10 Tips for Baking the Perfect Angel Food Cake
One of my favorite summertime desserts is angel food cake. It’s such a light dessert that pairs well against the oppressive summer heat. While I have always loved baking, I used to be hesitant to attempt this recipe in particular.
You know how sometimes you have random memories from childhood? Memories that out of the grand scheme of things, you are unsure why you happen to remember that particular thing, but you do anyway. Well, one of those random memories for me is my dad telling me about the time he tried to make an angel food cake and it collapsed. My dad has always done a lot of cooking, whether it’s dinners, Sunday breakfasts, or for gatherings of 100+ people. I remember thinking, if he can’t figure it out, then there is no point in me trying. Especially when you can buy one pre-made at the grocery store for $5…
Then one day after seeing images of pretty decorated angel food cakes from a local bakery pop-up on my Instagram feed, I became determined to figure it out for myself. After all, there is no substitute for something homemade versus what you can pick up cheaply at the supermarket. After some trial and error, I now regularly make angel food cakes that even non-cake lovers request.
Angel food cake is fairly detail oriented and can admittedly be tricky if you are new to baking. Here are ten of my tips for baking a cake that your friends and family will enjoy:
1. Your egg whites need to be room temperature and absolutely yolk free — not even a drop. Remove your eggs from the fridge, crack and separate, and let them rest on the counter for about an hour. I tend to crack and separate mine one at a time into a cup, that way I can tell if any yolk went in. If it is yolk free, I pour it into the bowl and go on to the next one. During my first angel food cake attempt, I separated them all straight into the bowl and accidentally got yolk into the bowl on egg number eleven and had to start over. Just try the cup method. Trust me. Haha.
2. Anything that your whites come into contact with must be grease-free. This includes your mixer bowl, spatulas, even your pan. Even a tiny trace amount of fat can leave you with a deflated cake. The beauty of an angel food cake is how light and airy it is. Having even a trace amount of fat come in contact with your whites can ruin the way they whip up and hold air.
3. Make sure you are using a large bowl, one with at least a four quart capacity. If you have never made angel food or meringue before, you might be surprised just how much your whites will rise. I use my Kitchenaid stand mixer, and it works great.
4. Use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. If you are unfamiliar with cake flour, you find it in the baking aisle by the regular flour. Cake flour will give you a lighter, more tender, fine-crumbed cake.
5. When it comes time to add the dry ingredients to the egg whites, sprinkle them over the whites and fold to incorporate in. By sprinkling instead of dumping the dry ingredients in, you will help prevent the ingredients from clumping and the whites from deflating due to over-mixing.
6. Invest in a tube pan. This is the type of pan that angel food cakes are baked in. It has high sides and a tube in the center that is slightly higher than its sides. You can get these as one or two-piece. The two-piece pans can be easier to get the cake out of, but I just use a cheap one-piece pan from Target that has never given me issues. I think it was maybe $12. You can find a plethora of them on Amazon though.
7. This goes back to the second tip. No grease. As counter-intuitive as it may be, do not grease the pan at all. You’ll end up with a deflated mess and not a nice, tall angel food cake.
8. After you pour your batter into the tube pan, run a knife through it several times. This will help get rid of any large air pockets you might have after transferring the batter to the pan.
9. Don’t open the door and check it too much. I tend to set my timer for about five minutes before it is supposed to be done, just in case it for some reason cooks quicker. I try not to check it other than that. Not only does opening the oven door release heat which will affect your baking time, but the opening/shutting of the oven door can also cause your cake to collapse.
10. To determine if your cake is done baking, don’t rely on the toothpick test. With how airy this type of cake is, the toothpick test might say it is done when it actually isn’t. Instead, when your cake is nice and golden on top and appears to be done, lightly press your finger on the top. If it springs back, it should be ready to go! If it doesn’t spring back immediately, give it another couple minutes and try again. Once it is finished baking, let it cool by placing it upside down on a metal funnel or even a wine bottle. Letting it cool sitting upright can deflate it, so as long as you figure out someway to let it cool upside down, it should be fine.
Unofficial step 11, frost and decorate to your liking and see how long the finished product lasts. They seem to disappear pretty quickly around here. Enjoy! **Link for my cake below coming soon!