South-of-the-Border Angel Food Cake
Most holiday desserts are rich and very filling. If you ever long for something
on the lighter side, or if you are watching your fat intake, this delightfully
different angel food cake is for you. It has a base flavor of Dutch process
cocoa, enlivened by the good tastes of cinnamon, espresso, and cloves. You won't
notice the pepper in this recipe; it just adds to the overall flavor. Please be
sure to use Dutch process cocoa here; I have not tried this recipe with regular
nonalkalized cocoa powder, so I do not know if it will work. I use a food
processor instead of the multiple siftings of dry ingredients usually called
for, and the processing seems to work very well.
This is a wonderful way to use up leftover egg whites, and you can use those
that have been frozen and thawed. You'll need a large bowl in which to mix the
cake; my largest mixer bowl is 4-1/2 quarts, which isn't big enough, so I use a
6 quart pot and a hand-held electric mixer to beat the egg whites. Whatever you
use, both bowl and beaters must be spotlessly clean and grease-free, or the egg
whites will not achieve a good volume. Also, make sure the whites are at room
temperature when you beat them, as they will not reach full volume if they are
Everything I have ever read about angel food cakes emphasizes getting the
completed batter into the oven as quickly as possible, because if beaten whites
are left standing for any length of time they will begin to deflate. The last
time I made this, however, I got distracted by a phone call and forgot to
preheat the oven. The completed batter stood in the pan on a counter for some 10
minutes until my oven got to what I judged was a temperature close enough to
what it was supposed to be. The resulting cake was just fine. I'm not sure if
there's a lesson in there, but at least if you forget to preheat your oven while
making this, all will probably not be lost!
Because foam-type cakes are so delicate, they must cool upside down, suspended
over the neck of a sturdy bottle. This looks odd, but it works very well, though
it does take courage to turn the freshly-baked cake over, onto the neck of a
bottle! Once baked, this will keep at room temperature for a few days, if stored
airtight, or refrigerated for at least a week (again, stored airtight).
I have always been assured that angel food cake doesn't freeze, but I froze a
slice of this for several days as a test, then thawed it (still in wrappings) on
my kitchen counter, and it was fine, so try it if you wish.
1-2/3 cups sifted granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 cup sifted unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1-1/4 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
About 6 grinds freshly, finely-ground black pepper
1-3/4 cups egg whites, at room temperature
1-1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. vanilla
Adjust rack to position 1/3 up from oven bottom; preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Assemble a 2 piece tube pan, 10 inches in diameter by 4 inches tall; do not
grease the pan!
In the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, place 1 cup sugar
(reserve remainder). Process at highest speed in 2 or 3 "bursts" of 10 to 15
seconds each, until sugar is very fine-textured. Remove from processor; set
Return the work bowl to processor. Combine remaining 2/3 cup sugar, cake flour,
cocoa powder, espresso powder, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper. Process at highest
speed in 3 "bursts" of 10 to 15 seconds each until fine-textured and well-mixed.
Remove from processor; set aside.
In an absolutely clean 6 quart pot, combine room temperature egg whites, cream
of tartar, and salt. With sturdy, hand-held electric mixer, beat at medium speed
until combined, then increase speed to high and beat until very white and foamy.
Gradually, about 1 tablespoon at a time, add the processed cup of sugar, beating
between each addition. With last addition of sugar, add vanilla. Continue
beating until this meringue holds stiff peaks, but do not overbeat.
Sift in about 1/2 cup of the processed sugar-cocoa-flour mixture, then gently
fold in with a large rubber spatula. Don't be too thorough at this stage.
Continue sifting in additions of the sugar-cocoa-flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at
a time, making certain to scrape the pot edges and bottom frequently. You want
to fold in these dry ingredients gently but quickly. You'll see that this
folding does deflate the meringue slightly, but the batter should still be
thick. Fold in the last addition of dry ingredients just until everything is
combined; do not overmix.
Carefully turn batter into assembled tube pan. Gently level with spatula. Now,
using a flat knife, cut through the batter several times in a pattern of
concentric circles to get rid of any large air bubbles. Place pan into preheated
Bake 30 to 40 minutes. While cake bakes, make sure you have a clean, empty,
sturdy, long-necked bottle for cooling. Do not open the oven door for the first
25 minutes of baking. The cake will rise above the edge of the pan and develop
very deep cracks in the top surface — OK. When done, cake will spring back if
pressed lightly with a fingertip. Do not overbake. Remove cake from oven; place
right side up on a cooling rack.
As quickly as possible, carefully pick up the (hot) tube pan while you insert
the neck of the bottle through the tube. Gently and carefully turn the whole
assembly upside down so that the baked cake, still in the pan, is suspended on
the neck of the bottle. I place the whole assembly on a sturdy cooling rack; the
cake should be about 1 foot above your table or work surface.
Cool undisturbed and out of drafts until cake has reached room temperature.
While it cools, the cake will shrink slightly — OK.
When completely cooled, remove cake, still in pan, from bottle. With pan right
side up, use a stiff-bladed plastic spatula or knife to gently loosen cake from
sides of pan and tube. Life tube portion of pan up from sides; the cake should
release easily. Carefully loosen cake from pan bottom; gently invert onto
serving plate (you can also invert cake gently onto a rack, then re-invert to
serve it right side up). Store airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days, or
refrigerate airtight for at least a week.
To serve, use a sharp, serrated knife. Very gently saw slices from cake in order
not to squash it. If desired, sift a bit of confectioners' sugar over the slices
just before serving.
AUTHOR: Lori A