Angel Food Cake Ingredients
DON’T SKIP READING THIS SECTION! Angel Food Cake can be finicky. Success truly comes down to using the right ingredients and handling them properly.
Why Use Cake Flour? Can I Use All-Purpose Flour Instead?
Cake flour is very finely milled from soft wheat from the heart of the wheat endosperm. Its protein content is lower than all-purpose flour. This helps to give cake flour its very fine and silky soft texture. That fineness is actually why cake flour should be sifted before use, as it’s more likely to clump together. Specifically, bleached cake flour has a lower protein content and is able to absorb more moisture than unbleached, making it ideal for creating towering fluffy angel food cake.
You cannot use all-purpose flour or DIY cake flour in this recipe because it is too heavy and the cake will likely sink or even collapse. For best results, use bleached cake flour. You can read all about my experiments with cake flour, including why I don’t recommend DIY cake flour, in my Cake Flour 101 article!
The All-Important Egg Whites!
There is no chemical leavening agent (baking powder or baking soda) in this recipe. Instead, Angel Food Cake is leavened primarily by the air that is beaten into egg whites. Make sure you weigh out your egg whites, especially if using pasture-raised or locally grown eggs. Make sure the egg whites are completely warmed to room temperature before you begin, to maximize the aeration achieved while whipping. Be careful not to get any egg yolk in with the whites when separating. I recommend cracking the egg whites into a separate bowl, to be extra safe.
If you skip any steps in preparing the egg whites, your cake may sink or collapse.
Can I Use Egg Whites From a Carton, Frozen Egg Whites, or Egg White Substitutes?
I don’t recommend using carton egg whites or egg whites that have been frozen for this recipe. Neither will aerate the same way that fresh, just-separated eggs will, meaning your cake won’t rise correctly or evenly. Since there is no chemical leavening agent in this recipe, the egg whites achieving the maximum possible aeration is all the more important! Egg white substitutes will not work.
What Does Cream of Tartar Do?
Cream of tartar is an acid and helps to stabilize the whipped egg whites. There is really no substitution for cream of tartar. If you don’t use cream of tartar in this recipe, the cake will collapse. Make sure you check the expiration date if you have it in your pantry; it’s one of those ingredients you may use so infrequently that it’s been sitting in there for 5+ years! Make sure it’s still fresh, or the cake may collapse! You can find it with the spices and extracts, in the baking aisle of your grocery store.
How to Make Angel Food Cake
What is Angel Food Cake? Why is it Called Angel Food Cake?
Angel Food Cake is an unbelievably light, pillowy-soft, delicate cake, said to be “so light, it’s fit for the Angels!” This homemade version has soooo much more flavor than the typical store-bought variety – and you won’t believe the difference in the texture! It’s a delicious summertime dessert, especially when served with whipped cream and fresh berries!
How is Angel Food Cake Different From Regular Sponge Cake?
Angel Food Cake differs from regular sponge cake in multiple ways. Angel Food Cake is made using egg whites (no yolks) and no fat. Traditional sponge cakes will typically contain both egg whites and egg yolks, as well as fat (usually in the form of butter or oil). Regular sponge cake also typically contains a chemical leavener (baking powder or baking soda), whereas Angel Food Cake is leavened solely on the air whipped into the egg whites during the process. This all makes for an incredibly light cake, with a texture like no other.
Sponge cakes are generally iced in buttercream or ganache, and are more of a substantial dessert as a result. Angel Food Cake is typically served with berries, whipped cream, or a simple glaze, making it a lighter option.
Tips for Whipping Egg Whites for Angel Food Cake
Listen up! Knowing how to whip your egg whites can make the difference between an impressive towering slice of cake and one that falls into a sad, dense slump:
Whip Tip 1: Follow all the ingredient instructions mentioned above.
Whip Tip 2: Use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites. If you don’t have the whisk attachment, wait until you get one to try this recipe.
Whip Tip 3: In our experimenting, we saw the best results when using an electric stand mixer with the METAL mixing bowl. The metal bowl provided a better deep shape to whip the egg whites to perfection, the glass bowl’s shape made it harder to whip the egg whites. You can use glass, but you may need to whip longer.
Whip Tip 4: Make sure your bowl is completely clean, you can even dampen a paper towel with a splash of vinegar to wipe down the bowl to ensure all grease is removed. Do not use a plastic bowl, it’s nearly impossible to remove traces of grease from plastic.
The Angel Food Cake Pan
This is my favorite Angel Food Cake pan.
You will need a 9-inch, 16-cup unlined tube Angel Food Cake pan for this recipe. A regular baking pan will not work, and most bundt pans are either too elaborately-detailed (this cake would stick in those details!) or nonstick, making it unsuitable for this cake.
You also cannot use a nonstick pan as you will not grease the sides of the tube pan. The delicate cake batter needs the ungreased sides of the pan, and the sides of the inner tube, to cling to as it bakes, and again as it cools, or else it will collapse. It even has a removable base, so you can more easily get the cake out of the pan! This pan also has little prongs around the top of the pan. This is so the cake can cool upside down, ensuring the best possible structure and preventing the cake from sinking in the middle.
How to Bake Angel Food Cake:
Bake until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when firmly pressed, about 45 minutes.
How to Cool Angel Food Cake:
This has got to be the STRANGEST part of baking this cake! It must be cooled UPSIDE DOWN. That’s right. Because we’re not using a nonstick pan or greasing the pan, the cake won’t fall out. This step is crucial to prevent the cake from collapsing when cooling. My pan has a center column that’s longer than the rim of the pan so it’s steady on its bottom. It also has those protruding ‘legs’ attached to the sides of the pan you can tilt to secure it when upside down if needed.
Tips for Removing Angel Food Cake from the Pan:
Once cooled completely, run a long thin flexible knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Gently lift the removable bottom out of the base of the pan. Gently remove to a serving plate.
What to Serve with Angel Food Cake/Topping Ideas:
Can I Make the Angel Food Cake Ahead of Time?
The Angel Food Cake is definitely best eaten the day it’s made, but it will keep for a day or two if wrapped well in plastic wrap, or stored in an airtight container, to prevent it from drying out.
Can I Freeze the Angel Food Cake?
To freeze, wrap the whole cake in plastic wrap (at least a couple of layers), and then freeze on a flat surface in the freezer for up to a month. Thaw at room temperature for a few hours or overnight, before serving.