If homemade Angel Food Cake has always seemed just outside of your comfort zone, this is the recipe to tackle. It has everything you need to know to bake the lightest, fluffiest, most heavenly Angel Food Cake ever.
Even though it’s not difficult whatsoever to make, it does help if you follow some simple baking rules. So, without further adieu, here is what you need to know to make the perfect Angel Food cake, for desserts, trifles, or just a special breakfast for the angel in your life.
What do you need to make Angel Food Cake?
- An angel food cake pan
- Egg whites, lots of 'em: You can use frozen egg whites that you've saved up from other recipes, or crack them up (save the yolks—some great recipes down below)
- Cake flour: cake flour makes all the difference for chiffon cakes and Angel Food Cake. There's an easy way to make it at home, too--keep reading.
- Cream of tartar
- Vanilla extract
- Lemon juice
- Almond extract, or any flavored extract you feel like using.
Do you really need an Angel Food Cake Pan to make this cake?
It really does help to have an angel food cake pan handy. It’s a tall, lightweight tube pan with a removable bottom. If you’re lucky to find one with little pronged feet, for cooling the cake down, grab it. Vintage stores, thrift shops, and garage sales are all fabulous places to find angel food cake pans. Or maybe you could just ask your grandma!
What is cake flour?
Cake flour is very finely milled, bleached flour with a lower protein content (about 8%) than all-purpose flour. Making cakes with cake flour gives your desserts a soft, tender texture and an excellent crumb. If you’re a big cake baker, maybe you have it already.
But if you don’t have cake flour, you can make a cake flour substitute using all-purpose flour and cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Cornstarch inhibits the gluten from forming in the cake, and will give the cake a much-desired cakey, spongy texture.
How to make easy cake flour substitute:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour*
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
To make 1 cup of cake flour substitute, begin with one level cup of all-purpose flour. Then remove 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, and add 2 tablespoons of either cornstarch or arrowroot powder to the flour. Sift together until well blended. (Note: using arrowroot powder may make the cake bake quicker, so keep an eye on the oven.)
Tips for making the best Angel Food Cake from scratch:
- Start with room temperature ingredients. If you’re brilliant enough to freeze leftover egg whites and save them up to bake an Angel Food Cake, allow them to thaw completely to room temperature before starting. If using eggs from the refrigerator, leave them out on the counter, or place them in a bowl of warm water for about an hour.
- Plan for drips. Place a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet on the rack under the rack where you plan to bake the cake. This will catch any drips from a misaligned angel food cake pan and keep your oven clean, too.
- Sift, and sift again. If you love sifting, it wouldn’t hurt to sift your flour a few times, maybe even up to four times, before adding the sugar. Many experienced bakers swear by this baking hack for light-as-air results.
- Don’t grease your cake pan. It sounds counter-intuitive, but Angel Food cake batter needs a bit of grip so it can climb up the pan and get all cloud-like; it just won't rise otherwise. Besides, when you invert the cake to cool, it will fall out and you’ll be miserable.
- No peeking! Try not to open the oven door except for a very brief split second to see if it looks done.
- Visually check for doneness. Finally, do not check for doneness by using a toothpick or skewer into the cake. Look for a toasty brown, crackled top that springs back when pressed firmly.
How to whip egg whites perfectly, every time:
Egg whites can be a bit temperamental. That means you should:
Start slowly. Making the best egg whites for chiffon cakes, meringues, pavlovas, and happens gradually, starting at a slow mixer speed and gradually increasing the speed over the course of 10-15 minutes. Don’t rush this crucial step; whipping helps incorporate air into the batter.
Avoid grease. They whip up the fluffiest only under conditions that are grease-, fat-, and oil-free.
- Make sure there isn’t a trace of any egg yolk in the whites, anywhere.
- Use a very clean glass or stainless steel bowl for mixing. You can wipe everything down with white vinegar just to be sure.
- Do not use a plastic bowl or rubber or plastic spatulas. They hold onto oil and fat from previous recipes.
- Before you add them, double check that your vanilla extract and almond extract is oil-free. Some extracts have oil in them that can cause the egg whites to deflate. If either one contains oil, add it later, once the whites are at the sturdy peak stage.
How to make Gluten-free Angel Food Cake:
This is so easy, and it works great, too. Switch out the flour for gluten free flour…you can even make gluten-free cake flour using the flour/cornstarch ratio above.
Angel Food Cake Frostings or Angel Food Cake Toppings:
This cake simply shines with first-of-the-season berries and some freshly whipped cream. However, a whipped chocolate frosting might be just the thing to satisfy the devil's food lovers in the house. Here's a fab recipe that's light enough to be spread on glorious Angel Food Cake; make it while the cake cools.
Light and Fluffy Chocolate Frosting:
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine the whipping cream, sugar, cocoa, salt, and vanilla. Beat with a mixer until stiff. Spread on cooled cake and press the outside of the cake with toasted, silvered almonds or fresh raspberries.
What else could you want? A scoop of ice cream, a generous lashing of raspberry or strawberry sauce, or a dark chocolate ganache drizzled over the cake? Yes, please. They all sound like wonderful ideas.
How to slice an Angel Food Cake:
To slice fluffy cakes like angel food or chiffon, use a serrated knife and saw very gently to cut through the cake without losing its form. Or if you've ever seen one of these old-fashioned gadgets, and you make a lot of fluffy cakes, you might invest in an actual, official angel food cake cutter. Now you know what that thing is for!
What can you make with extra egg yolks?
Now you're talking! If you're left with 12 extra egg yolks from making this Angel Food Cake recipe, hold on to them. Try this great recipe for Easy Tiramisu, the best Hollandaise Sauce in the whole world, or not nearly as fancy as they look Duchess Potatoes. You could add a few extra yolks to a frittata, for a little extra richness...because after all, it's all about balance!
Angel Food Cake Recipe
- Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Have ready an un-greased 9 3/4-inch tube pan with a removable bottom.
- In a small bowl, sift together flour and 3/4 cup sugar. Stir vigorously with a whisk to incorporate as much air as possible. Set aside.
- In a standing mixer fit with the whisk attachment, or with an electric mixer by hand, on low speed beat egg whites until broken up and beginning to froth, about 1 minute.
- Increase speed to medium. Add cream of tartar and salt and beat until whites form very soft, billowy mounds, about 12 to 15 minutes.
- With the mixer still at medium speed, beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all sugar is added and whites are shiny and form soft peaks, about 5 minutes.
- Add vanilla, lemon juice, and almond extract and beat until just blended.
- Carefully fold in sifted flour and sugar mixer into the egg whites using a large spatula. Gently scrape batter into pan, smooth the top, and give pan a couple of raps on the counter to release any large air bubbles.
- Bake until cake is golden brown and the top springs back when pressed firmly, about 50 to 60 minutes.
- Remove from oven. If cake pan has feet, invert pan onto them. If not, invert pan over the neck of a bottle so that air can circulate all around it. Allow to cool completely, about 2 to 3 hours.
- To un-mold, run a knife or thin spatula around edges, being careful not to dislodge the golden crust. Pull cake out of pan and cut the same way around removable bottom under the cake to release.
- Cool cake completely, bottom side up. When completely cold, cut slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife or pulling with a taut thread through the cake.
- Serve cake the same day or freeze overnight if serving the next day. (Cake may be frozen for up to 2 weeks, but will compress slightly.).