From the title of this post, you'd be justified in assuming that I baked my mother's recipe for angel food cake. But you'd be mistaken - or more accurately, misled. This cake is from Virginia Willis' own Mama, and knowing what a great baker Virginia is, I was excited to try her mother's recipe: Mama's Angel Food Cake.
I baked it in the angel food cake pan that was my own mother's, and her mother's before that. All in all, it seemed a perfect way to celebrate Mother's Day!
- You can find the recipe here -
- Angel food cake is a great way to use up a lot of egg whites. The recipe calls for 12 whites; I always have extra egg whites from all of the ice cream that I make (ice cream base usually uses yolks) For this cake I pulled a bunch of egg whites out of the freezer. I used 360 total grams of egg white (my general rule of thumb is that each egg white weighs 30 grams)
- The accompanying Bourbon Creme Anglaise - recipe here - on the other hand, uses yolks only. I didn't want to orphan more whites than absolutely necessary, so I made half recipe (3 yolks) of the creme anglaise. It turned out to be plenty for the whole cake.
- The cake directions are clear and the cake came together exactly as described.
- Angel food cakes are baked in ungreased pans, presumably so that the cake can cling to the sides as it rises. My America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook gives a great hint to line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. My grandmother's pan has a decorative ridged bottom, however, so I couldn't put parchment there. I was a little nervous about whether the cake would release after it baked.
- In addition to the ridges on the bottom, my grandmother's cake pan has faceted sides and is shallower than many other angel food cake pans. I suspected that it might not hold a full recipe of cake batter, so I had a small loaf pan handy for possible leftover batter. I ended up putting nearly two cups of cake batter into the loaf pan.
- As the cake baked, it rose and filled the pan completely. Once the cake comes out of the oven it is supposed to cool in the pan - in an inverted position - for approximately two hours. One way to keep the pan inverted is to rest the pan on a wine bottle. The center post of my cake pan was not the right size to fit around a wine bottle. But the post was about an inch taller than the rest of the pan, so I could balance the pan upside down on my counter, with none of the cake touching the counter.
- When the time came to unmold the cake, I loosened the cake's edges with a plastic knife and held my breath. The cake did release, but the browned edges of the cake stayed in the pan. It was still quite pretty to me, with its snow white crumb showing. I'm wondering if I should grease the bottom of the pan the next time I bake this cake.
I served the cake at a family Kentucky Derby/Mother's Day gathering. All nine of us loved it! It was definitely the best angel food cake that any of us had ever tasted. There was no hint of dryness in this cake; it was impossibly tender, soft and moist, with the most delicate vanilla flavor. I loved seeing the little vanilla beans speckling the cake's crumb.
The creme anglaise was a perfect complement to the cake, with just a whisper of bourbon (so appropriate for the Derby!) The combination was, as I said at the time, "swoon-worthy"! I've never really cared much about angel food cake, but this one had me coming back for seconds and looking forward to leftovers.