The Best Angel Food Cake

Even though there are just a few ingredients in this simple cake, there are also a few techniques that will make or break it. First, be sure to use the correct pan -- an angel food cake pan -- and do not grease it. Additionally, superfine sugar, sifted cake flour and perfectly whipped egg whites are key components that set you up for success -- and set this cake apart from the rest.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 4 hr 15 min (includes cooling time)
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 10 to 12 servings
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Ingredients

1 1/3 cups superfine sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

12 large egg whites, at room temperature (see Cook's Note)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups bleached cake flour (not self-rising), such as Swan's Down, sifted (177 grams) (see Cook's Note)

Berries and whipped cream, for serving

Directions

Special equipment:
10-inch footed angel food cake pan (not nonstick)
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Whisk the sugar, cream of tartar and salt together in a medium bowl.
  2. Add the egg whites and 2 tablespoons water to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat on low speed until the whites are foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and slowly sprinkle in the sugar mixture (this should take about 3 minutes). Watching closely, continue beating until medium-soft peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes longer. (You want the mixture to droop when lifted out of the bowl. If the peaks stand straight up, you have taken it too far and the cake will sink during baking). Add the vanilla and mix until just combined.
  3. Remove the mixing bowl from the stand and working in three additions, very gently fold the flour into the egg whites until just incorporated. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10-inch footed angel food cake pan and smooth the top.
  4. Bake until the top is golden and springs back when touched and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the cake upside-down on a wire rack to cool completely in the pan, about 3 hours.
  5. Run a knife or a small offset spatula around the edges of the pan and gently tap it on the counter until it releases from the pan. Use a sharp serrated knife to slice the cake -- a regular knife will smash it. Serve with berries and whipped cream. 

Cook’s Note

Even the smallest amount of fat or egg yolk will prevent the whites from whipping properly, so make sure your eggs are perfectly separated and your bowl and beaters are completely clean.  When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)