Jerry Seinfeld had his chocolate babka, but my dessert obsession is angel food.
Fluffy and dense, yet light as a … well … cloud, angel food has become my go-to dessert for family, friends and clients. Its creamy white interior resembles nothing so much as Wonder Bread. Surely, this is what Marie Antoinette meant when told the peasants had no bread. “Let them eat cake,” indeed.
Understand, my angelic obsession is something new. I vaguely remember angel food as my Grandma Sue’s favorite dessert. Yet the angel food cakes I recall from childhood were either grainy from too much sugar or dry and tasteless.
What a shame. If I’d tasted angel food the way it was meant to be, I wouldn’t have spent all those years avoiding it!
Angel food is a marvel of kitchen alchemy. With whipped egg whites as leaven and just the merest sprinkling of satiny flour, the cake rises to the top of a 10-inch tube pan. When cooled and upended onto a platter, it weighs just ounces. Yet it can feed 14-16 people and needs absolutely no adornment to amaze.
Of course, you can adorn all you want. Pour a chocolate ganache over the cake for a stunning icing. Add finely grated bittersweet chocolate to the batter for a speckled effect. Make a citrus cake by substituting half a teaspoon of lemon or orange extract for the vanilla. Or serve your cake atop macerated berries and lots of whipped cream. At 126 calories and 0.1 grams of fat per slice, you can afford the splurge.
Our family has taken to eating angel food for breakfast. Run slices under the broiler until the top is toasted, then slather with your favorite breakfast jam. As your teeth crunch through the surface crust, they meet an interior that has turned to marshmallow.
Maybe not a breakfast of champions, but an awfully nice change of pace. Jerry, you can keep your babka. I’ll take angel food any day!
Angel Food Cake (Southern Living)
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Beat 12 egg whites in a heavy-duty stand mixer until foamy. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat until soft peaks form.
With mixer running, add 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time. Beat continuously until stiff peaks form and all the sugar is incorporated. (Test some batter between your fingers. If it feels grainy, keep beating. Otherwise, your cake will weep.)
Gently fold in 1 cup sifted cake flour, 1/4 cup at a time. (If you want a chocolate angel food, sift 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa in with the flour.) Fold in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.
Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and invert the entire tube pan on a plate to cool for 40 minutes.
When cool, run a knife around the cake’s edges and the center tube. Carefully shake the cake out of the pan and onto a platter.
Ooh, aah, and dig in!