When I make angel food cake, I usually opt to make a plain cake rather than a flavored one. The standard flavoring for an angel food cake is vanilla, sometimes spiked with a little bit of almond (this is also how a classic white cake is flavored) and it’s a combination I really enjoy. The plain cake is flavorful, moist and tasty both on its own and when paired with fruits, sauces, etc.
But because it is a relatively plain cake, it is easy to come up with flavor variations for it. A little variety is a good thing and so I’ll occasionally make a flavored angel food cake. The easiest ways to change up the flavors are by adding citrus zest or by substituting the vanilla extract in the basic cake for another flavor. This particular cake is a coconut angel food cake and I opted to use fresh, shredded coconut for flavoring instead.
Even though I started with shredded coconut, I pulsed it in my food processor before I began to construct the cake to ensure that it was very, very finely chopped. Angel food cakes should be delicate, with a fine and even texture. I didn’t want strands of coconut interrupting that or – even worse – adversely affecting the rise of the cake in some way. The cake’s lightness comes from beaten egg whites, as well as from the use of low protein cake flour and superfine sugar. The cake flour keeps everything tender and the superfine sugar, since it dissolves more quickly than regular sugar, ensures the cake will not be grainy.
Coconut Angel Food Cake
1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups egg whites (10-12 large), room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided (superfine, if possible)
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 tsp coconut extract (optional)
Preheat oven to 325F.
Whiz coconut in the food processor until very fine. Set aside.
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. Don’t be afraid to slow down the mixer and check a few times as you get close to ensure that you don’t overbeat. Once you have soft peaks, add the vanilla extract (and the coconut, if using) and beat for a few seconds to evenly distribute.
Sift the flour/sugar mixture over the egg whites in 4-6 additions and gently fold it in after each addition. Take your time. Fold in the coconut in the same way.
Spoon batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan with a removable 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 55-60 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly pressed.
Remove cake from the oven and invert pan over a [wine] bottle. Allow cake to cool completely.
When cake has cooled, gently run a thin knife around the sides, then around the bottom, of the pan to release the cake onto a serving plate. Store covered, in an airtight container.