Friday, December 30, 2011

Angel Food Flop

Just when you thought the domestically inept housewife knew a thing or two about baking...

About a week ago my very dear friend Ashley had a birthday. Since I'm always looking for an excuse to get into the kitchen and lavish delectably good treats on my friends, I immediately promised her any cake her heart desired.  And Ashley, being the sensible girl she is, asked for an Angel Food Cake.  With all the holiday treats floating around, she desired something a little lighter and healthier.  Now I have made Angel Food Cake a few times before so I clicked my heels and said "no problem, your wish is my command!"

So it was settled, I was to bring the cake into work one evening.  I had the whole day to bake it.  I was so excited because I was going to try something really different to top the cake with.  My plan was to do a cranberry glaze, and top the cake off with some whipped cream (real stuff, not that crap in a can) and a dollop of chocolate ice cream on the side.  Why cranberries you ask?  Well cranberries are in season and red is Ashley's favorite color...and quite frankly, I just wanted to try it.

So, the morning of Ashley's birthday, I got up, went to my recipe book and pulled out Alton Brown's Angel Food Cake Recipe.  This is the same recipe I have used several times to make homemade Angel Food Cake.  So I had absolutely no doubt I could do it...I think I even yawned while mixing together the ingredients.  Needless to say, things did not go as planned.  My first cake came out of the oven, looked beautiful but upon cooling it completely collapsed!

Angel Food Cake
  • See Alton Brown's Angel Food Cake Recipe
  • Be sure your eggs are at room temperature, as they will be easier to separate
  • SIFTING IS VERY IMPORTANT!  Don't skip this step!  But then again, what do I know....?
  • The recipe calls for orange extract, but I'm a traditionalist and always use almond extract...but use whatever your little heart desires!

  • As you must know by now, Angel Food Cake is made almost entirely of egg whites.  Because of their delicate nature, it's important to make sure all the ingredients are a fine and uniform consistency.  Alton's first step is to grind the sugar in a food processor.  Easy enough.  
  • Next comes the separating of the egg whites.  This is the hardest part.  It really does help to have the eggs at room temperature.  After cracking the egg, separate out the white and put it in a small bowl.  Then dump that one egg white into your larger mixing bowl.  Do this for each egg, that way if you mess up and get a little yolk in there, its only ruined that one egg white, not your whole bowl!  (Yeah, I've made this mistake).
  • Next, Alton says to whisk the egg whites, water, extract, and cream of tartar with a balloon whisk for 2 minutes.  I did this with my Kitchen Aid mixer on low speed (maybe where I messed up but I really don't think so).  I then switched the speed to medium and slowly added half of the superfine sugar.
  • It took about 15 minutes on medium speed for the egg white mixture to fluff up to medium peaks.  I think this is where I messed up the first time, I don't think my egg whites were stiff enough.  It takes some practice to tell the difference between soft, medium and stiff peaks.
  • Once you have the egg-whites stiff enough, you slowly sift in the dry ingredients and fold in gently.  
  • Then came the baking.  I baked the cake in the tube pan for about 45 minutes the first two times.  
  • Both times, it came out and it wasn't thoroughly cooked throughout.  I think this is what caused the cakes to collapse.  You can see in the picture, I had poked my fingers through it a few times and discovered it wasn't cooked.
  • So after throwing the cake in the trash in a fit of rage...I sat on it for a week, contemplating each step, trying to figure out where I messed up.  
  • I finally decided to try again.  This time I was careful!  I made sure the egg whites were quite stiff, and I baked the cake for a whole hour.  I had to place some foil over top to keep it from browning too much.
  • So I take the cake out, keep in mind this is my third attempt, and it looks great.  Really puffed up!  
  • So I let it cool....and the darn thing collapses AGAIN!
  • Upon completing yet a third cake autopsy, I realized it still had parts that were uncooked.  At this point I'm starting to wonder if something is wrong with my oven.  
  • Despite my failures...this really is a good recipe. I think perhaps longer baking time, or perhaps baking on a convection setting would work.  
  • So give it a try and tell me what I did wrong...PLEASE!
By the way, Ashley never got her birthday cake but she still gave me a FABULOUS Christmas present.  What a good friend!

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