Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cake of Angels

Fluffy, carefree people, melting in the summer heat and picnicking by the river,

This cake is best doused in piles of berries and heavy cream.

Or plain, eaten by the handful.  Delicate, puffy, moist handfuls.

It is important to use an ungreased pan, so that the cake batter can cling to the sides of the pan as it cooks; otherwise it'll slither down and have no structure.

If the bottom of your pan is not removable, as mine is not, you can lay the pan on parchment paper or foil and trace around it and inside the tube with a marker.  Cut out the circle and lay inside the pan before pouring in the batter.

Crack the eggs into a separate bowl before adding to the mixing-bowl one
at a time, in case a yolk breaks.
The key with the batter is to treat it with a soft, gentle hand; if you dump in the sugar or flour all at once, you'll crush the beautiful mounds of egg whites you just labored over!  (As if pushing the button on a mixer were labor ...)

Cake of Angels 
This is from Judith Fertig's book on Heartland food, Prairie Home Cooking.  I have a first edition that my grandma gave me in 1999, but Fertig has since come out with later versions.  Not only is the book full of information on rural America and our immigrant heritage, but every recipe I've ever tried from it has been a stunning success.  I've changed her preparation instructions, but the measurements and ingredients remain the same.  

Warning: After trying this, you'll never be able to return to the store-bought cake again - it is cardboard by comparison!  So ... sally forth at your own risk.

8 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup cake flour (NOT all-purpose flour!)

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare an ungreased 10-inch angel food cake pan.  Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until stiff peaks form.  Gradually add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating constantly.  When stiff, glossy peaks form, beat in the vanilla.  Gently fold in the flour, 1/8 cup at a time.  Pour batter gently into the cake pan.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and invert, letting cool for several hours.  This allows the structure of the cake to become strong; remove it too soon, and it'll sink down flat.

Did you ever wonder what the little prongs on the side of a tube cake pan were for?  So that you can cool it upside down!


Heavy Cream (if beating) or half-and-half
A few drops each of the following extracts: Lemon, Orange, and Vanilla
White sugar, to taste

Option 1: Beat the cream until it begins to thicken, then slowly mix in the sugar and extracts.  Continue beating until stiff peaks form, and mound on top of the cake when serving.

Option 2: Whisk cream or half-and-half with the extracts and sugar and pour over slices of cake.

Homemade extracts are easy and inexpensive to produce.  
Sinful this though this cake may be, it is indeed angelic.

Mrs H

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