July 24, 2017
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Listen, Suburban Ladies, I’m Taking Back Angel Food Cake
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The traditional method for making angel food cake is a pain in the ass. But there’s a better way.

Angel food cake could never be the food legitimate angels eat, because in heaven you can eat steak and chocolate and very expensive cheese. The angels who feed on this cake are the kind that show up in Thomas Kinkade paintings or sing backup for Corey Feldman.

Angel food cake screams of sacrifice and deprivation, even though its name contains the word “cake.” It contains no fat—the nutritional bogeyman of the ’90s. It was the only treat served at your grandmother’s house during her brief flirtation with Weight Watchers. The only way anyone could eat steamed chicken with a side of seven green beans every evening was to focus on the dessert to come: a preportioned slice of cellophane-wrapped cake with the texture of a mildewed sponge and the flavor of vanilla-scented Febreze. This is not what was promised in the photographs, which showed a fluffy tower of golden-brown bliss, with a lily-white interior so soft and delectable you wanted to jump into the picture and jump up and down on it like a bed at the Four Seasons.

Angel food cake sits in the supermarket bakery section in a flimsy plastic dome, giving Pinterest-loving ladies all over the world revelations of the cake’s potential as a blank canvas. At any given family cookout you could come face to face with a store-bought cake that’s been transformed into a diorama of marshmallow Peeps having a day at the swimming pool, and you are going to have to spend months talking about how clever it was because that sort of validation is the only thing getting your Aunt Patty through her divorce. Thanks to Sandra Lee and an infamous moment in television history, we have a country of unhinged women filling their cake holes with canned pie filling, spackling their exteriors with canned frosting, impaling them with tapered candles.

Most of the angel food cakes you encounter in the wild are store-bought or made from a mix, because there’s an erroneous belief that making a good one is hard. Since they require their own specific shape of pan, once you buy one, you’re committing for life to chasing the perfect recipe. You do not want that pan sitting in your cabinet of failure, mocking you for thinking you could possibly make an angel food cake that was not only worth eating but also worth making a second time.

The traditional method for making angel food cake can be persnickety and difficult. It requires beating egg whites to a consistency that recipe writers assume you’ll be able to recognize when you get there, but you won’t, because egg foaming is not a part of your daily life, and you will instead spend at least three minutes asking, “Does this look right?” to no one in particular. And then, of course, there’s the “gentle folding”—a balancing act of breaking up flour lumps without deflating the egg whites.

But there’s a better way! This angel food cake spits in the face of any case made against it. It is easy; it is simple; it is glorious. There’s no fussing with egg temperatures or foam-peak analysis, no slow streams of sugar or folding skills required. It could very well end up being your new favorite cake. Though angel food cake was once corrupted by suburban ladies, we can wrestle it back from them in the same way we saved high-waisted jeans, La Croix, and swingers parties.

Angel Food Cake

Angel Food Cake

8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 egg whites
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or 1 teaspoon cream of tartar)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup instant flour
  • ¾ teaspoons fine salt

Forget all the fussiness you associate with angel food cake—none of it was ever necessary. Your eggs don’t need to be room temperature; your sugar doesn’t need to be superfine; you don’t need to stream things in slowly or “gently fold” till combined. The key is using a can of “instant flour,” normally used for thickening gravies rather than baking. Low in protein and pregelatinized so that it can rapidly dissolve in liquids, it results in a cake that’s ethereally fluffy, no folding or futzing required.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, positioning a rack in the bottom third.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment on medium-low, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla until smooth and just foamy, about one minute. Gradually increase speed to maximum. Beat until you can just see trails coming from the beaters and the egg whites have reached a thick yogurt-like consistency, about five minutes.
  3. Reduce speed to medium-low and, with mixer running, slowly shake in flour. Stop mixer and whisk by hand a few times to make sure all the flour has been evenly incorporated.
  4. Pour the cake batter into an ungreased angel food cake pan. Gently lift pan about 2” and drop onto counter three times to release any trapped air bubbles.
  5. Bake cake for 50 minutes without opening the oven.
  6. After 50 minutes, remove cake and immediately flip upside down to cool. Let angel food cake rest for a minimum of one hour before unmolding it.

Allison Robicelli

Allison Robicelli is a D-list celebrity-chef chef, author, humorist, entrepreneur, general polymath, and all-around good time. You may remember her from such places as Food52, Eater, Food Network, VH1, and many other quirky corners of the food Internet. She is the author of the critically acclaimed cookbook/memoir Robicelli's: A Love Story, With Cupcakes, which has been called one of the funniest food-related books of all time. You should buy it.

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