Matt was just over the moon when he learned that I’d bought another cake tin for our ‘Little Grey Kitchen’…Sure we already have plenty of baking equipment and paraphernalia, but he was falling over himself-excited about this latest addition. ‘Is it reeeeally necessary?’ Well, as a matter of fact, YES it is.
Angel Cake, or Angel Food Cake (same thing) is a fat free, bouncy, light-as-a-feather sponge cake that’s as perfect for our winged protectors, as it is for mere mortals who prefer their treats on the lighter side.
The main ingredient is egg whites and air (as well as a teensy amount of sugar) and in order to get an even bake, they’re made in a special tin with a hole in the middle, called a Tube Pan, or Angle Food Cake Pan, so that the heat penetrates the centre and is cooked from all sides. It was a memorable ‘technical bake’ on The Great British Bake Off – can’t recall which series – where contestants were rather nervy about having to cool the cake upside down…ring any bells?
Anyhoo, I’ve heard lots about them in recent years; they seem to be quite popular State Side, with the lovely Ina Garten, aka Barefoot Contessa, being my initial introductory conduit. As most American crazes seem to eventually seek out new territory on our little island I knew it was inevitable that I had to try this most intriguing of cakes. This meant buying a new tin. (It also means building another kitchen draw, but we’ll deal with that later.)
My first use of the crazy new pronged tin was to make a lemon chiffon cake a couple of weeks ago. Chiffon cakes are similar to Angel Cakes, except they contain fat in the form of egg yolks (rather than the Angel’s ‘white only’ policy) and vegetable oil (no butter though!). They’re an altogether sturdier cake that relies on additional raising agents, where as the Angel Cake is pure as the driven snow with no need of such tacky chemical inclusion (except for a touch of cream of tartar, but that’s more for stability than lift). Think ‘meringue with a little flour’…or, specifically, ‘cake flour’. Which leads me to point out another important requirement for this cake…you can’t just go sifting any old ‘plain’ or even ‘self raising’ flour into this celestial cake. No, it must be Cake Flour. You know; for making cakes! You don’t know? Well let me enlighten you.
Actually, I really can’t. Suffice to say it’s another American ingredient that is widely used in the States (like corn syrup) but not so much over here and although I don’t know the constituent parts of this uber special flour I do know how to make an acceptable substitute, thanks to Joy The Baker . You simply add corn flour (or corn starch) to plain flour and sift til the cows come home. Not difficult really.
Although I used a Mary Berry lemon Angel Cake recipe as a base to start from, one of the changes I made was to use this ‘cake flour’ as it seemed more authentic, and certainly worked well in the chiffon cake I made. I also swapped some of the flour for ground pistachios and added Rose Oil for a summery Eastern vibe. I use rose syrup quite a lot, especially to macerate berries and other fruit and so I thought this would accompany the Angel Cake well.
I was fortunate enough to benefit from my mum and step dad’s recent glut of raspberries and, after the fifth ‘reminder’ I finally found time to have a rummage through the wilds of their fruit cage and unearth the last few fruity gems. And I’m so glad I did – raspberries are another of my faves and our meager canes aren’t due to fruit until Autumn!
Finally, I reduced the amount of sugar that Ms Berry used, on account of my leaving out the lemon juice (Mary’s was a lemon cake after all).
The result was a much cleaner finish than the chiffon cake (which sadly began to tear apart when it was up-turned), although probably less tasty. You definitely need an accompaniment with an Angle Cake, in my opinion, unless you are just eating it to feel virtuous and cut calories. I opted for a zesty cream cheese icing and served it with equally zesty rose-infused berries, but it was also good with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Arctic Roll anyone?
Cooks note: This cake makes excellent use of left-over egg whites and is a nice change to meringue! If you’re a keen ice cream or custard-based dessert maker, then you may (if you’re feeling squirrel-like) keep your egg whites and freeze them for later. You may also find that ‘later’ never comes and so you keep adding and adding to this store of egg-white filled plastic bags in your freezer. If this is the case, now’s the time to dig them out. You need TEN after all!
Rose & Pistachio Angel Cake (adapted from here)
- 90g cake flour
- 35g ground pistachios (mixed with a tablespoon of cake flour and 1 tsp of sugar for abrasion)
- 250g caster sugar
- 10 large egg whites
- zest of one lemon
- Rose essential oil, 10 drops
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- ½ tsp salt
- 30g soft unsalted butter
- 4 tbsp full fat cream cheese
- zest of one lemon
- 100g sifted icing sugar
Zesty Summer Berries
- Red unseeded grapes, washed
- Raspberries, Cherries, blueberries or whichever berries you like
- Rose syrup
- Lemon juice
- Mint leaves
- Caster sugar, a sprinkle
You will need a 25cm Angel Cake Tin/Tube Pan. Do NOT grease it.
Grind 35g pistachios in a food processor with 1 tbsp flour and 1tsp sugar until it becomes powdery. Set aside.
Make your cake flour by ‘measuring’ out 1 cup of plain flour into a large bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons of this flour and replace it with 2 tablespoons of corn flour. Mix well and then sift FIVE times. Joy the Baker is quite adamant about this, although I think I just did it four times. I’m a complete rebel of the highest order, though, so please yourself.
This amount comes to a little more than you need for this recipe so you will have some left over. Measure out 90g and set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 180deg/160 FAN
Place the room temperature egg whites in a very large bowl (I suggest an electric mixer) and whisk until frothy.
At this point add the lemon zest, cream of tartar and salt and continue whisking until soft peak stage.
Now add the sugar a little at a time (as with meringue) whilst continuing to whisk at quite high speed. The mixture should be firm and pillowy.
Add the rose oil and whisk briefly to combine.
Remove the bowl from the mixer. You may – as I did – need to transfer the mixture to a larger bowl, as you now need to fold in the flour and pistachios.
Add one third of the cake flour to the ground pistachios and stir well.
Now fold the flour into the meringue mixture in two stages, being careful to keep as much air in the batter as possible.
Finally add the ground pistachio/flour mixture, once again, folding in gently.
Transfer the mixture to your UNGREASED cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes.
The tin needs to be ungreased so that the batter can cling to the tin as it rises.
While it’s baking make the icing by vigourously stirring the butter and cream cheese in a bowl until smooth. Add the grated lemon zest and then sift the icing sugar into the mixture. Beat well to combine.
The icing should be a smooth consistency. Leave in the fridge until you need it.
To make the Zesty Berries, slice your grapes in half (or quarters if they’re large) and add them to a medium bowl with however many berries you like. Using your taste and judgement, add the remaining ingredients and stir though. Leave to one side to steep. The lemon juice balances out the sweetness of the rose syrup and the mint leaves add freshness and another essential flavour component. I really love this combination and use it a lot, but just add a squeeze of lemon and a dash of syrup, taste and see how you go.
When the cake is baked (i.e. golden on top with a skewer coming out clean) remove from the oven and immediately turn upside down so that it’s resting on its prongs. This utilises the ever helpful law of gravity to assist with keeping the cake light while it cools.
Leave for one hour. Once thoroughly cooled loosen the edges with a pallet knife and it should gently ease out.
Cover the top of the cake with your icing (you can also decorate with pistachios and crystalised rose petals if you have them) and serve with the Zesty Berries.
The angels will thank you later.
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