Subtly lemony, with a drizzle of lemon icing on top, these angel food cupcakes have just the right balance of flavor and lightness to make them sweetly satisfying without weighing you down, as a heavier dessert might do. And, as an added bonus, they’ll put a smile on your face if you can track down some cute cupcake wrappers to use when you bake them (note the little cow print).
The cupcakes are essentially made with a half-batch of angel food cake batter and spiked with lemon zest. Like the full-sized cake, they are leavened with beaten egg whites and develop the same moist, light texture, but there are some differences between this and traditional angel food cake. For one thing, the size and shape of the pan is different. The larger cake is prone to collapse if the cake is not turned upside down to cool, but the cupcakes don’t have that problem and do not need to be turned upside down. Additionally, since they are baked in wrappers and don’t cling to the sides of a pan as the large cake does, they shrink slightly when they cool as some of the larger air bubbles in the batter deflate a bit. The best thing about them (aside from their taste!) is that they bake up much quicker than any full-sized angel food cake.
I wouldn’t frost these with anything more than a light drizzle of confectioners’ sugar icing. You don’t typically frost angel food cakes with anything more than that. For my batch, I just mixed the sugar with lemon juice to a pourable consistency and drizzled it off the tines of a fork to decorate. The other serving option is to put these cupcakes out with a bowl of lightly sweetened whipped cream and a plate of berries and invite people to make their own individual shortcakes with them.
Lemon Angel Food Cupcakes
3/4 cup superfine sugar, divided
1/2 cup sifted cake flour
5 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of one lemon
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a small bowl, sift together cake flour and 1/4 cup superfine sugar.
In a large bowl, beat room-temperature egg whites until foamy, then add in cream of tartar and salt. Gradually add in the remaining 1/2 cup of superfine sugar while the mixer is on high speed, beating the egg whites to soft peaks. Mix in vanilla and lemon zest. Fold flour mixture into beaten egg whites, adding it in two or three additions.
Divide evenly into prepared muffin tins. The tins should be quite full.
Bake for 16-18 minutes, until golden brown. The tops will spring back when lightly touched.
Cool on a wire rack. Cupcakes may sink slightly, but there is not a great difference between cooling them upside down and not with these small cakes.
Makes 12 cupcakes.