How To Make a Classic, Foolproof Angel Food Cake

updated Mar 22, 2023
summer
How To Make Angel Food Cake

A classic recipe for light and fluffy angel food cake, complete with step-by-step instructions for foolproof results every time.

Serves10 to 12

Prep15 minutes

Cook45 minutes

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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Angel food is the sweet, sky-high cake that dessert dreams are made of. It’s an adaptable dessert that can be elevated in a number of ways — served with fruit, topped with whipped cream, or flavored with coffee, cocoa, or citrus zest. For a trusty classic recipe, look no further than our angel food cake, which will provide you with all the flavor and twice the fluff that your after-dinner appetite has been waiting for.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Why Make This Angel Food Cake?

Every respectable angel food cake requires two things: height and flavor. Once you understand the basic science behind the classic cake, it’s easy to strike the perfect balance of sweetness and airy texture. Thanks to a lot of research and several rounds of testing, our recipe boasts the correct ratio of ingredients and the proper technique and procedure, ensuring your angel food cake is a home run every time.

The most important step to nail is the formation of an egg white foam, which gives the cake its height and fluffiness. If you’ve ever whipped egg whites or made a meringue, you’ve been well on your way to creating an angel food cake. Proteins in egg whites unfold and reorganize during the whipping process, developing a formation that can be six to eight times greater than its original volume. A well-prepared, stable foam can be used to aerate a number of foods, including angel food cake.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

What Ingredients Do I Need for Angel Food Cake?

A basic angel food cake needs little more than egg whites, sugar, and flour, but the way those ingredients are combined can make or break the cake. Room-temperature, yolk-free egg whites will produce the best outcome. Any trace of fat or grease can inhibit foam formation, so be sure no yolks sneak in! We prefer to separate the eggs while they’re cold, then allow the whites to come to room temperature on their own. 

Two types of sugar are used for this recipe, as they serve different purposes. The granulated sugar, which you’ll add while whipping the egg whites, helps stabilize the foam and give the cake its structure. Powdered sugar is added in later for additional airy sweetness, tenderization, and flavor.

We rely on cake flour to anchor the cake and keep the batter tender (you can also try a DIY cake flour substitute if you’re out). For best results, the cake flour should be sifted prior to being folded into the foam to prevent it from collapsing. Salt, vanilla extract, and cream of tartar (added for foam stability) round out the remaining ingredients. You’ll notice there’s no oil or butter in the recipe — angel food cake is a naturally fat-free dessert.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

What Pan Do I Need for Angel Food Cake?

A tube pan is preferred for larger angel food cakes, as its center tube provides additional support for the cake to grow on as it bakes. After baking, angel food cakes require a lengthy rest upside-down in order to strengthen their lofty structure, and the little feet around a tube pan’s upper lip help support the inverted pan as it cools. We had the best results using a regular (not nonstick) light-colored pan.

Although you won’t grease the tube pan (the batter clinging to the sides of the pan actually helps it rise), angel food cake will get stuck in elaborate molded Bundt pans, so those are not recommended. If you don’t have a tube pan, you can bake smaller amounts of batter in loaf pans. The cake will still need a brief upside-down cooling, so be sure to not overfill your loaf pans prior to baking.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

How Can I Flavor Angel Food Cake?

There are numerous ways to flavor a basic angel food cake recipe. A small amount of vanilla and almond extract are added to this recipe, but you can manipulate the amount for additional flavor. Citrus zest, like lemon, orange, or lime, can be folded into the foam with the dry ingredients, or you can add a small amount of ground spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, or ginger.

To make a chocolate angel food cake, substitute 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder for an equal amount of cake flour, or add finely grated bittersweet chocolate into the batter before folding in the flour. For a more richly flavored cake, consider substituting light brown sugar for the granulated sugar in this recipe.

How Do I Serve Angel Food Cake? 

Angel food cake is best eaten soon after preparation, as it tends to dry out quickly. Because angel food cake is incredibly light, avoid slathering it with heavy buttercreams or ganache, and instead opt for lighter toppings (think, whipped cream or a simple dusting of powdered sugar). If you’d prefer not to eat huge slices of cake on their own, there are some fun ways to dish it up!

  • Serve the cake as the base for strawberry shortcakes
  • Dice the cake and scatter throughout a trifle or under an airy cloud of whipped cream
  • Top with a whipped frosting
  • Finish with a dusting of powdered sugar
  • Drizzle with a simple glaze

How To Make Angel Food Cake

A classic recipe for light and fluffy angel food cake, complete with step-by-step instructions for foolproof results every time.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes

Serves 10 to 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 12

    large egg whites, at room temperature

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    cream of tartar

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    almond extract

  • 1 cup

    cake flour

  • 1 cup

    powdered sugar

Equipment

  • Stand mixer outfitted with a whisk attachment OR hand mixer OR large bowl with wire balloon whisk

  • 10-inch tube pan with removable bottom

Instructions

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  1. Begin whipping the egg whites. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer or whisk and large bowl.) Beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy bubbles have formed, about 2 minutes.

  2. Beat until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar and salt, increase the speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.

  3. Slowly beat in the sugar. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly pour the sugar into the egg whites in a steady stream, about 30 seconds.

  4. Add the extracts and beat to stiff peaks. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, scrape the sides of the bowl, and then continue beating on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.

  5. Fold in the dry ingredients. Turn off the mixer. Sift in the flour and powdered sugar, then gently fold them in by hand with a rubber spatula until incorporated.

  6. Spoon the batter into the pan. Spoon the batter into a10-inch ungreased tube pan with removeable bottom. Gently run a knife through the batter in the pan to pop any air bubbles, then smooth out the top.

  7. Bake 40 to 45 minutes. Bake until the top is golden-brown and springs back slightly when you touch it, 40 to 45 minutes.

  8. Cool the cake. To cool the cake, invert the pan on a wire rack and let the cake cool (upside-down!) in the pan for an hour or so. The pan will basically be balancing on its center tube insert.

  9. Remove the cake. Flip the pan right-side-up and carefully run a thin knife around the edges of the cake to release it from the sides of the pan. Remove the cake and tube insert from the pan, then use the knife to release the cake from the bottom of the insert as well.

Recipe Notes

The tube pan: We had best results using a regular (not nonstick) light-colored tube pan.

Make ahead: Angel food cake cake be baked in advance, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, and stored at room temperature for 1 day. To freeze, wrap the whole cake in a layer of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil, then freeze on a flat surface in the freezer. Thaw at room temperature.

Storage: Angel food cakes are prone to drying out, so keep the cake covered tightly with plastic wrap. The cake is best eaten within 2 days.

Kate Wood is an Alabama-based baker, writer, and photographer. Find more of her recipes at her blog, Wood & Spoon.

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