When I received my May 2009 Martha Stewart Living magazine not only was I thrilled to find recipes for asparagus and pickled beets, but as I flipped to the final page I found a lovely photo of lemony angel food cake.
I love angel food cake with a passion. In fact, I don't really care for any cake but angel food. There are plenty of reasons why angel food cake is so wonderful:
1. Angel food cake is a dessert that you don't feel guilty about after you eat a slice (or two in my case). Because the cake is largely whipped egg whites and some sugar, it is much lower in calories compared to other cakes.
2. You can add flavorings to transform a plain angel food cake into something more special. Add some lemon zest, substitute some cake flour for cocoa powder, etc. You can eat the cake plain or top it with something special like a berry compote, frosting, or even melt Hersey's chocolate bars with almonds (my dad's favorite).
3. If you leave the cake plain, it is just so simple to slice a hunk off and eat it with your hands with out a plate. A homemade angel food cake is soft and fluffy with chewy edges which helps keep it a crumb-free situation.
Anyways, when I saw the recipe in Martha Stewart Living, I knew it was the perfect spring treat. The cake is brightened throughout with specks of lemon zest, and the citrus whipped cream frosting is nice and tart and surprises the tongue. I won't lie, this cake takes a bit of work - especially if you just have a hand mixer. Whipping eggs takes time!
Please note: cake flour which is used it this recipe is NOT the same as all-purpose flour. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking - pages 551-555, "Both pastry and cake flours have low levels of weak gluten protein for making tender baked goods. Cake flour is distinctive because it's treated with chlorine dioxide or chlorine gas. This treatment has several effects on the starch granules that are useful in cake making, and leaves a trace if hydrochloric acid in the flour, which gives batter and doughs an acid pH and slightly acid taste."
Here are the ingredients for one 10-inch Lemony Angel Food Cake from Martha Stewart Living May 2009:
-1 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
-1 1/2 cups sugar
-12 large egg whites
-2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (about 3-4 lemons)
-1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (use the zested lemons)
-1 teaspoon cream of tarter
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/4 teaspoon salt
Begin by separating your egg white. Eggs separate best cold. Break the shell on a flat surface such as the counter rather than a bowl (so that no shell will puncture the yolk). If any yolk gets into the egg whites - start over. Egg whites whip best at room temperature.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees, with rack in lower third of the oven. Sift flour and 1/2 cup of sugar together in bowl and set aside.
Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add lemon zest and juice, cream of tarter, vanilla, and salt. Continue mixing until soft peaks form, about 2 1/2 minutes. While mixer is running, gradually add the remaining cup of sugar.
Increase speed to medium high until peaks are firm, but not stiff, about 7 minutes (took 18 minutes for me and my mixer). Add 1/3 of flour and sugar mixture to the egg whites and gently fold to combine witha rubber spatula. Add the remaining mixture in 2 more additions and fold to combine.
Transfer batter to angel food cake pan. Gently run a knife through the center to remove any air bubbles.
Bake until cake springs back to the touch, about 45-50 minutes. It will be a dark golden brown.
Invert the pan onto its legs or onto a bottle so it can cool completely (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours).
Use a knife to loosen inner and outer edges and bottom of the cake from the pan.
The unfrosted cake can be stored in an airtight container up to 2 days.
Ingredients for Lemon Cream frosting:
-1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3-4 lemons)
-1 tablespoon cake flour (not self-rising)
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
-1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1-2 lemons)
Prepare ice bath.
Place lemon juice, sugar, flour, and salt in small saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk constantly until the liquid is brought to a boil. Keep whisking for one minute until it thickens.
Place saucepan in ice bath.
Combine lemon zest and cream. Mix on medium speed to create medium peaks.
Fold in lemon syrup in thirds until combined.
Refrigerate up to overnight or frost cake immediately.
Place two pieces of wax paper on the serving plate. This will allow you to frost your cake without worrying about messing up the plate with frosting.
Use a spatula to spread the lemon cream on the cake. Remove the wax paper from underneath and slice and serve.
I refrigerated the left over cake. Overall the cake is delicious by itself, but the lemon cream adds a tart zing to the tongue.
For the original recipe which includes candied lemon-peeled flowers click here.
Click here for a plain angel cake recipe.