Angel food cake is a delicate, airy sponge cake. It had its heyday in the late 19th century, but this cake is still served with tea and after meals. A European version is heavier and richer than the American type. Making angel food can be challenging, as it requires the ability to manage egg whites well and the fold dry ingredients into egg whites without compromising their bubbles.
The taste of angel food cake isn't for everybody. It is very light and foamy, with a crumb that seems to melt in the mouth. Some people compare it to moist cotton or sponge, and find it distasteful. The cake must also be cut and handled carefully; cooks should never use a plain knife to cut it, since it will compress the air out. A serrated knife with a gentle sawing motion is the best tool and technique.
The recipe for this cake is simple, with flavor variations left up to the cook. Some ingredients can be combined with the cake directly, but the flavoring is more often dictated by the glaze used. As a general rule, the cake is not frosted, since heavy icings would obscure the light texture and flavor of the cake. Glazes can be made with orange, cinnamon, lemon, chocolate, or other flavors.
When making angel food cake, the tools and mixing bowls need to be spotlessly clean, dry, and free of grease. The baking pan should also be ungreased. Some cooks prefer to wash everything thoroughly before they begin to ensure maximum cleanliness. A cooling station should be set up for the cake, which must be cooled in an inverted position to prevent collapse.
A baker can start by preheating an oven to 350°F (191°C). She should then sift together 1 cup (137 g) cake flour, 0.75 cup (150 g) sugar, and 0.5 teaspoon (3 g) salt multiple times, ensuring that the ingredients are well integrated. The cook will not be able to mix them once she adds them to the egg white mixture. In a separate bowl, she should beat 12 egg whites together with 1 tablespoon (14.78 ml) warm water, 1 tablespoon (14.78 ml) lemon juice, 1 teaspoon (3 g) cream of tartar, and 1 teaspoon (4.92 ml) of vanilla. Other extracts, such as orange or almond, can also be added at this stage. When the egg whites have foamed, the cook should add 0.75 cup (150 g) sugar, very slowly, and beat the mixture into soft glossy peaks.
A this point, the cook folds the flour mixture slowly into the egg whites, taking care not to crush the foam. She should then pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. The cake must be cooled completely before glazing. Experts often recommend that the cake be allowed to rest for at least six hours before serving, since it sometimes has an eggy flavor for a few hours after cooking.