Catholic Recipe: Angel Food Cake I
Also Called: Angel Cake
American traditional cake, popular since the nineteenth century. Mainly egg whites, sugar and flour, this type of cake for those watching their fat intake. Although a simple recipe, there are tricks to getting the cake to rise, stay moist and look beautiful. There are variations to this recipe, including cupcakes.
This would be a great cake to bake for feasts of the angels, on September 29 and October 2nd, and also the feast of the Annunciation.
About Angel Cakes:
Have egg whites ready. They should be at least 3 days old, at about 60° to 70°, and separated just before use. These are preferable to leftover egg whites. Divide the beating time into 4 quarters. During the first quarter, beat whites gently until foamy. Add salt, cream of tartar and liquid flavoring. Be sure the cream of tartar has been stored in a closely covered container. It is added midway during the first quarter of the beating and controls both the stabilizing of the foam and the whiteness of the cake. End the first quarter of the beating with an increasing speed and gradually add, while continuing to beat at high speed, three-fourths of the sugar called for in the recipe. Finely granulated sugar is best.
If you are using an electric mixer, this sugar addition begins in the second quarter becasue it guards against overbeating the whites. If you are beating by hand with a flat whip--and this gives the best results--or a rotary one, the gradual addition of sugar is made in the last half of the beating time. In either case, the remaining one-fourth of the sugar is sifted with the cake flour to keep the flour well dispersed when it is folded into the egg and sugar mixture. The folding should never been done mechanically, unless you are using a mix, in which case follow the package directions. As in all hand-folding, the movement is both gentle and firm but rapid. Avoid breaking down the cellular structure of the egg whites which have trapped air.
The choice of pan and its careful preparation are essential to good results. Choose a tube pan with a removable rim. Since the dough is light, a central tube helps to give it additional support while it rises. Don't grease the pan. If it has been used for other purposes and any other grease remains, the batter will not rise. Wash a suspect pan with detergent, scrubbing well to remove every trace of grease. After putting the batter in the pan, draw a thick spatula gently through the dough to destroy any large air pockets.
Endless experiments have been performed for baking angel cakes--starting with a cold oven and ending with a very hot one. But the best oven is one that is not so slow that it will dry and toughen the cake and not so hot that it will set the protein of the whites before they can expand to their fullest volume. In other words, the ideal is a preheated moderate oven. We use 350° for about 45 minutes for the recipes given here. Set the pan on a rack placed in the lower third of the oven. When the cake is done reverse the pan when you remove it from the oven. Use an inverted funnel or a soft-drink bottle to rest the pan on, if the tube is not high enough to keep the cake above the surface of the table. Let the cake hang for about 1 1/2 hours until it is thoroughly set. Be sure to remove it from the pan before storing.Do not cut a fresh angel or sponge cake with a knife, but use a cake divider or 2 forks inserted back to back to pry the cake gently apart.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Sift the sugar twice. Sift the flour separately before measuring, then resift the flour 3 times with 1/4 cup of the sifted sugar and salt.
In a separate bowl whip the egg whites and water/lemon mixture until foamy. Add cream of tartar. Whip the egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Fold in the vanilla and almond extract.
Gradually whip in, about 1 Tablespoon at a time, the remaining sifted sguar. Sift about 1/4 cup of the flour and sugar mixture over the batter. Fold it in gently and briefly. Continue until all the mixture is used. Pour the batter into an ungreased tubepan. Bake for 45 minutes. To cool, see About Angel Cakes. Over this cake we like to dribble European Chocolate Icing (see recipe) thinned a bit by an additional tablespoon of whipping cream.
Flavored Angel Cake: Add to the flour 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon cloves. Or, crush with a rolling pin 1/3 cup soft peppermint sticks. Fold the candy into the egg and flour mixture. This is good iced with Boiled White Icing, to which you may add more crushed candy for color, or, if using the spiced cake add 1 to 2 teaspoons instant coffee.
Angel Cupcakes or Balls: Make the Angel Cake I or II or Flavored Angel Cake. Place batter in deep muffin tins with greased bottoms. Bake about 20 minutes, split the cupcakes horizontally and fill them. For a luxurious tea cake, ice with a rather soft icing and roll in chopped nuts or shredded chopped coconut.Recipe Source: Joy of Cooking All Purpose Cookbook by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1975