There are some recipes that are so ingrained in the family history we don’t mess with them at all, well, at least not much…
My mom, my daughter, and my niece all list angel food cake as their favorite, a it is often a birthday cake request. My granddaughter’s birthday is two days before my daughter’s in late April, so we generally have a shared cake and party for them both, as we did this year. So good to get together again.
A simple recipe, just take care
It’s a simple recipe with few ingredients, the most important of which is the precious air we beat into the batter. Precious because the cake gets its lift from egg whites alone. Easy, but it is a lesson in patience, with a long beat, a long bake, and a long rest.
The right pan
This works best with a traditional angel food cake pan with pull-out center and little legs for cooling the cake upside down. I have my mom’s, so it’s been around for many decades! She probably bought hers in the hardware store, where you can still find them. If you don’t have one, you can use a bundt cake pan, but it will be a bit more difficult to extract the cake.
Often, mom would frost it with billowy seven-minute frosting, one of her favorites. She placed a piece of cardboard over the center top hole before she frosted it, and we kids would always fight over who got that frosted hole when the cake was being cut. This frosting took a couple more egg whites as well, but I can’t remember what she did with all those yolks!
Zest it up!
If all you have ever had is the stale, packaged angel food cake from the supermarket, the real thing is nothing like it! The homemade cake is light and fluffy, sweet, and a blank canvas for however you want to dress it up. We usually serve this straight up with berries on the side and some whipped cream or lemon curd. I sometimes add some lemon or orange zest to the cake to add a little more interest. With the citrus zest, serving it with a curd made from some of the egg yolks is a perfect match.
Just a change or two
My addition to mom’s recipe is to add the pulp of one of my vanilla beans from my homemade vanilla extract. You can also just split a bean and use the seeds to add a bit more interest to the flavor. I’ve also made a chocolate version substituting a quarter cup of Dutch process unsweetened cocoa powder for a quarter cup of the flour and adding a teaspoon of instant espresso powder. I thought it was really good, but my family likes the marshmallowy flavor of the traditional.
A treat, don’t mess with it!
It is not difficult, but you have to follow the rules with this one. I tried to make it vegan (using aquafaba) and gluten free once and it did not work, maybe one or the other would have. Other than using organic ingredients where possible for the planet, especially the eggs, there is no way to make it healthy, I’ve tried, so all things in moderation. We just leave it as a treat, add some birthday candles, and celebrate your family!
(Mostly) Mom’s Angel Food Cake
- 12 egg whites, room temperature
- 1 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 cup cake flour
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Pulp of one vanilla bean, optional
Read the Angle Food Cake Tips below before beginning.
Preheat the oven to 275 F. This is a good time to check the actual temperature of your oven with a thermometer.
Sift the flour with the salt and set aside.
Beat the egg whites on low to break them up and get them frothy, then turn up the mixer to medium, add the cream of tartar (to stabilize), and beat until fluffy, about five to six minutes. Take your time. Sprinkle in the sugar a spoonful at a time, gently, then continue beating for another five minutes or so, until the mixture is light and fluffy and soft peaks form. Add the vanilla, and the mixer has done its job.
Fold in the flour mixture about a third of a cup at a time, and gently fold into the batter. You don’t want to knock out any more air than necessary, so be gentle.
Fill the UNGREASED cake pan and level off the top, giving it one little whack on the counter to release any large pockets of air. A little one.
Bake in an ungreased angel food cake pan at 275 for about an hour and 15 minutes, check at an hour. Be careful not to disturb. When brown and firm to the touch, remove from oven and invert on the pan’s legs or a bottle stuck in the hole of the bundt cake. Let cool completely. If you don’t invert it, you will have what looks like a sunken soufflé.
To free the cake, gently slide a thin knife around the side of the pan, keeping as close to the pan as possible. Run the knife along the center as well, then lift the cake off the bottom. Using that long, thin knife, run it along the bottom of the pan releasing the cake. It takes a few minutes, but really is not difficult.
Garnish as you will, and slice with a serrated knife, a gentle back and forth.
Angel Food Cake tips:
- Invest in an angel food cake pan, you’ll have it forever and pass it on.
- Have all ingredients at room temperature.
- Make sure your bowl and beaters are sparkling clean. Mom would give hers an extra wipe with a bit of white vinegar just to make sure.
- Separate the white of each egg into a small dish before adding it to the mixing bowl. If there is even the slightest bit of yolk, your eggs won’t fluff up.
- Add the sugar just a light sprinkle at a time so you don’t knock out the air.
- Use patience with the beating of the eggs, you want to end up with soft, shiny peaks of luscious marshmallow-like consistency.
- Gently fold in the vanilla, also trying not to knock out the air you have just incorporated.
- Never grease the pan! The eggs need to climb up the sides, and if it is greased, or a non-stick surface, they will not be able to do their job.
- Invert immediately after removing from the oven. Immediately. I learned this the hard way.
- Let cool completely while inverted. That means cold, not a bit of warm to the touch. Once cold, the cake will be stable.
- Use a serrated knife to cut into portions, not difficult at all.
For the luscious lemon curd, recipe here.
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67 Comments Add yours
Your cake looks beautiful.
Thank you! I forgot to take a picture of it when it still had the fairies and candles on top!
Angel food cake was never my favorite, but now you’ve made me want one. I’ve got a load of eggs unhand, but those yokes… any ideas??
Lemon curd Angela!!!! It will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks! Here’s my recipe:
My mother made angel food cakes, and had a pan just like yours. I have no idea what happened to it and had not thought about it until now. Yours is beautiful, and I love the black and white photograph!
Thank you! So many of us have memories of this cake, a classic!
PS The pan is probably in storage, right next to the fondu pot!
What a beautiful and delicious treat! Happy birthday to the girls 😉🎂
It was a wonderful spring day!
Oh, I envy you. I LOVE angel food cake and have never been successful making it. And I can’t use high altitude as an excuse, I failed at sea level, too. LOL Looks delicious.
Well, take a deep breath one day, read the rules, and give it another shot. If you follow the steps, you will succeed!
Looks absolutely yummy!!!
Thank you! It was delightful.
Angel Food Cake is a family favorite at our house too! I always save the yolks to make lemon curd. Looks like you did the same in one of your photos with strawberries. Coincidentally, my youngest son celebrates his birthday tomorrow. Lots of late April b-days to celebrate!
There are! May was always an active b’day month as well, my mom, aunt, brother, and sister! Plus my daughter’s anniversary.
ALWAYS my favorite cake, and not just because of the name. The name simply describes what it IS! The food of angels.
Ah, that’s such a wonderful way to look at it! So cloud-like!
This beautiful cake is a classic for a reason, and you executed it so well.
I haven’t made it in ages. Thanks for the tasty reminder! 🙂
Than you Ronit. We make it fairly often for birthdays and Easter as well. Light and fluffy, and you can add what you love to dress it up!
I used to serve it with lemon or lime curd – to put some of the egg yolks into good use. 🙂
I know! There are so many! I love s lime curd too!
Unfortunately, when I downsized, the angel food cake pan was gifted, but this looks absolutely amazingly delicious. Also, thank you for the heartfelt moment and smile I enjoyed when reading ‘seven-minute frosting.’ My grandmother made that frosting, and I’m enjoying a great memory right now. Thank you!
My mom loved the process of making the seven-minute frosting, and she had a sweet tooth so she enjoyed the marshmallow-like texture and flavor. Glad to have sparked a memory!
Angel Food cake is my oldest son’s favorite too. I always think of it when strawberry season rolls around. Thanks for the great directions and I will be on the lookout for the appropriate pan. Do you use the pan for any other cakes?
I have to admit, that’s all I’ve ever used the pan for, and Elton Brown would not approve. But you could cook any Bundt style cake it it
Angel food cake was my family’s birthday cake of choice! 🎂
It always feels like a celebration, doesn’t it!
Most certainly!!! 🎂🍰
I can’t count how many angel food cakes I made while growing up, but I haven’t made one since. I even gave my pan to a friend.
Ah, maybe you could borrow it back from time to time!
Yes, I can do that if I ever get the urge.
I’ve never been a cake maker, Dorothy, but I’m up for a challenge. I’ll take your advice and look for an angel cake pan first. Then it will be all systems go. Wish me luck!
Good luck Carolyn! It is fun and rewarding!
It’s a great classic cake. What do you do with all the egg yolks?
I made lemon curd for the event! It was a most appreciated treat!
i think i need to get me some chickens first with that many egg whites 🙂 tee hee
I know! It’s a lot! After the weekend, I had not an egg in the house and had to get extra from my egg lady!
Chickens would be nice!
Something I have never made, Dorothy it looks delicious…
It’s a fun cake to make Carol, there is always that little wish you make that it actually doesn’t collapse!
I’ve done that many a time with sponges but guessing with this cake a wish is made everytime 😊
I can’t believe I’m saying this but I have never had angel food cake! Your pictures look utterly sublime and the cake looks so moussey, it must melt in the mouth
This is a flashback to my childhood. My mother had that pan and made a delicious Angel Food Cake. Like you said, nothing like the ones you can buy in the grocery today.
Such good memories! I was always excited about the cooling upside down part!
Your cake looks lovely Dorothy! Angel food cake is a tradition in our family too. Growing up, it was made every year for my sister’s birthday, which is on December 25th. My mom used to make a homemade chocolate sauce to accompany it which she would serve warm spooned over each slice and then added a sprinkle of shaved coconut for the finished garnish it was so delicious and a total childhood delight as I always thought the coconut looked like snowflakes:) Angel Food cake is definitely one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing your recipe!
What a lovely way to enjoy and angel food cake Katherine! Love the idea of the chocolate sauce, and I’ll have to give it a try next time.
This looks incredible Dorothy! I bought an angel cake tin a few years ago thinking I would make a chiffon cake – but it never happened. I also no longer own a decent mix master – my KitchenAid suffered a very expensive mechanical failure and I have not yet replaced it. All my whipping is now done by hand. 12 egg whites is a lot of whipping!! I certainly know of a great custard (or creme anglaise) recipe that uses 6 egg yolks – nothing wrong with making a double batch. This looks so light and decadent all at once. Thankyou for sharing your family recipes – you know they work when they have been passed down the generations.
I’m so sorry your mixer has left your life! I think it would be extremely difficult and wrist-destroying to make this one without the kitchen aid, if any brand!
Ag, a crème Anglaise would be a perfect use for the eggs!
What a special tradition, celebrating birthdays with a time honored family recipe!
Thank you Jenna, it helps keeping those memories alive!
I’ve never made angel food cake, but I need to try it sometime–this looks so yummy with the strawberry topping!
It’s an amazing recipe! Light and flavorful, and fun to make.
My grandmother made angel food cake all the time. She had her own chickens, so she had a lot of eggs. I can remember watching her make an Angel food cake and being amazed at the egg whites turning from clear liquid to a white thick foam.
It is a lot like magic isn’t it Julia!
Yes, it is!
So beautiful! I was just about to ask what you did with the egg yolks and then I saw your comment to another reader about making lemon curd. I still haven’t made your curd recipe but it’s on my bucket list. I love a good angel food cake, but it absolutely has to be homemade. Store bought just tastes fake and too sweet. You make it look easy, so I guess I better get a pan and try it.
If you follow the rules, it is an easy cake, and really rewarding to see the luscious mounds of meringue turn into a fluffy yet sturdy cake!
Thank you so much for reposting this recipe! A family favorite for sure.
Wow, the ratio of egg whites to flour is extraordinary. This is almost meringue with some flour added. The most similar cakes I’ve baked substitute part of the flour with cornstarch or wheat starch for a fluffier texture. But those recipes don’t have that much egg whites.
It’s amazing, I agree. Once the cake is fully cooled, it is quite stable, light and fluffy, and it keeps for days without losing its moisture! It was a favorite of my mom’s to make, which is surprising because she wasn’t always that patient! The reward was worth it I guess.
Your cake looks so yummy Dorothy.
Thank you so much! There was not a crumb left!
Now that’s Dessert!
Thanks for this recipe, Dorothy. I love making angel cake. I don’t have legs on my angel cake tin so I invert using a wine bottle.
That’s perfect! Before my mom got her pan with legs, she used one of my dad’s beer bottles!