High Country Baking: Angel food baby cakes are light and, well, cute
Like angel food cake? If so, you’ll be delighted by this miniature version. It has the same taste and texture as a larger one, but it’s a lot cuter. Light and delicate, with a texture that is soft, dry and chewy, these little cakes contain no fat and no leavening. Their volume comes from the air beaten into the egg whites. To assure their success, first beat the whites until they’re glossy, smooth and form peaks that just barely fall over when the mixer’s beaters are lifted. Then, very gently fold the additional ingredients into the whites to avoid deflating them.
If you lack cake flour you can make your own: A cup of cake flour contains 14 tablespoons of bleached all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. To make it, place 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in the bottom of a one-cup measure, add flour until the cup is full, then pour the contents into a bowl and whisk until combined.
Strawberry sauce is a pleasing accompaniment, but other sauces, fresh fruits or sorbets and ice cream also work well.
Angel Food Cake Minis
Adjusted for elevations of 7,000 feet and above
Makes 3-4 baby cakes, depending on the size of your pans
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour, spoon and level
- ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup cold egg whites (about 6 whites from large eggs)
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ cup minus 1 tablespoon superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
- 1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
Strawberry sauce, optional
- 2 cups fresh unsweetened strawberries (or 6 ounces frozen)
- ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- A splash of Grand Marnier or Triple sec liqueur, optional
Get ready: Center a rack and preheat the oven to 375. Prepare a way to invert the pans to allow air to circulate under them as soon as the cakes are baked. I rest the edges of each inverted pan on two drinking glasses of equal height. NOTE: Do not grease the pans or the cakes won’t rise properly.
Combine dry ingredients: Either pulse the cake flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor, or whisk them vigorously in a bowl until airy and well combined. Set this aside.
Whip egg whites and granulated sugar: Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, start on low speed and beat until the mixture is quite frothy. Increase the speed to medium-high (high if using a hand-held mixer) and beat until the whites are glossy, smooth and just starting to form soft peaks. Continue to beat, adding the granulated sugar gradually. Finally, add the vanilla. The mixture will get fluffy and form peaks that droop rather than stand straight up. Stop before the mixture forms stiff peaks.
Add dry ingredients: Sift or strain one-third of the flour mixture over the egg whites and gently fold it in with a large rubber or silicone spatula. Don’t stir or the egg whites will deflate. Add the remaining flour the same way, one third at a time. Fold until fully combined.
Bake: Spoon the batter into the pans, filling them three-fourths of the way to the top. Draw a thin knife through the batter to eliminate any air bubbles. Gently level the tops. Bake directly on the oven rack (air must circulate into the pan’s center tube) until the tops have risen and are golden and a tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean (18-20 minutes but time will vary due to pan size).
Cool and store: Remove pans from the oven and immediately invert them. Allow the cakes to cool completely while they are upside-down. To unmold, run a thin knife around the outside of the cake, pressing it against the pan to avoid cutting into the cake. Do the same around the center tube. Run the knife under the pan bottom if it is detachable. Gently lift the pan off the cake. If your pan doesn’t have a detachable bottom, tap the pan all over to loosen the cake until you can remove it. Serve or store, covered, for two days at room temperature or four days refrigerated.
Make strawberry sauce, optional: In a food processor, pulse the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. For a thick sauce, stop pulsing when chunks of strawberries are still visible; for a thin one, puree until the berries are smooth. Taste, and add more sugar if needed. Stir in a splash of Triple Sec or Grand Marnier if you’d like. Chill for up to two days. Drizzle it over the cakes, decorate with fresh strawberries and serve. Vanilla ice cream is a nice addition.
Editor’s note: This recipe was inspired by one in The Joy of Cooking.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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