A couple of weeks ago I began to imagine the angel food cake I would make for Valentine’s Day, a sort of homage to the angels in my life, a light and airy labor of love flecked with chocolate bits.
I’d made one angel food cake in my life. I was in high school, it was for my mother’s birthday and my brother gets half the blame. It was made with the requisite dozen egg whites, the signature ingredient for a light and airy angel cake. Ours might have been tasty, but nobody remembers. What is remembered about that particular cake – and you know the story has been retold a thousand times – is that it required a sharp knife to cut each bite and it was chewy, maybe a little chewier than God intended for her/his Angel Food Cake. That cake was a tough cookie. Do not mess with her!
Umpteen years later I thought I would try again. I’ve learned to cook, done a little baking, it would be perfect for Valentine’s Day, the family would think me an angel for making something angelic for them . . . I’m on it.
Besides, I have the perfect pan. A couple of years ago my mom was ready to dump her vintage angel food cake pan and vintage gets me every time. Because I have so much room for stuff that like that in my uncluttered basement, and haven’t baked an angel food cake since high school, it made perfect sense for me to take it off her hands. It’s taken cover in the basement ever since.
I wanted the angel food cake to be flecked with melted morsels of chocolate and tried to find a recipe for that – I’m sure it’s been done. I couldn’t find one so decided to wing it, add finely chopped chocolate with the dry ingredients and cross my fingers.
Here it is along with suggestions for improving the next one (more chocolate). Family loved it though they know perfectly well I’m no angel.
Chocolate was the *improvisation, otherwise I used the following recipe from Gourmet.com. I chopped up some favorite chocolate – Theo’s Ghana or Jayne Goodall chocolates are a good choice – into fine bits (you could also put it in a grinder or blender for a quick whirl). After the chopping, measure 3/4 cup and set aside. Add more if you dare. I added 1/2 cup and felt more would have been better.
Angel Food Cake from Gourmet, November 2001
1 ½ C egg whites (11 – 12 large eggs) A dozen beautiful eggs from Stoney Plains Organic Farm
1 ½ C sifted confectioners sugar (sift before measuring)
1 C sifted cake flour (non-self rising; again, sift before measuring)
¼ t salt
1 ½ t cream of tartar
1/2 – 3/4 C finely grated chocolate
1 C granulated sugar
1 t vanilla
Equipment: 1 10-inch tube pan w/ a removable bottom. Do not grease or flour.
Let egg whites stand in bowl of a standing electric mixer at room temperature about 1 hour before making cake. (They should be about 60°F, slightly below room temperature.)
Set oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
Sift together confectioners sugar, flour, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper using a triple sifter or fine sieve.
Beat whites in mixer until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat at medium speed until they form soft peaks. Add granulated sugar gradually, beating, and continue beating just until whites are thickened and form soft, droopy peaks. Beat in vanilla.
Sprinkle one fourth of sifted dry ingredients over whites and fold in with a rubber spatula gently but thoroughly. Fold in remaining dry ingredients, one third at a time. (*This is where I added the chocolate; include it with the dry ingredients and fold in.)
Gently pour batter evenly into ungreased tube pan and bake until top is light golden, cake retracts a bit from pan and springs back when touched lightly, and a tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Invert pan onto neck of an empty wine bottle or a large metal funnel and cool cake completely.
To remove cake from pan, run tip of a long, narrow knife between outer edge of cake and pan. Tilt cake pan on its side and gently tap bottom edge against counter. Rotate pan, tapping and turning a few more times, until cake appears free. Cover pan with a metal rack or cardboard round and invert, tapping pan firmly to loosen cake. Lift pan from cake. (It should come out beautifully, like a pillow taken out of a slipcover.)
Drizzle a thin chocolate frosting over the whole thing, serve with whipped cream and fruit, or just go with the cake, plain and simple. And then you face the problem of the abandoned egg yolks. The bowlful is a constant reminder of something you now don’t know what to do with and you hate to waste. A few possibilities: I added one to potato latkes the other night; added two to Italian meatballs; made a batch of Caesar salad dressing using two more. Classic Pound Cake, which I’ve never made in my life, requires egg yolks. Pasta Carbonara (a Jamie Oliver version). Yolks are an efficient thickener to sauces, but you have to be careful not to scramble them. What else? Happy Valentine’s Day.
Or, forget the angels and go straight to this instructive Mark Bittman video and make a chocolate soufflé using both the whites and the yolk of three eggs, Mark Bittman’s chocolate soufflé