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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.

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  • Clare Eats
    June 27, 2005

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

  • FoodNinja
    June 27, 2005

    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…

  • cookie jill
    June 27, 2005

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

  • Gia-Gina
    June 28, 2005

    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.

  • Cathy
    June 28, 2005

    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.

  • Amy
    June 28, 2005

    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.

  • Dawna
    June 28, 2005

    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?!

  • Nic
    June 28, 2005

    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!

  • Melissa
    June 28, 2005

    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!

  • Emily
    June 29, 2005

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

  • Ana
    June 29, 2005

    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.

  • Nic
    June 30, 2005

    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.

  • Elise
    August 17, 2005

    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.

  • Nic
    August 18, 2005

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

  • Karen
    November 22, 2005

    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.

  • Nic
    November 22, 2005

    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!

  • Anonymous
    March 17, 2006

    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

  • Nic
    March 18, 2006

    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.

  • smin
    March 19, 2006

    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

  • Nic
    March 19, 2006

    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.

  • kathleen
    June 22, 2007

    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?

  • FashionMista
    September 1, 2007

    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!

  • Jennifer
    October 27, 2007

    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,

  • Jeans
    May 8, 2008

    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.

  • Sarah
    July 31, 2008

    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 🙂

  • Anonymous
    November 29, 2008


  • Joyce
    January 19, 2009

    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!

  • kira
    March 19, 2009

    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?

  • Amie
    March 30, 2009

    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.

  • Sherry
    May 1, 2009

    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!

  • Anonymous
    July 1, 2009

    can you freeze angel food cake? azzilu

  • janine
    September 7, 2009

    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.

  • Eric Brown
    September 15, 2009

    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.

  • Coafuri mirese
    September 15, 2009

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

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