Angel Food Cake
I’d been thinking about trying an angel food cake for a while. It might require a trip to the Cookshop for a new tin though. I did ask Google whether a bundt tin, or a ring tin would be OK, and the answer was, “you could try it, but don’t blame me if it all goes pear-shaped,” – well, something along those lines anyway. The Cookshop it was then. The next thing was to find a recipe. I went with James Martin and his angel food savarin cake recipe from his book, Sweet. I also found the recipe available online.
The challenge for this cake was going to be getting it out of the tin in one piece. I’ve had trouble with this before, especially with cakes baked in funny-shaped tins. You don’t grease an angel food cake tin. The batter has to grip on to the sides of the pan so that it can rise (the only raising agent is the air that you sift into the flour and whisk into the egg whites).
I know I said that you don’t grease an angel food cake tin, well, James Martin does, but only the base. James is the baking expert, so I did what he said and greased the base of my tin. Then I sieved plain flour and caster sugar into a bowl. You have to do this a couple of times in order to get lots of air into the mixture. It’s important for the texture of the cake. I sieved my flour and sugar three times and, mindful of the advice Delia Smith gives in her book, Delia’s Cakes, I held my sieve high. I found the whole sifting thing strangely therapeutic. The flour/sugar mixture fell softly into the bowl like snow, and I got into a good rhythm as I tapped on the sieve. I was enjoying myself so much I gave the mixture an extra sift.
When I managed to tear myself away from sifting, I whisked nine, yes nine, egg whites with vanilla extract, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt with the KitchenAid. The recipe helpfully tells you that your bowl and whisk need to be really clean, grease-free and dry before you start. It could have put this before telling you to start whisking. Anyway, I whisked away until my egg whites started to form soft peaks (which means that, when you lift the whisk out, there will be peaks in the egg white mixture, but they will be a bit droopy).
I added some caster sugar and kept whisking until my mixture was glossy. The recipe says that you should stop whisking before you reach the stiff-peaks stage. I knew I hadn’t reached stiff peaks, but I wasn’t sure whether I’d done enough whisking when I decided to stop. Knowing exactly when to stop is one of those things that comes with more experience in the angel food cake department I suppose.
I carefully added some of my flour/sugar mixture to my egg whites. The recipe says to aim for a quarter. I folded it in as quickly as I could and repeated this step with the rest of the flour. I was in a bit of a quandary here. My flour and sugar didn’t seem to be folding into the mixture very easily. I wasn’t sure whether it would be better to make sure that all of the flour was folded in, or whether too much folding would knock all of the air out of the mixture and leave my cake flat. I went with the folding option. A flat cake would be better than a cake with clumps of flour that hadn’t been folded in properly.
Once all of the flour had been incorporated, I put the batter into my tin, gave it a good tap and put it into the oven at 160° fan. The baking time in the recipe is 30 minutes. I wasn’t very optimistic about the cake. It seemed to have turned brown very quickly and I thought it could be burning. I didn’t want to open the oven though, in case the whole thing collapsed. After thirty minutes, the cake was golden brown, as the recipe said it should be, and it was slightly firm when I pressed it. I took it out of the oven. It looked pretty wet and it was cracked, I wasn’t at all sure that it was cooked enough.
Turning it out
So, the challenge. Getting the cake out of the ungreased tin. The James Martin recipe says that you put the cake upside down over a wire rack until it’s completely cold. Which way is upside down for a cake in a tin? The cake is upside down when it’s in the tin and the base of the tin is on the worktop. The cake is upside down, but the cake tin is the right way up right?
I was slightly confused so I turned to YouTube. What you have to do when cooling an angel food cake is to turn the tin upside down. Some tins have little feet on them so that you can invert the tin, and the air can get underneath. My tin doesn’t have feet, but the tube in the middle is slightly longer then the edge of the tin, so you can balance the tin on the tube.
After solving the conundrum of which way up the tin should go, there was the question of for how long? Betty Crocker suggests leaving it for two hours, Livestrong.com thinks that 30 minutes will be OK. James Martin doesn’t specify a time. I left mine for an hour.
To get the cake out of the tin I went around the edges with a knife, and gave the base (which is a loose one) a couple of taps with the end of a wooden spoon. I slowly pushed the base out of the tin and then, very, very carefully released the cake from the base with my knife. It worked. My angel food cake was (mostly) in one piece.
James Martin ices his angel food cake with a simple icing sugar and water mixture. He serves it with a raspberry cômpote.
The icing sounded simple enough, but the recipe said that you should drizzle it over the cake, which, at this stage is supposed to be on a plate. I frowned over this for a bit. If I drizzled the icing over the cake while it was on a plate, the bottom of the plate would get covered in icing. Surely the better thing to do would be to do the drizzling with the cake on a wire rack with a plate underneath to collect the drips. I’m not sure why, but I decided to follow the recipe. My cake ended up drowning in a pool of icing.
To make the cômpote I blended raspberries with icing sugar. I decided to use frozen fruit because I wasn’t sure how nice the “fresh” ones from Tesco would taste at this time of year. The next step was to push the blended mixture through a fine sieve. This isn’t something that I’d usually bother to do, but the recipe told me to do it and, given that I was following the recipe to the letter, I thought I’d better use the sieve. I almost gave up halfway through. I was splashing raspberry purée everywhere. It was on the toaster and all over the hob. None of it was landing in the bowl.
The phone rang. I swore, answered it, and ranted for a good five minutes about how much I hated the sieve. It’s a good job it was my husband. His advice was to wedge the sieve into the bowl and use a big spatula to push the purée through it, rather than hold it over the bowl and use the back of a spoon. I took his advice. It worked, the purée started to land in the bowl and it tasted absolutely lovely. I mixed some whole raspberries into the cômpote and tried it with a slice of my cake.
Was it worth it?
I’ve never had angel food cake before so I wasn’t quite sure what it was supposed to taste like. It was really light and it tasted a bit like marshmallows and a bit like meringue. Really very lovely indeed. The raspberry cômpote was great too. I don’t think it suffered from being made with frozen fruit and it definitely benefited from being passed through that sieve. Angel food cake is certainly something I’ll make again. I’ll have to now I have the tin.