I always want to make pretty cakes that inspire oohs and ahhs when you serve them. Except that I'm really not much of a baker, and I especially am not good at making anything I cook 'pretty'. Usually I don't mind too much, because we all know that what really matters is how it tastes right? Half the time those gorgeous cakes are dry and flavorless anyway (see: my wedding cake.).
But then there was Angel Food Cake. I'm not sure there is anything prettier, fluffier, or sweeter. I absolutely love the stuff. I think everyone has a favorite kind of cake (no? just me? really?) and my favorite has always been Angel Food.
I was a bit surprised when I moved to Germany and realized (by doing an informal poll of my international group of friends) that Angel Food cake is pretty much an American thing. I knew I had to make some for my friends so they experience the sweet fluffy goodness , but - there being no angel food cake here and all - an angel food cake pan was impossible to find.
Luckily my mom was awesome enough to send me one for my birthday and I promptly got to separating eggs, whipping eggs whites and sifting flour and sugar. I had made this before in the states, and I found this recipe to produce a far superior Angel Food cake to anything I had tried before. The first cake I made was a complete disaster though. See - I forgot the very important step of inverting the cake to cool and the cake lovingly became known as "crater cake." Sure it tasted good...but it wasn't pretty.
Luckily eggs aren't too expensive (even organic, free range ones 'round here) and I didn't give up. And in the meantime I found myself with a very large number of egg yolks to put to good use in what has become my very favoritist frosting ever - Lemon Whipped Cream.
Its really simple: take 500g Whipped Cream (Schlag Sahne) and a scant amount of sugar and beat it with an electric mixer until its very stiff (careful....you go too long it will turn to butter). Then fold in a half cup to a cup of Lemon Curd (just to taste). I got this fantastic idea from Alice Waters in the Art of Simple Food, and this tart and not-too-sweet frosting just pairs magically with Angel Food Cake.
I had never iced an Angel Food Cake before - I had always eaten it fairly plain, maybe with some berries or fruit compote and some whipped cream at the most. Iced, with some fresh raspberries and blueberries in the center for decoration, it was just amazing. The lemon and berries together with the sweet but low-fat cake seemed so summer-y - it was the ultimate dessert to enjoy after a backyard BBQ and I think would make an adorable take-along to a Fourth of July celebration.
Angel Food Cake
with Lemon Whipped Cream Frosting
recipe from Gourmet November 2001
- 1 1/2 cups egg whites (11 to 12 large eggs)
- 1 1/2 cups (150 g) sifted confectioners sugar (sift before measuring)
- 1 cup (100 g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)(type 405 in Germany)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Special equipment: a 10-inch tube pan (about 4 inches deep) with a removable bottom
Let egg whites stand in large wide bowl at room temperature about 1 hour before making cake. (They should be about 60°F, slightly below room temperature.)
Set oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350°F (180 C)
Sift together confectioners sugar, flour, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper using a fine sieve (I just sifted into a bowl).
Beat whites in mixer until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat at medium speed until they form soft peaks. Add granulated sugar gradually, beating, and continue beating just until whites are thickened and form soft, droopy peaks. Beat in vanilla.
Sprinkle one fourth of sifted dry ingredients over whites and fold in with a rubber spatula gently but thoroughly. Fold in remaining dry ingredients, one third at a time.
Gently pour batter evenly into ungreased tube pan and bake until top is light golden, cake retracts a bit from pan and springs back when touched lightly, and a tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Invert pan onto neck of an empty wine bottle or a large metal funnel and cool cake completely (mine didn't fit on either of those and I just set it inverted on a baking rack and that worked just fine).
To remove cake from pan, run tip of a long, narrow knife between outer edge of cake and pan. Tilt cake pan on its side and gently tap bottom edge against counter. Rotate pan, tapping and turning a few more times, until cake appears free. Cover pan with a metal rack or cardboard round (or dinner plate as I did) and invert, tapping pan firmly to loosen cake. Lift pan from cake. (It should come out beautifully, like a pillow taken out of a slipcover.)
To frost, simply gently spread the icing in large heaping spoonfuls with a rubber spatula. Since I used a thick coating of frosting I didn't see any need to do a crumb coat and the whole bit. Frost around the whole cake including in the center hole. I think this cake looks cute with the frosting kind of fluffy and 'rustic looking' but feel free to make yours all smooth and pretty with a cake spreader if that is your thing. Keep the cake in the fridge until serving. Fill the center with fresh berries - I used raspberries and blueberries - but I can't think of a single berry that wouldn't taste great with this. Strawberries are especially awesome.