Learn how to make angel food cake with this simple step-by-step tutorial & recipe with blueberry ginger sauce. You can even make it without cream of tartar! Angel food cake is simply put together by making a simple sweetened foam (aka meringue) and then folding flour into it.
Angel food cake is by far one of my favorite cakes if it is made well. A well made angel food cake is the most light and tender cake around, and bonus, it is naturally really low in fat! If you aren’t familiar with the makeup of angel food cake, it by definition has no added fat. No egg yolks, no butter, no oil. It is also fairly low in sugar compared to most cakes. But that doesn’t mean it is low in flavor!
I love how incredibly easy an angel food cake is to make. Essentially, you just make a simple foam, using the same technique as french meringue, and fold flour into it and bake! The foam in this cake is what makes the cake rise. There is no baking powder or baking soda in this cake. The meringue and shape of the pan do all the work! This also means this cake calls for very few ingredients and is ready to go in the pan and bake very quickly.
If you didn’t see my post from Thursday, I am adding a new series to the site focused on foams and meringues. We started with French Meringue 101. If you read the post, then you know that the makeup technique for french meringue is the easiest there is. We are using this technique as the basis of the foam for this recipe. I will walk you through the simple steps!
How to make a simple Angel Food Cake…
Step 1- Measure out all of your ingredients. This recipe calls for very few ingredients and it comes together very quickly. Make sure you have all of your ingredients measured and ready to go before starting to mix. Because this cake is extremely light and tender it does call for the use of cake flour, which has a very low protein content. All-purpose flour can be substituted, but the cake will not be quite as light. Because cake flour is so light, you want to make really sure that you measure correctly if you are using measuring cups. Check out this post for details on measuring flour correctly. Be extra careful not to pack it down!
Superfine sugar is also used in this recipe. Superfine sugar can very easily be made at home with regular granulated sugar.
Step 2- Let the egg whites come to room temperature. Heavy cream whips faster if it is cold, but the opposite is true for egg whites. Egg whites separate more easily while they are still cold, so I always separate them straight from the refrigerator and then let them come to room temp before whipping. I have also used packaged liquid egg whites to make this foam and they also worked, however because they are pasteurized, I had to beat for much much longer.
Step 3- Make your superfine sugar. After you have measured out your sugar, you want to put it in your food processor (or I use my ninja blender) and process it for about 2 minutes. This will create superfine sugar. It is possible to find packaged superfine sugar, but it is so easy to make it seems a bit silly to do that. Superfine sugar is somewhere in between the texture of granulated sugar and powdered sugar.
Step 4- Combine your flour with other dry ingredients. Whisk together your cake flour with half of your superfine sugar, lemon zest, and kosher salt. You don’t need to be really exact with measuring out half of your sugar but about half of it is going to go into the meringue and half will go in with the flour.
Step 4- Begin by whipping the egg whites and cream of tartar (or lemon juice). Make sure that the bowl you are using is clean and free from oil and place just the egg whites and the cream of tartar in the bowl. You want to begin by whipping on a low speed which will allow the proteins to unravel and begin forming their network to trap the air bubbles. The cream of tartar is acidic and will drop the ph level creating more stability in the foam. You can find cream of tartar easily in the spice aisle of the grocery store. IF you don’t have/don’t want to get cream of tartar, you CAN make an angel food cake without cream of tartar. Just swap it out for lemon juice or white vinegar. I add lemon zest to this cake anyway so the lemon juice will just give it a little more lemon flavor which is fine by me! I have found that there is a very slight difference in the fluffiness if you do swap it, but it isn’t substantial. Once the egg whites are at soft peaks you can move on to the next step.
Step 5- Slowly add in half of the superfine sugar. Once your whites have reached soft peaks, continue mixing on low speed while slowly adding in the other half of the sugar. I add about 1 tablespoon at a time.
Step 6- Beat to stiff peaks. Watch the egg whites carefully and stop beating once you reach stiff peaks. The whites will look glossy and the whites should stand up straight with just a slight bend on the end. If you take the whites too far the gloss will go away and they will start to break down, look dry, and begin separating. If you go this far you need to stop and start over!
Step 7- Gently fold the flour/sugar mixture into the foam. Lightly sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the flour/sugar mixture over top of the foam/meringue and gently fold it together. The proper method for folding is this- Starting on the top, cut down from the center of the mixture to the bottom of the bowl with the spatula, then draw the spatula quickly toward you against the edge of the bowl, and up to the left and out. Do this just about 2 or 3 times then lightly sprinkle more of the flour over the meringue. You want to fold as little as possible to get the dry ingredients incorporated but still keep as much air in the batter as possible.
Step 8- Pan and bake. For the absolute best results for this cake, you want to use an ungreased Tube Cake Pan. A tube pan is a round pan with a removable bottom and a straight tube up the center. It is not the same as a bundt pan. Because there is no baking soda or baking powder in this recipe, the cake climbs along the walls of the pan to get its rise and light and airy texture. This is why it is also important not to grease the pan because the cake will not be able to grip the sides as well. I have used both non-stick and regular tube pans with equal results as to how well the cake rises. I also know that many have baked angel food cakes in loaf pans with success, but I cannot speak to that from experience.
Step 9- Cool upside down. Once the cake is finished baking, you want to let it cool in the pan upside down. Hold onto the tube part of the pan and gently invert it and set it somewhere stable while it cools. This ensures that the cake will not fall while cooling.
Most commonly, angel food cake is served with fresh fruit and lightly sweetened whipped cream. I actually love it completely naked. It is so tender and not dry in the slightest. For this cake, I decided to make a blueberry and fresh ginger sauce to go over top and it was really delicious! Definitely a welcome taste of something light and bright during this relentless cold we have been having!
One year ago: Basic Pate a Choux Recipe
Two years ago: Granola Blondies
Three years ago: Meatloaf and Bell Pepper Relish with Cauliflower Puree
30 minPrep Time
35 minCook Time
1 hr, 5 Total Time
- Measure out all of your ingredients making sure to measure your flour correctly.
- Let the egg whites come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350F.
- Place all of your sugar in your food processor and process for about 2 minutes to a superfine sugar texture.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together your cake flour with half of the superfine sugar, the lemon zest, and the kosher salt.
- Place all of the egg whites in a very clean bowl with the cream of tartar (or lemon juice or vinegar if using) and begin whipping on low speed until you reach soft peaks.
- Start adding the other half of the sugar to the egg whites about 2 TBSP at a time while continuing to beat on low speed.
- Whip the whites to stiff peaks. They should look glossy and stand tall with just a slight bend at the tip.
- Sprinkle about half of the flour/sugar mixture over the egg whites and gently fold in, just about 2 or 3 turns. Continue this until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.
- Gently and evenly, pour the batter into an ungreased 9" or 10" tube pan. Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes until a tester comes out clean from the center.
- Holding onto the tube part of the pan, carefully turn the pan upside down and place on a stable surface to cool. Once the cake is completely cooled, turn right side up and remove from the pan.
- Like all sponge cakes, it will taste eggy if served while still warm. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving. To store, wrap the completely cooled cake well with plastic wrap and keep under refrigeration for up to 1 week. It is best eaten within the first few days.
- Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the blueberries soften and the liquid thickens.
- Serve over pieces of the angel food cake.