When I was little (and by little, I mean when I was in High School) I was afraid of the dark. I remember going to see the movie Jurassic Park when I was in 9th grade and when I got home from the late show, I made my older brother, look in the closet and under the bed for…dinosaurs? Really? – no! I knew there weren’t going to be dinosaurs under the bed but there could have been something else scary under there… so after I had him inspect my room for scary things, I made him sleep on the floor.
So that is what scared me then, what about now? Well, I still do not like scary movies or things that go bump in the night, but what I’m really afraid of these days are things that I worry about failing at; like, parenting or making technical food items. J
Perhaps if I figure out how to succeed at the latter, than the former will just work itself out. Kids will give their parents a break if they provide good food right? I mean forget that you are 8 and still can't tie lace up shoes - you had a mom that made good food.
Well, here’s to hoping but just in case hoping isn’t enough, I’ve decided to face my fears. The parenting will take a bit longer in order to report the results but the cooking of technical foods…that is what the blog is for. So, food fear: Angel Food Cake, here I come.
The funny thing about this (and other food’s I’m afraid of – like cheesecake) is that I’d never made them before so all of my fear is based on someone else’s bad experience. That’s right, before I ever had a chance to figure out if this cake was going to be a challenge for me, I’d already made up my mind that it was. Why do I do that? It kind of sucks the excitement & joy out of the whole experience. (Good, something else to work on.)
What I learned in baking this cake is that Angel Food Cake really isn’t that tough. Technical? Some may say so, but really…follow the instructions and this recipe is literally…a piece of cake.
A few things to keep in mind:
Have all of you ingredients pre-measured and ready to go
Use weight measurements instead of volume measurements when they are called for.
No yolks in the egg whites (it really messes with getting your whites stiff)
Cream of tartar is your egg white soft/stiff peak friend
Don’t grease the pan
Also, when you use a recipe from the American Test Kitchen Family (this recipe came from Cooks Country - click here to watch the episode) you really increase the likelihood of turning out a really great dish. That said – I did NOT use cake flour, I never have because I feel like I have too many flours in my pantry as it is, plus I couldn’t find it so I made my own. To do this I measured 3 tablespoons cornstarch into a 1 cup measuring cup then filled it with AP flour and put it in a small bowl with additional ½ cup AP flour. I whisked it together then processed it in my food processor until it was fine and well combined. For the recipe I then weighed the amount needed and discarded the remaining.
You know, since this cake is packed with egg whites and at the time I was still nursing my extremely egg white allergic baby I shouldn’t be able to tell you that the cake was absolutely divine but what can I say - I’m weak - the cake was delicious and [other than failing at parenthood by taking generous tastes that would leave my baby itching for at least a week] I had nothing to be afraid of.
Angel Food Cake
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (4 1/2 ounces) or make your own (see notes)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
12 large egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk 1cup plus 2 tablespoons of cake flour and salt in bowl.
- Process sugar in food processor until fine and powdery, about 1 minute. Reserve half of sugar in small bowl. Add flour mixture to food processor with remaining sugar and process until aerated, about 1 minute.
- With electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high. With motor running, slowly add reserved sugar and beat until soft peaks form, about 6 minutes. (if using a plastic bowl or a Bosch, it took 4 ½ minutes on highest speed for soft peaks to form)
- Add vanilla and mix until just incorporated.
- Sift flour mixture over egg whites in 3 additions, folding gently with rubber spatula after each addition until incorporated. Scrape mixture into 12-cup ungreased tube pan.
- Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cracks in cake appear dry, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool, inverted, to room temperature, about 3 hours. To unmold, run knife along interior of pan. Turn out onto platter. Serve.
Notes: To make your own cake flour, measure 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into a 1 cup measuring cup and then top the cup off with AP flour. (repeat this measure until you have the amount needed) Use a whisk to combine then powerize in a blender or food processor until fine and aerated.
Source: Adapted for use of homemade cake flour from Cooks County