Monday, January 12, 2009

Angel Food Cake - The Wife Killer Challenge

The gauntlet was thrown down. The taunt...are you the woman your Mother was? The challenge - make an angel food cake using a rotary beater. I accepted. I had frozen egg whites and a competitive spirit in need of a challenge - I was bored. I mean, how hard could this be? In the 19th century the eggs for this cake were beaten with a fork or perforated spoon. If they could do it so could I. To make it more interesting I decided to use the ingredients my Mom and her friends used to make the cake all those years ago. They wouldn't waste precious ration stamps on items such as cake flour or cream of tartar, so they improvised. All-purpose flour was mixed with cornstarch to replace cake flour - the ratio was 2 tablespoons cornstarch to 16 tablespoons flour. Lemon juice, spoon for spoon, was used to replace cream of tartar. I have three recipes for angel food cake. I chose the one that's made with granulated sugar because I couldn't remember if confectioners' sugar was generally available at that time. With the oven preheated and mise en place awaiting my deft hands I began to time my activity. Five minutes into beating, the egg whites were still milky and showed no signs of thickening. I began transferring the beater from one hand to the other in an attempt to rest arms that quickly became tired. The eggs began to thicken at the ten minutes mark after being moved to a tall narrow bowl, but it took 25 minutes for them to form the kind of peaks I was looking for. Once in the oven I waited to see the voluminous cloud that is angel food cake form. It didn't happen. The finished cake was sticky to the touch and about half the height I expected to see. Not easily discouraged, I decided to try again using a balloon whisk. I know that's not what I set out to do, but I wanted to know this cake could be made completely by hand. The results were better, but not great. Both cakes appear in the photograph above. If I had more egg whites I'd make the cake a third time using an electric mixer to see if it would make a substantial difference in the height of the cake. For the record, Mom was quite a gal and the guy who invented the electric mixer deserves a medal and a special place in heaven. Now all I have to do is figure out what I'm going to do with all this cake and find a better way to handle my crazy ideas. There is much to commend the "good old new days."

Angel Food Cake


1 cup cake flour
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
1-3/4 cups egg whites, room teperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or 1 teaspoon lemon extract

1) Preheat oven to 300 (yes three hundred)degrees F.
2) Sift flour three times. Combine flour and sugar and sift three times more.
3) Place egg whites in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium-high speed until frothy. Add salt and cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Add reserved 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, to beaten egg whites. Add extract of choice of extract until whites hold stiff peaks. Sift one quarter of flour over whites and fold in gently but thoroughly. Sift and fold remaining flour mixture into whites in three parts.
4) Spoon batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan and smooth top. Rap pan on counter to burst any air bubbles. Bake in middle of oven until cake is springy when touched and a skwerer inserted into center comes out clean, about 1-1/4 hours. Invert and cool for 2 hours. Loosen cake from edges of pan and invert onto a cake plate. Yield: 8 to 10 servings.


Anonymous said...

I don't think I would be brave as you to attempt to beat egg whites without the electric mixer. :) This post made me in awe of our mothers and grandmothers who are able to churn out delicious cakes and food without our modern gadgets. :)

Mary Bergfeld said...

They were really something weren't they Ning? I'm amazed at what they were able to do with so little. I hope they are all treasured and remembered with fondness.God bless them all!

Anonymous said...

Holy cow, I might have passed out. That is quite the wife killer, you are quite the woman and then to try it again!

Unknown said...

nothing beats our mother's recipe... :)

Anonymous said...

I remember watching my mother-in-law 40 years ago with the rotary beater. She made wonderful angel food cakes. The only thing I ever watched her use the mixer for was making mashed potatoes :)

Cathy said...

I still have a little manual hand mixer I use all the time. Can you even buy them any more? My kids laugh every time they see me use it.

The electric mixer is an essential item in today' kitchen. And how did they ever get along without a food processor? With a very sharp knife, I guess.

Mila said...

Wow food for you!

Pam said...

Good for you for trying! My mom still has one of those mixers - I used it a lot when I was a kid.

Mila said...

Mary, thank you for the wonderful comment! I promise you will not regret this soup! I ate it all this weekend and it was wonderful!

Allie said...

I think it's good to do something by hand it makes us all appreciate all the gadgets we have now a days! Angel food cake is still best from scratch I hate the box mixes.

Maria said...

I love angel food cake! It is so light and delicious!

Peter M said...

Well, you got a good workout and the angel cake looks none to shabby!

Mary Bergfeld said...

Peter, you are being very kind!

Sara said...

I love homemade angel food cake, it's so much better than store bought!

Bits said...

Hi, first time here, hopped from blogging... you are great and your recipes too. Glad I found your site.

Will link your feed to my blog!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Mary try this with fresh eggs, I think you may get a much better result. I'm thinking I've read somewhere freezing breaks the protein some and they won't whip the same.
I know this can do without an electric mixer because when my son wanted angel food cake when we were at our Michigan cabin without mixer I said I'll do it IF you (meaning he) would whip the egg whites. We used a balloon whisk.
The cream of tarter is a stabilizer and really is not totally necessary. You could think of it a little like an insurance policy, if you do everything right, you won't need it.
Love angle food cake!!

Mary Bergfeld said...

My Kitchen in Half Cups thanks for the tip. I promise I'll give it a try.

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