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An Angel Food Cake, or Angel Cake, is a ring shaped cake with a beautiful golden brown crust and a soft and spongy, snowy white interior. This cake has four main ingredients; egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, and flour. It does not contain egg yolks, butter, or oil, so it is perfect for those watching their fat intake. It can be eaten plain with just a dusting of powdered sugar, and I really like it with fresh fruit and softly whipped cream.

An Angel Food Cake gets its rise, not from baking powder or baking soda, but solely from the air whipped into egg whites. In order to get the maximum volume from the egg whites, have them at room temperature, and make sure your mixing bowl and whisk are clean, dry, and free of grease. The recipe begins with beating the whites with cream of tartar which is added to stabilize the whites and prevents over beating. Once the whites form soft peaks, the sugar is gradually beaten in, one tablespoon at a time, so it fully dissolves into the egg whites. I like to use superfine white sugar as it easily dissolves into the egg whites. You can make superfine sugar by processing white granulated sugar in your food processor until finely ground. (Angel Food Cakes do use more sugar than other types of sponge cakes and this is to support and stabilize the large amount of egg whites.) Once the egg whites are stiff and glossy, cake flour, mixed with a little sugar to prevent the flour from clumping, is gradually folded into the whites to ensure the batter doesn't deflate. Cake flour is a low gluten flour, which gives the cake a soft and tender crumb. You can make cake flour; take 1 cup all purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons, and replace with 2 tablespoons cornstarch.

Angel Food Cakes are baked in a tube pan, with a removable bottom, which gives the cake support as well as making it easier to remove the baked cake from the pan. The pan (do not use a non stick pan) isn't greased so the batter will cling to the sides of the pan as it bakes which allows the cake to reach its full volume. The hole in the middle of the pan allows the hot air to circulate and reach the center of the cake. Unlike most cakes that are simply placed on a wire rack to cool, Angel Food Cakes are immediately inverted so the baked cake will maintain its volume and to keep it from shrinking as it cools.

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Stephanie Jaworski

 

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