It just seems easier to buy an angel food cake, doesn't it? There they are, in the bakery section of the grocery store, usually stacked near a display of strawberries and whipped topping. Oh they look good enough. Then you get them home and the disappointment sets in. A little dry, maybe a little rubbery, with little real taste to it. The strawberries are essential, at this point, just to add some flavor. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not that hard to make your own.
I started my angel food cake experience by looking for a good recipe. Most of them are very similar---10 to 12 egg whites, a little cake flour and some sugar. I finally settled on an Alton Brown recipe, which you can find here: Alton Brown's Angel Food Cake I dunno, there's something about Alton Brown that I trust. So, let us begin.
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour, sifted
12 egg whites (the closer to room temperature the better)
1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon orange extract, or extract of your choice
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a food processor spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Sift half of the sugar with the salt the cake flour, setting the remaining sugar aside.
While I don't always follow directions, I did do this. Look at the picture below to see the difference in the size of the granules.
In a large bowl, use a balloon whisk to thoroughly combine egg whites, water, orange extract, and cream of tartar. After 2 minutes, switch to a hand mixer. Slowly sift the reserved sugar, beating continuously at medium speed. Once you have achieved medium peaks, sift enough of the flour mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold in gently. Continue until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.
OK, I don't have a balloon whisk. I might have to invest. :)
It took a little elbow grease to get it this frothy. How did Julia whip all those eggs by hand?
I don't have a sifter, either (it actually broke a while back), so I used my whisk to blend the sugar and the flour together. Don't forget that cream of tartar---it helps to stabilize the egg whites.
Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with a wooden skewer. (When inserted halfway between the inner and outer wall, the skewer should come out dry).
Egads! That's a lot of batter! At this point I was pretty sure that the batter would run down the side of the pan while it was baking---so as a precaution I put a foil lined sheet pan underneath.
Check out the angel food cake pan. It's totally old-style---came from my father's bakery. There is a reason you don't grease the pan. Since the eggs whites are your only leavening, they need something to cling to in order to rise. If you read some of the comments under Alton's recipe, you'll see a few flops where the cake literally fell out and collapsed. I'll guarantee it's because they used a non-stick pan.
Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least an hour before removing from pan.
An old-style pan means an old-style way of cooling the cake. I put it upside down over a syrup bottle, but any bottle will do. Oh--and the reason I'm only showing one side of the cake is that I was right--I lost part of the cake in the oven. It was rising so beautifully that I thought it would be OK and then, POOF--part of one side came tumbling down. The problem? I think it was the size of my eggs (or could it be that I opened the oven door one too many times?.....hmmm). Next time I'll use large eggs and not extra-large (and leave the oven door shut).
While I can't show the whole cake since it had an ugly side...heehee...I have to say, this is one good cake! It was melt-in-your-mouth good. I had a couple of minor wet spots on the top (probably as a result of two many egg whites), but I'll never buy a grocery store angel food cake again.