Angel Food Cake — The New Girl

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When I think angel food cake, the words “light” and “airy” come to mind; when I made angel food cake, “shrunken” and “dense” were my results. I share this kitchen collapse not to deter you from making the recipe, but to share the lessons I learned. What follows is the sad yet hopeful story of the Fallen Angel Food Cake.

Last weekend, I decided to bake dessert for my boyfriend’s family since they were graciously hosting me for the holidays. Angel food cake is a classic in their household. So the choice was easy, but the pressure was high. I had never made an angel food cake before, and after skimming through various blogs and recipes, I was less than confident. I read the instructions thoroughly and measured the ingredients properly, but I didn’t bring the eggs to room temperature and I pulled the cake out too early. As I’m sure other first-timers can relate, my worst fear came true: The cake fell. I stuck it back in the oven in a desperate attempt to puff it up again, but there was no going back.

Luckily, the poor souls for whom the cake was intended have a great sense of humor and were forgiving of my failed attempt. They also happen to love 7-Minute Frosting. And if anything can save the day, it’s a homemade fluffy, marshmallow-y frosting.

When the time to eat dessert finally came, I held my breath as everyone took their first bites. And hallelujah! Apparently Alton's recipe won't fail you, even when you've failed it. The cake was not chewy (as I had feared).  Each bite was soft and decadently sugary, and this big "disaster" ended up being quite tasty.

Here's what I learned after my first angel food cake attempt:

  • Let the egg whites come to room temperature. "Relaxed" egg whites incorporate more volume as you whisk.
  • Listen to Alton and do not over-combine the batter as you fold. This will reduce the amount of air and consequently, volume.
  • Don't blame the oven, but be mindful. Oven temperatures vary, so a magnetic oven thermometer might be a good solution.
  • Paired with nice wine and good company, my fallen angel cake reminded me of why I love to cook. It's all about the memories, folks, so have fun and laugh about it.

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