For years, we’ve wanted to try making angel food cake from scratch, but, if you’ve ever looked at a recipe, you can probably guess why we haven’t: all those egg whites. About a dozen, and what do we do with a dozen yolks? So, we’ve never made one, even though it’s a favorite cake for one of us, and probably never would. That is, until we readDesserts for Two, by Christina Lane, in which she provides a scaled- down recipe for making angel food cupcakes. We can’t imagine why we didn’t think of scaling down the recipe. We’ve scaled down recipes all over the place, even recipes that call for things like 2 eggs + 1 yolk, which we easily scaled down to a third of the original (we weighed the 2 eggs + 1 yolk, beat them, then weighed out 1/3 the amount).
So, thanks to Ms. Lane, we can scratch up a few angel food cupcakes anytime we want.
We listed weights for most the ingredients and suggest that you use them if you have a scale. It will result in more accurate measures, which is really important with small batches of baked goods. We used cake flour and recommend it because it results in a lighter and more tender cake. In a pinch, substitute all-purpose flour. Make sure the egg whites are room temperature and from free-range hens. They will whip higher and lighter. Finally, do not skimp on the vanilla; 100% pure is the only way to go.
Procedure in detail:
Mise en place. The French term for putting in place. When baking cakes, we always do this, as it makes the process run smoothly and quickly, resulting in a happier baking experience and better desserts. Really. So, measure out the flour, cornstarch, and salt into your sifter. Put the egg whites into your scrupulously clean mixer bowl. Measure the sugar into a measuring cup with a spout for easy pouring and get out the cream of tartar and vanilla. There. Now, everything else will be a breeze.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place a rack in the center of the oven to ensure even baking, and place 6 cupcake papers in a muffin tin.
Sift. If you want a nice light angel food cake, sift the flour, cornstarch and salt together into a small bowl. Then sift several more times. Sifting fluffs the flour, making for a lighter cake. Sure, it seems as if you have hardly any dry ingredients for this recipe, but it’s enough.
Beat egg whites. Using the whisk attachment, start beating the egg whites on medium- low to break them up. When they become foamy, add the cream of tartar and gradually increase the speed of the mixer to medium. Keep beating until soft peaks form.
Add sugar. With the mixer still on medium, slowly add the sugar. The key is to give the sugar time to dissolve into the egg whites, but not so much time that the whites are completely whipped before you add more sugar. Tend toward the slower side, as it’s harder to over-whip the egg whites once they have some sugar in them. Once the sugar is added, beat on medium-high until you have stiff, but glossy, peaks. This is a French meringue.
Add vanilla. Measure out the vanilla and beat it into the meringue. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and make sure that everything is mixed.
Fold. In three additions, fold in the flour mixture. For each addition, sprinkle flour mixture over the top and use a spatula to fold it in. Don’t worry; meringues are pretty sturdy, so you’re unlikely to collapse the egg whites.
Divide. The batter is still like a meringue — very stiff — so use the spatula to scrape out the batter and fill the cupcake papers as best you can. This batter will not smooth out in the oven, so, if the top is jagged and rough, your cake will be jagged and rough when baked.
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake for about 17 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and a skewer inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.
Cool. Place the cupcakes right on the stove — the warmest part — to cool completely. Setting the cupcakes on the stove will allow them to cool slowly, resulting in less shrinkage.
These little cupcakes are great! It’s an easy recipe to make and the cakes are just small angel food cakes, with a nice tender crumb, slightly sweet and ever-so-slightly sticky when you pick them up. Plus, the cupcake paper just peels right off, leaving a nicely-shaped cake. Who knew that making angel food cake could be so easy? We surely didn’t, but now we do. Five stars.