Ah yes, angel food. A cake so light, fluffy, and fat free that angels sing about it and eat it exclusively. Or something like that. Angel food cake is one of my favorite experimental desserts. Not only is there a unique method but the bigger version of this cake is kind of show stopping, but that’s another post!
Angel food cake is a meringue based cake. I’m already familiar with meringues, so this wasn’t very new to me. Besides the fact that meringues and I roll mad deep, I’ve made angel food two other times. The first time didn’t go so well. My cake didn’t rise as high as it should’ve. While it yielded tasty results, it didn’t look like the cake I envisioned. What went wrong? I probably deflated the whites a bit. Since I now know my way around meringues, I knew this wouldn’t happen again, and I’ve got pictures to prove it!
At first, I was skeptical to make these cupcakes. Angel food, the big cake, requires cooling upside down. It’s the weirdest thing but hey, I’m not going to argue with that recipe. I wondered how it would work or if the cupcakes would end up deflating after cooling. Even with those doubts in my mind, I went for it.
The first step to making this recipe is to separate a dozen large eggs. We only need the whites. Save the yolks, though! I have 12 yolks chillin’ in the fridge with no aim. I’ll think of something. After separating, leave them out for a while to get to room temperature. Egg whites are best separated cold but they whip better room temp. Strange but true. I separated mine and went to the gym. Seems oxymoronic to make these after the gym but that’s how I roll. I also went ahead and pre-sifted the cake flour, powdered sugar, and salt, and set it aside. When in doubt, mise-en-place it out. Quote me.
After I got back from the gym, I got to work. Let me preface this by saying all your utensils MUST BE GREASE FREE. Whites are so finicky, they won’t get all voluminous if there’s grease. They’ll never, ever whip. Ever. No fixing that, so make sure your bowl, beaters, and spatulas are grease free. A good way to do this is to wipe your tools down with either lemon juice or vinegar. Now that everything’s clean, preheat the oven to 350 and line a million cupcake pans. Okay, so not a million but this recipe faithfully makes 36 cupcakes, so line enough wells for that. Set all that aside and let’s get started.
Pour those whites into your giant bowl, or in your stand mixer if you’re a lucky duck. Start beating the whites until they get frothy and bubbly. Shouldn’t take too long. Add the cream of tartar. What is that? Well, it’s neither cream nor tartar. It’s actually potassium bitartrate, which is a byproduct of wine making. I hear they scrape this stuff off wine barrels. It’s purpose here is to stabilize the whites. With this stuff, your whites will not fall. Crucial stuff here.
After adding the cream of tartar, continue beating the whites until you have soft peaks. How do you know you’re there? Turn off your beaters, dip them straight down into the whites and pull them back up. Turn the beaters on its side and look at the whites on the tip. If some of the whites stay on the beater and look like the picture below, you’ve got soft peaks. No whites on the beaters? You’re not there yet! Keep going and check periodically.
Continue beating the whites and gradually add the sugar. Keep beating the whites until they’re super fluffy, and thick. At this point, they’re probably at a medium peak (like in the photo). Add the vanilla and beat it in. You know you’re done whipping the whites when the trail of the beaters stays on the whites. No trails? Keep going.
At this point, we’re done beating. Grab your spatula and pre-sifted dry ingredients as it is time to fold them in. The best way to fold in the dry ingredients is by doing it in thirds. Don’t throw it all in and mix because you’ll risk deflating the egg whites. We definitely do not want that. Despite the fact that there’s cream of tartar in here, it won’t help keep all that air in. Fold gently and carefully, but also making sure to completely incorporate the dry ingredients. My favorite folding method is the “cut and sweep.” I basically take my rubber spatula and “cut” straight down the middle of the bowl, then I “sweep” the side of the bowl into the middle. Rotating the bowl helps!
Once done folding, spoon the batter in gently into the lined cupcake tins. Bake the cupcakes for 18-19 minutes or until golden and puffy. Cool completely and top with frosting. I went for a raspberry whipped cream because I low key made these for Valentine’s Day. Except not really but these make a cute lover’s day dessert! Like, I won’t tell if you and your partner eat all 36.
Even with all that doubt in my mind, the cupcakes came out beautifully. Fluffy and light, just like they should be. They’d be completely fat free had I not topped them with whipped cream but it’s whatever! I hope I helped demystify the angel food process (in cupcake form, at least). While it looks intimidating, the results are way too delicious to not try and make these.
- 12 large egg whites (1 1/2 cups)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar (sift before measuring)
- 1 1/8 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Separate the eggs, and let the whites sit at room temperature. While that’s resting, sift the cake flour, powdered sugar, and salt together. Set aside. Line your cupcake pans, and place your oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 350F
- Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, begin to beat the whites until frothy and bubbly. Add the cream of tartar, and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, while still beating, and continue until the whites have thickened and have medium peaks. From there, beat in the vanilla extract.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the dry ingredients in thirds, making sure to fully incorporate each addition before adding more. Once batter is smooth, carefully spoon the batter into the prepared pans.
- Bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven for 18-19 minutes or until golden and fluffy. Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.
Barely adapted from How Sweet It Is