One of our favorite summer cakes is angel food cake, a light, flourless cake made with sugar, cream of tartar, salt, extract (almond, lemon or vanilla). a dozen or so egg whites and a touch of salt. There is no leavening, no cholesterol, no gluten and just 72 calories for a slice equal to 1/12 of the cake.
Angel food cake is typically baked in a tube pan; a bundt pan doesn’t work (don’t try it!). The tube pan should have a removable bottom and “feet”, so you can invert the hot cake pan directly onto the counter to cool.
The tender, snowy white cake is popularly served with berries and whipped cream, although it can be served plain, with other fruits or with a dessert sauce (caramel, chocolate, custard, fruit curd, fresh fruit).
Fluffy, airy cake, berries and whipped cream: It was the summer cake baked by our mother, who whipped heavy cream with an electric beater until she purchased an iSi professional cream whipper with nitrous oxide cartridges. (We still have her 60-year-old whipper. It works great, and the whipped cream is so much more delicious than supermarket aerosols.)
The recipe is below, but first:
Angel food cake is an American creation. Some historians think that the first angel food cakes were baked in the South by African-American slaves, due to the strength required to hand-whip the air into the whites with a whisk (the hand-cranked rotary beater didn’t appear until 1865-1870).
Others theorize that the cake originated in Pennsylvania Dutch country in the early 1800s, based on the quantity of old tube pan-like cake molds in the area. There is a National Angel Food Cake Day, October 10th. Whoever picked October didn’t read the memo on the best summer cakes!
Read the entire recipe and see the tips at the end of this article before preparing the recipe.
For July 4th, instead of the roasted strawberry sauce, make Red, White & Blue Angel Food Cake with fresh berries.
Ingredients For The Angel Food Cake
1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. If you have not tested your oven recently, use an oven thermometer to verify that the temperature has been reached.
2. SIFT together in a large bowl 3/4 cup of the sugar and the sifted cake flour (this is half of the sugar and all of the flour).
3. FIT a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and beat the egg whites in the bowl until foamy, about 2 minutes. Add the cream of tartar, lemon juice, vanilla and almond extracts, balsamic and salt, and continue to beat until soft peaks form, roughly 2-3 minutes.
4. GRADUALLY BEAT in the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until glossy stiff peaks form. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. REMOVE the bowl from the stand and sift the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, over the beaten egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold (do not stir) the flour into the egg whites.
6. DO NOT butter or spray or grease the tube pan. Pour the batter into the ungreased pan and run a metal spatula or knife through the batter to eliminate air pockets. Smooth the top and bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. The cake is done when the cake springs back when gently pressed or there are cracks over the top.
7. INVERT the pan immediately upon removing from the oven and allow the cake to cool for about 1-1/2 hours. If your pan does not have feet, invert on the neck of a full wine bottle. When completely cool…
8. RUN an offset spatula or knife around the sides and center tube of the pan to loosen the cake, then remove the cake from the pan. Next, use the offset spatula (or knife) along the bottom and remove. Set the cake on a serving plate or cake stand.
A slice of angel cake has just 72 calories (without the toppings). Take a look at this coconut angel food cake recipe, and this Cherry Vanilla Heaven with a base of angel food cake cubes.
Preparation For The Roasted Strawberry Sauce
Why roast the strawberries instead of simply slicing them? It creates juice and a very soft texture. Strawberries are not a great baking berry, since they tend to lose their shape and texture. Roasted, their flavor becomes more intense.
Note that you can’t roast the berries in advance. As they sit, some of the color will start to leach from the berries into the juice. So when the cake comes out of the oven, turn up the heat and roast the strawberries.
1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Place the sliced strawberries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle evenly with the maple syrup and sprinkle the cinnamon on top. Roast at 400°F for 10-12 minutes or until the berries are tender and have begun to release their juices.
2. PLACE the strawberry spread into a medium bowl. Scoop the roasted strawberries on top of the spread and mix them together with a fork. If the mixture seems too thick, add up to 1/2 cup warm water, a bit at a time.
3. TO SERVE: Pour some of the sauce (not all) over the cake. Cut the cake using an eight- or ten-inch serrated knife (bread knife) in a sawing motion. Try not to press the cake down as you cut. Place each piece on a plate and drop a dollop of whipped cream on top. Cover with more strawberry sauce.
OPTIONAL: For a smooth strawberry sauce, use a blender or food processor. If you do this, you may not need to add the strawberry spread.