Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Adventures in Cooking: Angel Food Cake

One of my strongest memories of my grandmother, Elizabeth Hutson, is how she would make an angel food cake for special occasions (or quite honestly, probably when the chickens laid some extra eggs).

I still remember her whipping the egg whites by hand in a giant pottery bowl (which now sits atop my fridge) using a flat whip (yes, I still have it as well).

I don't know if the secret of her cake rested in the whipped egg whites, but I know she always strived to get them whipped into soft peak submission.

Saturday, during a visit home, mom said "why don't we make an angel food cake."

I think mom expected me to whip the egg whites in her mixer, but subconsciously, I grabbed a large bowl and started doing it by hand.

It's not that the cake wouldn't have turned out well, using the mixer, but somehow, mixing it by hand seemed, well, natural.

I didn't have access to grandma's recipe (it's somewhere in a box at home), but I did have a recipe from the Almena, Kan., community cookbook.

Simple - really just flour, sugar, cream of tarter, egg whites, vanilla, salt and almond flavoring - the recipe just took some extra prep to execute.

Apparently, it turned out well, since everyone - especially dad - seemed to enjoy it.

Maxine Lowry's Angel Food Cake
(Page 54 of the Almena cook book!)
1-1/4 C. sifted cake flour
1/2 C. sifted sugar
1-1/2 C. egg whites
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1-1/3 C. sifted sugar
1-1/4 tsp. cream of tarter

Getting Started: Your eggs should be a room temperature & you should use an ungreased tube cake pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 1) Put measured sifted cake flour and 1/2 cup sifted sugar together. Sift the two ingredients together four times.

Step 2) Combine egg whites, salt, cream of tarter and flavorings in a large bowl. Beat with mixer until soft peaks form.

Step 3) Add the other 1-1/3 cups sifted sugar to the egg white mixture, in four additions, beating until blended each time.

Step 4) Sift in flour/sugar mixture into egg whites in four additions, folding in with large spoon each time.

Step 5) Fold batter into tube pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned on top with a dry look.

Step 6) Remove from oven, invert pan and let cake stand until cool. Remove pan and frost as desired.

Somethings I learned From This Adventure In Cooking!

1) The recipe called for 1-1/2 cups of egg whites. Mom remembered grandma just putting in a dozen egg whites, so that's what we aimed for. We needed a few more than a dozen, because alas, my egg separating skills were a bit lacking. (Next time, I'll have at least 1-1/2 dozen eggs ready and waiting for this adventure.)

I also learned you should also separate each egg, one by one,  into a bowl, then pour the "good" whites into the "main bowl." This keeps the busted yolks from contaminating more than one egg. (Mom also had me wash the bowl out, if a yolk busted (a.k.a. don't just dump out the egg/yolk.... always have a clean bowl to work with!)

2) What should you do with the egg yolks (and busted eggs)? Well, we made egg noodles (and tried out mom's new pasta machine). Basically, this meant dad got homemade chicken and noodles AND an angel food cake for supper. (We made enough noodles for supper, and to freeze for at least two more meals).

3) Since we didn't have a "sifter" for the sugar and flour, I put it in a bowl and then kind of "sifted" it with a pastry cutter. I figured the sifter breaks up the "big" pieces, so the cutter seemed to do the job. If I do this again, I'll have a sifter. I think this adds air to the cake and makes it "fluffy."

4) When you pull the cake from the oven, and it calls for inverting the pan for cooling, you need to make sure air can circulate UNDER the pan. (The new pan of mom's didn't have "feet" and the cake cooled, but got a bit "sweaty" on the sides. I think this problem would have been solved if we had inverted it onto a cooling rack.)

5) Make enough icing (I just did a thin powered sugar/milk/vanilla glaze) so it can pour over the cake in one setting.

6) Colored sprinkles are "extra" but that's how grandma made it!


  1. Grandma Schoenhofer used to invert and vent angelfood cakes by putting the upside down tube pan on a glass pepsi bottle. It only ever caused a problem if the cake accidentally released from the pan... :)

  2. Cool Beck, didn't know that..
    Good idea about the glass bottle....

  3. I have learnt various good stuff right here, and I’m sure everyone will get advantage of it.



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