Angel Food Cake Ingredients
DON’T SKIP READING THIS SECTION! Angel Food Cake can be finicky. Success truly comes down to using the right ingredients and handling them properly.
Why Use Cake Flour? Can I Use All-Purpose Flour Instead?
Cake flour is very finely milled from soft wheat from the heart of the wheat endosperm. Its protein content is lower than all-purpose flour. This helps to give cake flour its very fine and silky soft texture. That fineness is actually why cake flour should be sifted before use, as it’s more likely to clump together. Specifically, bleached cake flour has a lower protein content and is able to absorb more moisture than unbleached, making it ideal for creating towering fluffy angel food cake.
You cannot use all-purpose flour or DIY cake flour in this recipe because it is too heavy and the cake will likely sink or even collapse. For best results, use bleached cake flour. You can read all about my experiments with cake flour, including why I don’t recommend DIY cake flour in my Cake Flour 101 article!
The All-Important Egg Whites!
There is no chemical leavening agent (baking powder or baking soda) in this recipe. Instead, Angel Food Cake is leavened primarily by the air that is beaten into egg whites. Here are some egg tips:
- Weigh your whites: Make sure you weigh out your egg whites, especially if using pasture-raised or locally-grown eggs, as those egg sizes tend to vary more.
- Room temperature: Make sure the egg whites are completely warmed to room temperature before you begin, to maximize the aeration achieved while whipping.
- Yolk-free zone: Be careful not to get any egg yolk in with the whites when separating. I recommend cracking the eggs into a small bowl, then add the whites one at a time into the mixing bowl. This way if one yolk breaks, it doesn’t ‘contaminate’ the whole batch.
- Separate while cold: Crack your eggs and separate them while cold, and then allow the whites to come to room temp. Warmer egg yolks tend to break apart more easily. Separating while still cold maximizes your chances of keeping the egg yolk intact and ensuring your whites stay yolk-free.
- If you skip any steps in preparing the egg whites, your cake may sink or collapse.
Can I Use Egg Whites From a Carton, Frozen Egg Whites, or Egg White Substitutes?
I don’t recommend using carton egg whites or egg whites that have been frozen for this recipe. Neither will aerate the same way that fresh, just-separated eggs will, meaning your cake won’t rise correctly or evenly. Since there is no chemical leavening agent in this recipe, the egg whites achieving the maximum possible aeration is all the more important! Egg white substitutes will not work.
What Does Cream of Tartar Do?
Cream of tartar is an acid and helps to stabilize the whipped egg whites. There is really no substitution for cream of tartar. If you don’t use cream of tartar in this recipe, the cake will collapse. Make sure you check the expiration date if you have it in your pantry; it’s one of those ingredients you may use so infrequently that it’s been sitting in there for 5+ years! Make sure it’s still fresh, or the cake may collapse. You can find it with the spices and extracts, in the baking aisle of your grocery store.
How to Make Angel Food Cake
What is Angel Food Cake? Why is it Called Angel Food Cake?
Angel Food Cake is an unbelievably light, pillowy-soft, delicate cake, said to be “so light, it’s fit for the Angels!” This homemade version has soooo much more flavor than the typical store-bought variety – and you won’t believe the difference in the texture! It’s a delicious summertime dessert, especially when served with whipped cream and fresh berries!
How is Angel Food Cake Different From Regular Sponge Cake?
Angel Food Cake differs from regular sponge cake in multiple ways. Angel Food Cake is made using egg whites (no yolks) and no fat. Traditional sponge cakes will typically contain both egg whites and egg yolks, as well as fat (usually in the form of butter or oil). Regular sponge cake also typically contains a chemical leavener (baking powder or baking soda), whereas Angel Food Cake is leavened solely on the air whipped into the egg whites during the process. This all makes for an incredibly light cake, with a texture like no other.
Sponge cakes are generally iced in buttercream or ganache, and are more of a substantial dessert as a result. Angel Food Cake is typically served with berries, whipped cream, or a simple glaze, making it a lighter option.
Tips for Whipping Egg Whites for Angel Food Cake
Listen up! Knowing how to whip your egg whites can make the difference between an impressive towering slice of cake and one that falls into a sad, dense slump:
Whip Tip 1: Follow all the ingredient instructions mentioned above.
Whip Tip 2: Use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites. If you don’t have the whisk attachment, wait until you get one to try this recipe.
Whip Tip 3: In our experimenting, we saw the best results when using an electric stand mixer with the METAL mixing bowl. The metal bowl provided a better deep shape to whip the egg whites to perfection; the glass bowl’s shape made it harder to whip the egg whites. You can use glass, but you may need to whip longer.
Whip Tip 4: Make sure your bowl is completely clean, you can even dampen a paper towel with a splash of vinegar to wipe down the bowl to ensure all grease is removed. Do not use a plastic bowl, it’s nearly impossible to remove traces of grease from plastic.
The Angel Food Cake Pan
- You will need a 9-inch, 16-cup unlined tube Angel Food Cake pan for this recipe.
- This is my favorite Angel Food Cake pan.
- This pan even has a removable base, so you can more easily get the cake out of the pan! It also has little prongs around the top of the pan. This is so the cake can cool upside down, ensuring the best possible structure and preventing the cake from sinking in the middle.
- A regular baking pan will not work.
- Most bundt pans are either too elaborately detailed (this cake would stick in those details!) or nonstick, making them unsuitable for this cake.
You also cannot use a nonstick pan as you will not grease the sides of the tube pan. The delicate cake batter needs the ungreased sides of the pan, and the sides of the inner tube, to cling to as it bakes, and again as it cools, or else it will collapse.
How to Bake Angel Food Cake
Bake until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when firmly pressed, about 45 minutes.
How to Cool Angel Food Cake
This has got to be the STRANGEST part of baking this cake! It must be cooled UPSIDE DOWN. That’s right. Because we’re not using a nonstick pan or greasing the pan, the cake won’t fall out. This step is crucial to prevent the cake from collapsing when cooling. My pan has a center column that’s longer than the rim of the pan so it’s steady on its bottom. It also has those protruding ‘legs’ attached to the sides of the pan you can tilt to secure it when upside down if needed.
Tips for Removing Angel Food Cake from the Pan
Once cooled completely, carefully run a long thin flexible knife or spatula around the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Gently lift the removable bottom out of the base of the pan. Gently remove to a serving plate.
What to Serve with Angel Food Cake/Topping Ideas
Can I Make the Angel Food Cake Ahead of Time?
The Angel Food Cake is definitely best eaten the day it’s made, but it will keep for a day or two if wrapped well in plastic wrap or stored in an airtight container, to prevent it from drying out.
Can I Freeze the Angel Food Cake?
To freeze, wrap the whole cake in plastic wrap (at least a couple of layers), and then freeze on a flat surface in the freezer for up to a month. Thaw at room temperature for a few hours or overnight, before serving.
Loved this! I went in confident knowing Tessa would always have clear instructions even for more complicated recipes and I wasn’t disappointed! It turned out beautiful.
That’s so wonderful to hear, Carla!! Tessa will be so glad to hear that her instructions were so clear and helpful 🙂
Why the lemon juice?
Hi Mary Jo! The lemon juice helps to kick-start the leavening action from the cream of tartar, helping to stabilize the cake! It also adds a delicious flavor! I hope you give it a try and let us know what you think! 🙂
My family has used the same Angle Food Cake recipe for as long as I can remember. When I saw that Tessa was publishing her version I just had to try it, as every recipe of hers that I have tried has always been a hit. While her recipe and the recipe my family typically uses are almost identical, one thing that stands out In Tessa’s is the lemon juice. Safe to say after making this for my family yesterday, Tessa’s recipe will be replacing our old tried and trued!
I do have one question. I always struggle with making Angle Food Cake because of all the leftover egg yolks. Do you have any suggestions on what I can make with them so that they do not go to waste? I’ve used them to make custards for pie fillings before but was hoping you’d have more suggestions about what I can do with them!
Hi Anna! We are so thrilled to hear you and your family loved this angel food cake recipe so much!! Ice cream can be a fun way to use up leftover egg yolks! Tessa has written a lot of ice cream recipes, many of which are traditional custard bases, meaning they need a lot of egg yolks! The French Vanilla ice cream is a delicious place to start, or alternatively, the Death by Chocolate ice cream is incredible, too! You can also make a lemon curd – we don’t have a recipe for a lemon curd yet, but there are loads available online, and it’s a fantastic way to use up extra egg yolks – and it’s delicious with angel food cake! Just a note, though; Tessa really doesn’t like to freeze egg yolks because their texture changes too much. I hope that helps! 🙂
I made this Saturday.. It is very easy to follow. It came out so soft and fluffy.. I will definitely be making this again.. My son’s loved it also.
So happy to hear you and your sons enjoyed this angel food cake, Lisa!! Thanks for the comment 🙂