I have to admit that a vanilla bean angel food cake is my favorite, when it comes to these towering and cloud-like cakes. Vanilla can become very expressive when it is the main flavor on such a light and airy cake. That being said, angel food cakes are mostly flavored with vanilla alone and it has become quite uncommon to see them in other flavors. This is a shame, because as good as vanilla is, mixing it up with other flavors can make for a great angel food cake and a welcome change of pace from the usual.
This Chocolate Spice Angel Food Cake is a good example, incorporating not only a chocolate flavor into the cake, but a hint of spice to give it some depth and complexity. Angel food cake is leavened entirely with beaten egg whites, and that is why the cake is so fluffy. When adding chocolate to the cake, I think that you get the best results by adding cocoa powder into the batter, because it delivers a strong chocolate flavor while keeping the cake as fluffy as possible. I also added a bit of cinnamon and some ground cloves, both of which work nicely with the chocolate and deliver some unexpected flavors when you go to serve the cake! The finished cake is soft and airy, with a light sweetness and a nice cocoa flavor. The cinnamon combined with the cocoa almost reminds me a bit of spiced hot chocolate, too.
The recipe uses cake flour, and it calls for it to be sifted before you measure it. The best way to do this is to place your measuring cup on a large sheet of parchment or wax paper, then sift the flour over the measuring cup. Keep going until the cup is full, the level it off with a knife. Leftover flour can be funneled back into the container of flour with the paper. Measure the cocoa powder out the same way, then sift the two ingredients together with the spices and part of the sugar to combine them before they are added to the cake. It may seem like an extra step (or two), but getting any lumps out of the flour and cocoa is one of the secrets to a perfect chocolate angel food cake.
Chocolate Spice Angel Food Cake
1 1/2 cups egg whites (11-12 large), room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 cup sifted cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (pref. Dutch process)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325F.
In a medium bowl, sift together 3/4 cup of the sugar with the sifted cake flour, the sifted cocoa powder, the cinnamon and the cloves. Set aside.
In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium speed until slightly foamy, then add the add cream of tartar and salt. Beat at high speed until egg whites are very fluffy and almost forming soft peaks, then gradually stream in the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar. Beat egg whites to firm peaks (a little stiffer than soft peaks). The peaks of the meringue will droop at their tip when you remove your beaters. If your batter is falling in ribbons from your whisk, it is not quite done. Don’t be afraid to slow down the mixer and check a few times as you get close.
Add in vanilla and beat for a few seconds to incorporate.
Sift the cocoa mixture over the egg whites in 4-5 additions 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, to ensure you have a high-rising cake.
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 about 55 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and the top of the cake is lightly browned.
Remove from oven and invert pan over a wine bottle. Allow to cool completely, at least 6 hours, before removing the cake.
To remove the cake from the pan, gently run a thin knife around the sides, then around the bottom, of the pan to release the cake. Invert the cake to remove it, then re-invert it onto a serving plate.