June 27, 2011

Berry Yummy, Angel Food Cake

It's berry picking season. Time to look up local farms and see if they offer pick your own. There's nothing quite like being out in the sun, plucking ripe berries right from the vine with a basket swung over your shoulder, as you shovel strawberries directly into your mouth. Not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything. Because that would be wrong...

Eating fresh berries that you've just picked is like nothing else. You can almost taste the warmth of the sun in every berry. Fresh, fresh, fresh.

Before you know it you have an entire basket full of berries to bring home. That you have to eat up in a week. Hmmm...

Berries are excellent on cake. Angel food cake with fresh fruit and maybe a dash of vanilla ice cream would be a perfect solution, no?

If you don't have berries, you could spread high quality jam on each slice and cover in whipped cream.

Angel food cake is a soft sponge. It's light and airy texture makes it a delightful summer treat when heavier desserts just aren't as appealing.

Angel Food Cake
Recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook
(serves 12)

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups large egg whites (roughly 12 eggs worth)
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place the oven rack in the lowest position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together the powdered sugar and flour. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar. The eggs should become foamy. Add the granulated sugar a few tablespoons at a time, beating the mixture constantly on high speed. With the last few tablespoons of sugar, add the almond and vanilla extracts with the salt.

Continue beating the mixture until stiff peaks form. The mixture will be glossy. It is very important to not underbeat. Stiff peaks can be tested by gently dipping the head of the mixer into the egg whites. Pull the beaters out. Check the shape of the mixture clinging to the beaters, which should be similar to the shape of a mountain peak. If the whites hold their shape firmly even if you gently rotate the beaters back and forth manually, then you have stiff peaks and can move on to the next step.

Bring back the powdered sugar mixture and sprinkle small amounts over the egg mixture, about 1/4 of a cup at a time. Fold into the egg whites with a spatula until combined. It is important to be gentle and to only mix until the mixture is absorbed, as to not deflate the egg whites.

Scrape the batter into a 10 x 4 inch tube pan. Cut once through the batter with a knife or metal spatula to break any possible air pockets.

Bake 30-35 minutes. The cracks on top of the cake should feel dry and should spring back when touched gently.

Cooling the cake is important to do correctly. Angel food cake cools upside-down. If your foam cake pan has feet to allow the top, simply flip the cake over and let cool on your countertop. Otherwise use a heat proof bottle or funnel. Insert the bottle through the hole in the cake. It seems like a small thing, but it is important to test that the bottle will fit and balance the pan correctly before baking. Otherwise you may find yourself trying and failing to hold onto an extremely hot pan, while you search through your cabinet for bottles that are strong enough to hold up a cake. Ouch.

Let the cake cool for 2 hours or so until completely cooled. Flip the pan upright. Using a plastic knife loosen the edges of the cake from the pan. Remove cake. Serve.

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