Angel food cake is unique, and no other cake recipe compares to its extraordinarily fluffy, airy texture. Though it’s a type of sponge cake, it differs from other popular recipes because it’s traditionally made using no butter or oil in the batter. Instead, beaten egg whites are responsible for the ultra-light texture. Most angel food cake recipes have a mild vanilla taste that allows you to customize them with frosting, fresh fruit, or other sweet toppings. Follow these instructions to bake the tastiest angel food cake from scratch, including what to do if you don’t have a tube pan.
How to Make Angel Food Cake
Follow us as we polish this traditional cake recipe step by step.
Step 1: Separate the Egg Whites
Separate the yolks from the whites as soon as the eggs are removed from the fridge (cold eggs separate more easily). This is made simple by an egg separator ($7, Bed Bath & Beyond). Separate each egg white carefully into a tiny dish, such as a custard cup. If any yolk gets into the egg white during separation, refrigerate that white for another use—even the tiniest bit of yolk can affect the beating quality of the whites. Let the whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes—this will allow them to reach their full volume when beaten. (Save the yolks for another purpose.) Let the whites to remain at room temperature for no more than 30 minutes for food safety concerns.
Fill an extra-large glass dish halfway with egg whites. The bowl should be perfectly clean and wide enough to keep the beaters from being buried in the egg whites as they fluff. Don’t use a plastic bowl, which may have an oily residue that can minimize the volume of beaten egg whites.
Step 2: Sift Powdered Sugar and Flour
While the egg whites are resting, combine the flour and powdered sugar, then sift three times. Sifting will help remove any lumps from the flour and aerate the mixture, which will help make your cake light and fluffy.
Step 3: Beat Together Ingredients
On medium to high speed, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. When the beaters are raised, the tops of the egg whites should curl. The cream of tartar helps to solidify the egg whites, resulting in a whiter cake.
Step 4: Beat in Sugar Until Stiff Peaks Form
Gradually add the granulated sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, to allow the sugar to dissolve completely in the egg white mixture. Beat on medium to high speed until stiff peaks form (egg white tips stand straight up). Overbeat or underbeat the egg whites; they should be firm but not dry or your cake will collapse. Once you start beating the egg whites, it should take about 4 minutes with a hand mixer on high speed for stiff peaks to form.
Step 5: Fold in the Flour
Fold the sifted flour mixture, one-fourth at a time, into the egg whites. To be folded:
- With a spatula, cut down vertically through the mixture.
- Move the spatula across the bottom of the bowl.
- Bring it back up the opposite side, spreading part of the mixture from the bottom.
- Continue, moving the bowl, until the ingredients are well incorporated.
The goal is to gently mix the ingredients without losing all of the air you just beat into the egg whites. Overmixing will reduce the volume of the batter and result in a difficult cake.
Step 6: Eliminate Air Bubbles
For a fine, even cake texture, eliminate large air bubbles by gently cutting through batter with a thin metal spatula after pouring the batter into an ungreased tube pan ($16, Bed Bath & Beyond). Can you bake angel food cake in a bundt pan if you don’t have a tube pan? It may seem that the two are interchangeable, but the delicate decorations on most bundt pans make getting an angel food cake out of the pan in one piece quite difficult. Tube pans feature flat tops and straight edges to make it simpler to remove the cake, and the batter adheres to the sides and central tube while the cake bakes, allowing it to rise. If at all feasible, use a tube pan.
If you don’t have a tube pan, you can make angel food cupcakes instead. Just shorten the baking time if using a cupcake recipe instead.
Step 7: Bake and Cool Angel Food Cake
In a preheated oven, bake angel food cake according to package guidelines. When the cake becomes golden and bounces back when softly touched, it is done. Unlike many other baking recipes, you cannot use the toothpick test to determine whether angel food cake is done. Since the batter is so light and airy, a toothpick can slide in and come out clean before the cake is completely finished baking. To set, cool the angel food cake upside down (in the pan).
More Tips for Baking the Best Angel Food Cake
Just following the directions on your recipe will result in a delicious angel food cake. But if a flawless dessert is your goal, these extra tips might help:
- Use just the items specified in the recipe, such as cake flour and powdered sugar. Cake flour is lighter and lower in protein than all-purpose flour, which contributes to the fluffiness of angel food cake. Similarly, powdered sugar contains smaller granules than conventional white sugar, making it easier to incorporate into the cake mixture without weighting it down.
- If you’re in a pinch for ingredients and need to know how to make angel food cake without cream of tartar, substitute lemon juice or white vinegar. Cream of tartar helps to stabilize the egg whites and provide volume, but any alternative will work.
- It probably goes against most of your baking instincts, but use an ungreased pan when baking angel food cake, and leave the nonstick spray in your pantry. The cake should cling to the edges of the pan because it helps the super-light batter rise. If you grease the pan, the cake will be flat and dense.
- You may save time by skipping a few steps and learning how to bake angel food cake from a box mix. Some box mixes even remove the need for egg whites; all you have to do is add water, mix, and bake according to the package directions! Premade angel food cake mixes are very useful for accelerating dishes that call for angel food cake as a basis, such as trifles.
- Always chill your angel food cake with the open side down in the cake pan. Angel food cake will continue to set as it cools, and it can sink down in the pan and collapse if you don’t flip it to cool.
- Use a serrated knife to cut angel food cake once you remove it from the pan. Knives without serrations may squish the fragile cake.
Now your cake is ready to serve as part of your Easter meal, birthday celebration, springtime gathering, or any other occasion when a light dessert would be appropriate.
How can I make my cake more airy?
How to Prevent a Dry or Dense Cake
- Make use of Cake Flour. Reach for cake flour instead of all-purpose flour.
- Add Sour Cream.
- Room Temperature Butter / Don’t Over-Cream.
- Add a Touch of Baking Powder or Baking Soda.
- Add Oil.
- Don’t Over-Mix.
- Don’t Over-Bake. .
- Brush With Simple Syrup/Other Liquid.
How is air added in cake making?
Air can be added to food mechanically using whisking, sieving, creaming, beating, rubbing in, rolling and folding. During creaming (the process of combining fat and sugar), air is introduced to the mixture and is encased by the fat.
Why does my cake have so many air bubbles?
Large air gaps in cakes may be caused by gluten. Too much chemical leavener, like baking powder, can lead to large air bubbles in cakes. Air pockets in cakes may be caused by a broken emulsion and variable ingredient temperatures. The way you fill your pan with cake batter can cause air pockets.
What makes a cake heavy or light?
Cake Is Heavy or Dense
Possible reasons your cake is heavy/dense: Too little baking powder. There are too many eggs. The batter has been overmixed.