Monday, April 26, 2010

Angel Food Cake - A 90th Birthday Celebration

We'd like to take this moment, we have one thing to say, the best of health and happiness on this important day! Hey!

As many of you know, those are the words to my family's version of "Happy Birthday." We celebrated Grandma Wanda's 90th birthday this past Sunday. Instead of a gift, she wanted me to bake her a cake, and she picked angel food. (Of course, I got her another gift too. What kind of grandchild would I be?!)

The cake is designed to be light and fluffy, and it definitely was. This is a great recipe for those of you who love angel food cake but think that there are better versions out there than the grocery store bakery or boxed mixes. I've got to give some credit to Ben Allen, who graciously played sous chef. Bake this for anyone you want to impress with a homebaked treat.

Angel Food Cake
From Baking Illustrated

1 cup sifted plain cake flour
1 1/2 cups sifted sugar
12 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Adjust an oven rack tot he lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Have ready an ungreased large tube pan ( 9-inch diameter, 16-cup capacity), preferably with a removable bottom. If the pan bottom is not removable, line it with parchment paper or waxed paper.

Sift both the cake flour and sugar before measuring to eliminate any lumps and ensure the lightest possible texture. Whisk the flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar in a small bowl. Place the remaining 3/4 cup sugar in another small bowl next to the mixer.

Beat the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer at low speed until just broken up and beginning to froth. Add the cream of tartar and salt and beat at medium speed until the whites form very soft, billowy mounds. With the mixer still at medium speed, beat in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is added and the whites are shiny and form soft peaks. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and almond extract and beat until just blended.

Place the flour-sugar mixture in a sifter set over waxed paper. Sift the flour-sugar mixture over the whites, about 3 tablespoons at a time, and gently fold in, using a large rubber spatula. Sift any of the mixture that falls onto the paper back into the bowl with the whites. (Tip: be sure to fold all the way down to the bottom of the bowl, or you might end up with dry ingredients not incorporated into the mixture).

Gently scrape the batter into the pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and give the pan a couple of raps on the counter to release any large air bubbles. Bake until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when pressed firmly, about 50 to 60 minutes.

If the cake pan has prongs around the rim for elevating the cake, invert the pan onto them. If the pan doesn't have prongs, invert the pan onto the neck of a bottle or funnel. Let the cake cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. To unmold, run a knife around the edges of the pan, being careful not to separate the golden crust from the cake. Slide the cake out of the pan and cut the same way around the removable bottom to release or peel off the parchment paper. Place the cake, bottom-side up on a platter. (Tip: The cake may appear as though it is a little wet still, but just leave it out to dry a little. Don't worry, the cake is fully cooked.) Cut slices by sawing gently with a large, serrated knife. Serve the cake the day it is made; we like serving ours with homemade whipped cream and strawberries.

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