When making angel food cake, small mistakes can have big consequences. We have a hunch you’d prefer a delicate, sky-high cake to a dense, squat cake any day.
Here are the key steps to ensure your cake looks and tastes heavenly. (The short version? Whatever you do, don’t deflate the whites!)
Granulated or confectioners’ sugar will make acceptable but somewhat heavy cakes. For an extraordinary angel food cake, process granulated sugar in the food processor until powdery. It’ll be fine, light, and clump-free, so it won’t deflate the egg whites.
Some recipes call for sifting the flour and/or sugar as many as eight times. (What a pain.) We tried skipping sifting altogether, but the resulting cake was squat. Ultimately, we figured out that by processing the flour (with half the sugar) in the food processor to aerate it, we could get away with sifting just once.
We stirred ½ teaspoon egg yolk into 1 dozen whites, just to see. The eggs turned white and frothy with whipping, but even after 25 minutes, they failed to form peaks. Lesson learned: Separate eggs with care.
Add cream of tartar to the egg whites at the start of whipping. Once the egg whites become foamy, add half the sugar—gradually. Don’t dump it in all at once. Both help stabilize the egg whites, making them less likely to deflate.
Gently sift the flour-sugar mixture over the beaten egg whites in three additions to avoid putting too much weight on the whites. If you’re impatient or rough and tumble, the egg whites are certain to deflate.
Use a rubber spatula to gently turn or “fold” the flour and egg whites over one another until they are thoroughly combined. If you simply stir the two mixtures together, the abrupt motion can cause the egg whites to deflate.
Invert the cooked cake until it is completely cool, about 3 hours. If you don’t have a pan with feet, invert it over the neck of a bottle. Angel food cakes cooled right-side up can be crushed by their own weight. To unmold the cooled cake, run a knife along the inside of the pan. Because you can’t grease the pan, the cake sticks a bit.