Angel Food Cake
Angel food cake, or Angel cake, is a type of sponge cake originally from North America that first became popular in the U.S. in the late 19th century. It is named because of its airy lightness that was said to be the “food of the angels.” Angel cake in the UK should not be confused with Angel food cake. Angel cake in the UK consists of three rectangular layers of sponge, coloured white, pink and yellow (not necessarily in that order). The layers are generally separated by a thin layer of white cream.
A variety of chocolate cake known as Devil’s food cake, considered Angel food’s “counterpart,” is another popular American cake that was developed later. Angel food cake is a type of sponge cake whereas the devil’s food cake is a type of butter cake.
Angel food cake requires that the egg whites be whipped until they are stiff, and gently folded into the other ingredients. For this method of leavening to work well, it is useful to have flour that has been made of softer wheat. This — and the lack of fat — causes angel food cake to have a very light texture and taste. Cream of tartar is added to the mixture to prevent darkening.
Angel food cake should be cut with a serrated knife, as a solid blade tends to compress the cake rather than slice it. Forks, electric serrated knives, special tined cutters or a strong thread should be used instead.
Angel food cake is usually baked in a tube pan, a tall, round pan with a tube up the center that leaves a hole in the middle of the cake. A “bundt pan” may also be used, but the fluted sides can make releasing the cake more difficult. The center tube allows the cake batter to rise higher by ‘clinging’ to all sides of the pan. Unlike other cakes, the pan should be un-greased to enhance the cake. After baking, the cake pan is inverted while cooling to prevent the cake from falling in on itself. Angel food cake is sometimes frosted but more often has some sort of sauce, such as a sweet fruit sauce, drizzled over it. A simple glaze is also popular. Recently, many chefs (Alton Brown in particular) have popularized the idea of adding aromatic spices such as mace and cloves to the cake.