan (you can get special angel food cake pans which are beautifully shaped and designed so that the cake can “hang” upside down once they are baked). Run a knife around the batter in a spiral to help remove any air bubbles then smooth the surface of the cake.
Bake the cake at 175 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Remove from the oven and immediately invert the cake so that it “hangs” in the tin. This helps the cake stay lofty as it cools. It’s important to do this step. Let the cake cool completely in the tin. When the cake is cold, run a thin spatula all the way around the outside of the cake and around the inner tube part of the cake. Invert the pan again and give the pan several sharp taps. This is a nerve racking process, but the cake will, after a few shakes, come completely away from the inside of the pan. It’s normal for the pan to have a thin layer of cake crumbs still attached after the cake has come free.
Decorate your angel food cake as desired – I like the rustic fruit look! To get this look, dust the sides of the cake liberally with icing sugar. Place on a serving plate, then drizzle with warm chocolate ganache (I did this by having the ganache in a ziplock bag, then snipping a corner of the bag and piping the ganache out). Top with cut strawberries and chocolate curls, then sprinkle very lightly with more icing sugar.