Perfect Angel Food Cake

Perfect Angel Food Cake

It was pointed out in this article, that when Cooks Illustrated standards diverge from your own, you can end up being a bit disappointed with their recipes. I have found this to be a true assessment on several occasions, though the recipes themselves are excellent. There are some types of food where the likelihood of this happening is very low. Cakes are a good example as I have yet to meet someone who wants a dry, non-tender cake. Flavors can easily be altered, but the foundation of the cake is very important and I have found The Best Recipe to be a great resource.

This angel food cake recipe is a great example of a “best recipe”. It is moist, tender, not overly sweet and ethereally light. I could have eaten the entire thing in one sitting – which was a shock and all the store bought angelfood cakes I’ve had taste like sweet styrofoam and even ones I have made before have not turned out this well, though I do like the individual spiced angel food.

I slightly differed from the recipe by using superfine sugar, also known as castor sugar, instead of granulated because I fine it produces smoother meringues. I also did not use lemon juice/extract in the cake. I used vanilla paste – you can spot the beans in the photo if you look very closely – and almond extract to flavor the cake and served it with orange and lemon curds. Lemon curd is always a nice, tart contrast with angel food cake. The orange curd was made by substituting orange for lemon in the same recipe. It tasted marvelously sweet and smooth, rather like a creamsicle. It paired with this angel food even better than the lemon curd did.

I like to make it the night before and take it out of the pan the next day, so this can be prepared a day in advance. Use a serrated knife to slice it. This cake will be making appearances at my table more than once this summer. I’m already thinking about pairing it with balsamic strawberries.

The Best Angel Food Cake

adapted slightly from The Best Recipe

1 1/2 cups egg whites (10-12 large), room temperature

1 1/2 cups superfine sugar, divided

1 cup sifted cake flour

1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste

1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar and the cake flour. Set aside.

Beat egg whites until frothy, the add cream of tartar and salt. Beat until fully incorporated then begin to add the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar 1-2 tablespoons at a time. When sugar has been added, beat egg whites to soft peaks. You will know when you have soft peaks because the egg whites will look like soft waves and when you lift the beaters, the peaks will droop back down into the batter. If your batter is falling in ribbons, it is not quite down. Don’t be afraid to slow down the mixer and check a few times as you get close. Do not beat all the way to stiff peaks. Once you have soft peaks, add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat for a few seconds to evenly distribute.

Sift the flour/sugar mixture over the egg whites in 6-8 additions (depending on your proficiency with folding flour into egg whites) and gently fold it in after each addition. It is better to take your time and do it gently than to rush and deflate the egg whites.

Spoon batter into an ungreased 9 inch tube pan with a removeable bottom. Smooth the top with a spatula and tap the pan on the counter once or twice to ensure that there are no large bubbles lurking beneath the surface.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly pressed. Mine took 55 minutes.

Remove from oven an invert pan over a bottle. Allow to cool completely or overnight.

Gently run a thin knife around the sides, then around the bottom, of the pan to release the cake when you are ready to serve it.

79 comments

  1. hmmm
    I really need to get some new tins and fix this oven! I think this looks really good!

  2. I am making angel food cake right now.. I am doing the slacker package version… but that cause I never had a good recipie.. until now…

  3. Oh…YUMMY! I’m all over this tomorrow…

  4. Hiya! I love the look of this angle food cake, somehow I got linked to your coconot bread recipe from ’04. I’ve been looking for a good one, that is moist. I used to eat one at a cafe in Seattle and could not get enough of it, what about the addition of nuts? Also have you ever heard of a zuchinni cake? I used to make of from an old recipe and now it’s lost, has zuchinni, cocoa powder… like a chocolate cake but lighter and very, very, moist, it also had a pack of pudding mix in it I think. Oh well, I’ll keep searching.

  5. Oh, I bet that’s really good. My mom used to make angel food cake from time to time and I loved it. I’ve only had the store bought in recent years, which is pretty bad. I’d forgotten how good homemade is… I’ll have to try making some myself. With all the fruits and berries available as accompaniments, this is certainly the perfect time of year.

  6. I LOVE angel food cake, but I cannot, CANNOT consistently make them well. I have such problems with egg whites, despite extensive reading and practice! This photo looks so good, though, that I am going to try again.

  7. The only serious fight I’ve had with Cook’s Illustrated was over their use of lettuce in a Greek salad, but it was a serious blow to my former impression that they were all-knowing.

    Your angel cake looks delicious – I’ve never tried making one before, but I think I want to try your recipe! Where were you, when I had too many egg whites to use up?!

  8. Clare – I think you should get that oven fixed, too. =)

    Templar – Make both and compare the two!

    Jill – Great idea… of course!

    Gia-gina – I’m not a huge fan of nuts in cakes/breads. But having them in brownies are another story. I do like zucchini bread, but I haven’t made it in a while, hence, there isn’t a recipe up here yet.

    Cathy – I think that angel food cake is the perfect backdrop to fresh fruits and berries becuase the flavor is so light and the cake soaks up juices so nicely.

    Amy – I hope my suggestions for whipping the egg whites work for you.

    Dawna – I think it’s a good idea to have a recipe that requires a lot of egg whites and one that requires a lot of yolks on hand. So many things call for only one or the other. If it’s only one or two, I don’t mind throwing them out. But a dozen? What a waste!

  9. The texture! You captured the texture with your last photo….
    I’m a big curd fan and have a good Lime Curd recipe. Might be a yummy pairing with your cake!
    Well done, Nic!

  10. i’ve made this before and i love it too!! it’s fantastic.. i love the best recipe also. most of the time, anyway. ;)

  11. I’ve seen the book “The Best Recipe” here at Chapters and thought about purchasing it, but was’t sure if it was worth the trouble.

    After reading your post I’m seriously considering it.

  12. Melissa – Lime curd would be great with this cake. I’m waiting for the limes on my tree to ripen.

    Emily – I agree.

    Ana – It’s worth getting. It’s a great basics book. I have always enjoyed how they try to explain why they chose particular ingredients and how they decided on the amount to use.

  13. Yum! I made this for a picnic and got rave reviews from everyone. I used lime juice (1 T) in place of the other liquids, and also added some ginger and coriander and sprinkled the tube pan with some coconut flakes before adding the batter. The coconut added a nice finish to the “crust,” and the other flavors were good complements. Thanks for the great recipe. Oh, I also used dehydrated eggwhite and had fine results.

  14. Elise – I’m glad it turned out well. The coconut sounds lovely and I love citrus spiked angel food cakes.

  15. You may have the temperature too high on this recipe–after just 25 minutes at 400 my cake was starting to burn! I hope the inside is done, because i was afraid to keep it going at that temp for 50 minutes.

  16. Karen – You’re right. The temperature is 325F, not 400, though oddly in my backup version of this recipe, I had indeed written 325. I wonder how it got changed!

  17. I have made a couple angel food cakes. They tasted good, but were dense and i was extremely annoyed. I use the liquid egg whites from a carton because it seems more logical to me. They whipped up well, but i seem to lose air when i am folding in the flour (is cake flour necessary). Any extra tips you have would be amazing

  18. Hi Anonymous. Yes, cake flour is necessary because it is substantially lighter than all purpose flour. Also, I would not recommend using bottled egg whites. They will not work in the same way as regular egg whites because they have been pasturised and some, in fact, are not only egg whites, but have other stabilizers added as well. Using bottled egg whites is probably why your cakes hav not turned out as well as you would like.

  19. Hi! I was just exploring the site and found this post. I’ve always wondered how you’re supposed to “invert” the cake pan upside down. No one else seems to have any problem understanding “invert the pan over a bottle” but i’ve never gotten how in the world that is done. Are you supposed to stick the bottle up the middle of the tube pan? arg

  20. Smin – Yes, you are supposed to stick a bottle in the middle of the pan and turn the whole thing upside down. Dont’ worry, the cake will stay in place. The reason you use a bottle is to make sure the cake gets plenty of air circulating underneath it, so you could also place a cooling rack on a large, inverted bowl and use that.

  21. hi! i just made the angelfood cake using your recipe.. am afraid i under-beat the egg whites though. it wasn’t exactly soft peaks as shown in the pics in your banana chiffon cake recipe. does it matter? anyway, my cake sunk a little. is that ok?

  22. I’m so excited to make this! I was going to find a recipie and whip it up tonight for chocolate fondue I am craving (again), but am so glad I found your recipie and will do tomorrow when I get the proper ingredients and time to cool the cake. I’m afraid of baking, and in fact I think I’ve never baked a cake. But I think I can do it with your directions! I was going to do it in a bread dish, but see that I should really do it in the round one you talk about. Thanks!

  23. hi there! thank you for taking the time to provide such good information to those of us who love to bake and read about it, too. the internet is great.

    in the 1st sentence in this recipe/article you have placed a link on the words “this artcile”. the link doesn’t work anymore, but i’m REALLY interested in reading the article. can you provide me with information that might lead me to this article?

    thanks for your time,
    jennifer

  24. Nic, I was wondering if if you can make Angel Food in a normal cake pan? i am really not a fan of the whole tube fan thing.

  25. I had been craving an angel food cake and decided to make this. I had never made one before, and let me tell you, this won’t be the last time! My egg whites didn’t beat as much as I would have liked (I think a little yolk sneaked in) but the cake itself tastes so good. It’s so much better than the store bought or boxed varieties! Thanks :)

  26. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  27. The angel food cake I remember as a kid in Connecticut was served with sliced strawberries, or a strawberry sauce. But only in the summer, of course. This was back when people only ate produce in season!

  28. Beautiful cake photo! I am going to try out this recipe tomorrow and I have a question about adding the extract to the whipped egg whites: On other recipe sites for angel food cake, some reviewers have noted that adding extract to the whipped whites deflates them, and to instead add the extracts to the unbeaten whites and whip them together.
    Do you have any info or opinion on that debate?

  29. I made this cake for my daughter-in-law’s birthday a few days ago. She loves, (I don’t) angel food cake, but it WAS an excellent cake. I only added some lemon juice and rind as per instructions so it didn’t have much ‘flavour’ other than its own. But I made grapefruit curd and a sweet fruit salsa to go with it and all the guests loved it. She’s asked for more of the same cake whenever I get the chance/enough egg whites.

    Thanks Nic!

    Kira – I don’t have a lot of experience with meringue but I read on Shuna’s site that the white protein had to be coaxed into a meringue and I have been following her advice since then without problems.

  30. My four-year-old and I made this cake today, and it is absolutely perfect in every way. It was fun and easy, and the instructions were written clearly. We could not believe how YUMMY this cake is. We did a test run for my daughter’s birthday next week, and I can tell you this will be the cake we make. Thanks so much for such a great recipe!

  31. can you freeze angel food cake? azzilu

  32. I want to take the angel food cake and dip it in hard chocolate. Nice soft inside, hard chocolate outside to oppose the teeth.

    I think my idea rocks, let’s hope the cake does not taste like rocks.

  33. I just made Angel Food Cake for the first time and was surprised at how great it is. Really delicious. I am glad I didn’t have to beat the eggs by hand though.

    I stumbled across this blog while looking for examples for comparison. Definitely bookmarked.

  34. I made these yesterday and they were absolutely delicious! My nieces loved. Thanks for the great recipe.

  35. can chiffon cake be made in a normal cake tin without a hole

  36. What type of bottle fits inside the cone on a tube cake pan? All bottles these days are plastic and they melt. I have beer bottles but the necks aren’t straight and the cake falls over.
    Thanks for the help.

  37. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! JUST MADE PINEAPPLE PASTRY USING THIS CAKE RECIPE..CAME OUT DIVINE

  38. Bruce – have you tried using a wine bottle?

  39. I made the cake several times, tried it twice yesteray, the cake raises above pan, then 5-7 minutes later, starts falling (in the oven) what am I doing wrong?

    Thanx
    Selma

  40. I just cooked my first angel food cake. It was delicious and texture was great. The only thing was that when it came out all the crust came off the side of the cake leaving it white. That is okay I just think it looks better with the crust on the side. I did invert it but maybe not high enough to get lots of air in and around cake. Can anyone tell me what I did wrong? I did not grease the sides of the pan…did put a little spray just on the bottom of the pan. Again, I was very satisfied with the texture.
    HELP!

  41. Nancy – You were right that the sides of the pan should not be greased. If you want to get more of the browned “crust” on the sides of your cake, use a long thin knife or offset spatula and scrape the sides of your pan when removing the cake. Most of the time, with angel food cakes, that browned exterior does remain in the pan, so you just need to be diligent when taking out the cake if you want to keep it on.

  42. Thank you, Nicole….you made me feel better. I didn’t realize that most of the browned exterior usually stays in the pan…stuck to the pan. Can I ask what you use to invert your cakes? I could not find anything to fit that hole and remain stable. Somewhere, today, I read that inverting a large bowl and putting a cooling rack on top of the bowl would work. Do you think?? I am sticking with this until I am satisfied with my finished product. Your help is appreciated.

  43. Could you add sprinkles to the cake batter to make a sprinkles cake?

  44. I’ve been using this recipe for months now. Angel food cake is my dad’s favorite cake so I make it about twice a month. I use to make it from the box but my grandmother made it from scratch so I wanted to learn to make it. It is so moist and delicious, I’ve never tried another recipe.

  45. Not all store purchased angel food cakes are created equal. If you are in the Dayton Ohio area you can find cakes of exceptional quality at Dorothy Lane markets. They come in a variety of flavors. I like the chocolate chip myself but vanilla goes with anything.

  46. WAIT…. You forgot to say when the almond extract and the vanilla are added to the cake.

    I’m glad I read and reread the recipe before starting.

    I am going to assume they go in when the eggs are frothy?

    I will check your source recipe ( :

    best,
    Karen

  47. IGNORE MY LAST COMMENT lol
    THE instructions were there, I just missed them TWICE

    my bad,
    Karen

  48. Thanks for the recipe. Found the recipe after googling ’10 egg whites’ after using the yolks to make ice cream. I’ve made angel food cake before but it always had an eggy taste which wasn’t that appealing. This one is a lot more moist. I haven’t got the appropriate tin so I just used a round cake tin without a hole and had some left over so put it in some cupcake cases… The cupcakes turned out much better as the big round one lost one third of its size by the time I’d coaxed it out of the tin, upside down on a rack. BUT both versions very tasty and will be making this again the next time I need to use up some eggwhites.

  49. Inverting the cake while cooling actually keeps it from loosing it’s head, making for a lighter texture overall. :D a poofy angel food cake is the best.

  50. Hi Nicole- I typically weigh my ingredients and was wondering if I can assume that superfine sugar weighs the same as regular sugar. I couldn’t find much about it online. Thank you!

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