Catholic Recipe: Classic Angel Food Cake
Also Called: Angel Cake
This might be the best angel food cake you'll ever bake or eat. Adding lemon juice to the egg whites not only imparts a pleasant delicate flavor, but it also helps to stabilize the egg whites by slightly toughening the walls of the bubbles formed during whipping. Many other recipes use cream of tartar for this purpose. This recipe also has variations: Cinnamon Angel Food Cake, Five-Spice Angel Food Cake and Cocoa Angel Food Cake.
Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 325°.
Put 3/4 cup of the sugar into a small bowl. In another small bowl, mix the remaining 3/4 cup sugar evenly with the flour. Sift the mixture three times to aerate it.
In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and continue whipping until the whites are very white and opaque and beginning to hold a shape. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip in the sugar from the bowl in a slow stream. Continue to whip until the egg whites hold a soft, glossy, peak.
Quickly sift one-third of the flour and sugar mixture over the egg whites. Gently fold in with a rubber spatula, making sure you scrape across the bottom of the bowl as you fold to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and possibly causing lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour and sugar mixture, then finally with the remainder.
Scrape the batter into the pan and run the spatula through the batter to eliminate any large air pockets.
Bake for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until the cake is well risen, well colored,and firm to the touch. Be careful not to overbake, or the cake will fall. Invert the central tube of the pan on the neck of the bottle and allow the cake to cool completely upside down.
To remove the cooled cake from the pan, run a long thin knife all around the sides of the pan, scraping against the pan rather than the cake. Remove the pan sides and run the knife around the central tube under the cake. Invert the cake onto a platter, easing it off the central tube with your fingers.
Serve with whipped cream and/or fruit.
Wrap in plastic or keep under a cake dome at room temperature, or wrap well and freeze for longer storage.
Cinnamon Angel Food Cake: Add 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon to the flour and sugar mixture, stirring it in thoroughly. (You can use the same proportions for any other spice, such as ginger.)
Five-Spice Angel Food Cake: Chinese five-spice powder has a stronger flavor than any single spice so add just 2 teaspoons of it to the flour mixture.
Cocoa Angel Food Cake: Add 3 tablespoons alkalized (Dutch-process) cocoa powder to the flour mixture and sift together once to eliminate any lumps in the cocoa.
NOTE: Make sure the cake pan is completely clean, dry, and free of grease of any kind. If you have never baked an angel food cake before, first invert the pan onto the bottle to make sure the pan's central tube will fit over the neck of the bottle. The cake needs to hang to cool after it is baked; it would compress and fall if cooled right side up.Recipe Source: Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri, Harpers Collins Publishers, 2002