There are plenty of explanations for the origins of Angel Food Cake, sometimes known as Angel Cake. One is that it became famous as the favourite dessert of Lucy, the gentle, saintly wife of the 19th President of the USA, Rutherford Hayes, and the recipe was anthologized in a book about White house food. What is certain is that Angel Food Cake – which bears a strong resemblance to American cakes of the 1800s, such as Snow Cake and Cornstarch Cake – suddenly became wildly popular after the invention of the rotary whisk, in the late 19th century. This simple, but effective, device removed much of the sweat from whisking the large quantity of egg whites involved. Today’s electric beaters make light work of the recipe given below, of course.
You will need:
8 large egg whites
150g caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
1tsp cream of tartar
1tsp vanilla extract
110g plain flour
85g icing sugar
150ml whipping cream
25cm ring mould or a 20cm tin
3 large mixing bowls
- Heat the oven to gas mark 4/180 C/ 350 F and grease the ring mould or tin carefully
- Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until they are frothy. Add the caster sugar, salt, cream of tartar and vanilla extract and continue whisking until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
- Mix the flour and icing sugar with a balloon whisk, then sift the mixture into the stiff egg whites and fold in very gently indeed to retain the air.
- Spoon the batter into the ring mould or tin, leveling it gently to ensure there aren’t any air pockets. Bake for about 35 minutes until the cake is well risen, golden brown and springy to the touch.
- Invert the cake, still in the tin, onto a wire rack and leave it upside down to cool completely. When it is cold, turn it onto a serving plate.
- To decorate, whisk the cream until it is thick – be careful not to beat for too long or it will curdle. Spread it thickly on top of the cake and scatter over the sugar sprinkles.