Angel Food Cake may be a bit old fashioned but it holds a very special place in the hearts and minds of the Cooper family. The recipe goes back some 200 years. It was a recipe that my husband’s great grandmother used. It has been passed down for generations and my husband’s cousin and I are continuing the legacy.
It is believed that Angel Food Cake dates back to the time of the slaves. Without the convenience of a mixer, making it was a labor-intensive process. Therefore slaves were the ones assigned the task of making this heavenly delight.
The first improvement to add in making an Angel Food cake showed up in the early 1850s. It was the type of flour used – aptly named cake flour. When the first rotary eggbeaters were invented and came on the scene in the mid 1860s, recipes began to show up in cookbooks everywhere. Then came the power mixer and angel food cakes became a thing any home cook could make with a bit of know-how.
That said, the many ways that describe how to make angel food cakes are to0 numerous to count. Over the centuries, this cake has gone by many names, Foam Sponge Cake, Cornstarch Cake, Silver Cake, Snow-drift Cake, Angel Cake and then finally landing on the name we know today – Angel Food Cake.
So let’s get to making an Angel Food Cake the way the Cooper family has done for generations.
Angel Food Cake
Ingredients: One full cake
- 1 ¼ cups sifted SwansDown Cake Flour
- ½ cup sifted sugar
- 12 large eggs, separated whites at room temperature (a minimum of 1 ½ cups of egg whites)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¼ teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 ⅓ cups sifted sugar
- Preheat the oven to 375° F
- To Prepare: Gather all the ingredients. Measure or sift each ingredient out into prep bowls to make ready for use.
- Measure flour, add ½ cup sugar, and sift together 4 times and set aside.
- Using a stand mixer add the egg whites, salt, cream of tartar and the two extracts and beat on medium high until moist peaks form. The egg whites will have a shiny appearance with the presence of large air bubbles. The peaks will not hold and will fold over on itself.
- Add the additional sugar in a slow stream, 4 additions at a time, beating on medium high until blended. Beat until the meringue is shiny, firm and forms soft peaks. The peaks will fold over ever so slightly forming a bird like beak.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer. Over the meringue, sift in the flour/sugar mixture 4 additions at a time, GENTLY folding the flour/sugar mixture into the meringue with each addition; turning the bowl often in the process to aid in the folding. Note: Take your time. Don’t worry so much if a bit of flour shows. It will incorporate as you pour the batter in the pan.
- Using a scoop, gently and evenly fill the prepared cake pan with the batter. Make sure to fill in any spaces.
- To prevent large air holes in the cake, gently run a knife 4 times thru the batter then tap the pan on the counter just a bit to settle the batter in the pan.
- Smooth the top to finish and place on the next to the bottom rack of the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. Note: The cake will rise a few inches and then fall back a bit. The top will brown and develop deep cracks. Insert a bamboo skewer between the side and the tube to test if it’s done. Or press lightly down on the top, if it springs back it’s ready.
- While still in the pan, invert the cake on a bottle or wire rack and cool it upside down for 1 hour.
- Once cooled, gently loosen the sides with a long thin sharp knife and remove the cake.
Notes: Regarding egg whites: If your 12 eggs produce a bit more egg whites, no worries use it all. Good quality eggs matter; the fresher the eggs the better. Why? Fresh egg whites have more water creating less volume but they will yield a firmer more stable meringue, making it less likely to deflate when folding. Older eggs achieve a greater volume, however the meringue is much looser and not nearly as stable. Cold eggs separate much more easily. Separate the whites from the yokes ahead of time and let the egg whites rest at room temperature for no more then 30 minutes before starting to make the cake batter. To warm the egg whites more quickly, place the bowl of cold egg whites into a larger bowl of warm (not hot) water for about 10 to 15 minutes and you’re good to go. When separating the eggs, take care not to get any egg yolks in the egg white. If you do, the egg whites will not foam properly or form peaks. Always use a glass or metal bowl; plastic will interfere with your egg whites foaming properly.
Regarding the flour: SwansDown is what has always been used by the Cooper Family sense the mid 1800s. Any good quality cake flour will do.
A handy trick is to dampen the inside surface of the pan and tube. This will allow the batter to grip the surface and rise more easily in the pan and release more effectively when you’re ready to remove it from the pan.
DO NOT skip cooling your cake upside down. If you do, the cake will deflate on itself, making it dense. If your tube pan doesn’t have long feet, use a bottle with a thin neck, invert the cake pan and insert the neck of the bottle into the tube to suspend the cake upside down.
When you’re ready to cut your Angel Food Cake, use a serrated knife. It cuts the cake easily and won’t smoosh the cake in the process.
For those of you who think “I can’t do this!” I’ll say you’re wrong. It is much easier than it looks. For me, it’s all about following the steps. If you do that, you will have a pretty amazing Angel Food Cake to share with your family and friends and the bragging rights to go along with it.
We will often frost our Angel Food Cake with another recipe handed down from generation to generation-called 7 minute icing, but that’s for another time.
Time to eat….