Peaches and Cream Angel Food Cake.
This simple, light as air angel food cake is filled and covered in billowy whipped cream flavored with peach preserves.
Angel food cake is simply a sponge cake made with only egg whites (no yolks) and no butter. According to Wikipedia, it was Isabella Stewart who first included a recipe for “Angel’s Food Cake” in her cookbook, The Home Messenger Book of Tested Recipes, in 1878. Stewart’s recipe called for eleven egg whites, sugar, flour, vanilla extract and cream of tartar – pretty much what you’ll find here, with a few modifications to make it as light, airy and delicious as possible….
In order to achieve a superbly tender crumb with this Angel Food Cake Recipe, I’ve cut the flour with 50% cornstarch, thereby lowering the overall percentage of protein. The structure of a cake is largely dependent on protein, making the type and amount of flour used an important consideration in every cake recipe. For example, for this Vanilla Cake I wanted a dense, sturdy structure, reminiscent of a pound cake, so you’ll notice the percentage of protein is quite high. In contrast, an angel food cake should be as light and airy as it’s name suggests.
In order to achieve a lighter crumb, many recipes call for cake flour. Cake flour is simply a mixture of all-purpose flour and cornstarch. (You can easily make your own cake flour by replacing 2 tablespoons per cup of all-purpose flour with cornstarch.) In most cake recipes, using cake flour over all-purpose flour reduces the protein content just enough to create a tender crumb without compromising the structure. I was able to get away with reducing it even more in this Angle Food Cake recipe because of the star ingredient: egg whites.
In an Angel Food Cake, the structure depends on egg protein reinforced by starch from flour. By cutting the flour with equal parts cornstarch, I increased the amount of starch while decreasing the amount of protein, giving this cake an extremely tender crumb. Score!
For a perfect light-as-air Angle Food Cake, here’s what’s important…
First of all, it’s really important to bake Angel Food cakes in tube pans that do NOT have a non-stick coating, like this Nordic Ware Aluminum Pan. Angel Food cake does not contain any chemical leaveners, such as baking soda or baking powder. Instead, the cake relies on air and steam for leavening. As the cake bakes, all that air beaten into the egg whites expands in combination with the moisture in the batter, causing the cake to climb up the sides of the pan. This is why an un-greased (no non-stick coating) tube pan is so important – it allows the batter to grab onto the sides of the pan as it rises. Also, it’s best to cool an angel food cake upside down. This prevents the cake from collapsing. If you are using a pan with a non-stick surface, this will cause your cake to slip right out of the pan, crushing itself on the counter, which is SUCH a bummer.
Second the amount of sugar used in an Angel Food Cake is really important. Because the batter does not contain any fat, the cake is dependent on sugar to add moisture and tenderness. However, too much sugar will actually prevent the batter from setting. This totally happened to me with my first pass at creating this recipe. I used just a 1/4 cup more sugar than what you’ll see in the recipe below and upon taking the cake from the oven and turning it upside down to cool, the whole thing slipped right out of the pan, smashing itself on the counter, which as I’ve stated above, is SUCH a bummer. So – use exactly 1 1/2 cups sugar in this recipe and not a bit more.
Finally, the temperature of the egg whites are important. The main goal of Angel Food Cake batter is to create as much volume as possible and egg whites at room temperature will create more volume than cold egg whites. So, take the eggs from the refrigerator about 1 hour before you plan to bake this cake to let them warm up a bit.
To fill, or not to fill… Either way is great.
In the Angel Food Cake Recipe below, you’ll see instructions for filling the cake with peach whipped cream in addition to icing the cake with peach whipped cream. This is simply my way of ensuring that every bite of angle food cake is accompanied with peach whipped cream. But, it’s not at all necessary. Skip this step and just use all that whipped cream on the outside of the cake if you prefer. If you do decide to fill the cake with cream, the easiest way to do so is to fill a pastry bag, fitted only with a coupler, with peach whipped cream and just squirt that cream directly into the cake – like a twinkie. Like this…
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1¾ cups egg whites (approximately 12-14), at room temperature
- 1 tbsp room temperature tap water
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1½ tsp cream of tarter
- 1 quart cold heavy whipped cream
- 16 oz. peach preserves or peach jam (about 2 cups)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Pour the sugar into a food processor fitted with the mental chopping blade and process until the sugar is very fine, almost like dust, about 20 seconds.
- Pour ¾ cups of the sugar, the salt, flour, and cornstarch into a bowl and stir with a wire whisk to thoroughly combine and aerate the mixture.
- Using an electric mixture, beat the egg whites, water, extract and cream of tarter at medium speed until soft peaks begin to form. With the mixer running, add the remaining ¾ cup sugar to the egg whites, pouring it in slowly, in a thin, steady stream. Beat until firm peaks form. This means that if you pull the beater from the egg whites, a peak will hold its shape, with just the tip folding back on itself.
- Dust the flour mixture evenly over the egg whites, ¼ cup at a time, gently folding the flour into the whites with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, as quickly and gently as possible, until the flour is fully incorporated into the batter. Be gentle - you don't want to stir too much of the air from the egg whites.
- Using a rubber spatula, spread a bit of the batter all over the inside of the tube pan, covering the bottom and sides of the inside of the pan completely. This will help ensure that air bubbles don't form between the batter and sides of the pan, preventing the batter from gripping the sides of the pan and rising. Add the rest of the batter to the pan, gently smoothing the top.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out mostly clean.
- Remove from the oven and turn upside down to cool. If your pan has tabs on the top, just turn the pan so it's resting upside down on the tabs. If it doesn't, invert the pan on the neck of a thin neck bottle - like a beer or wine bottle. Let cool completely before running a knife or spatula along the edges of the pan to remove the cake to a platter.
- Using an electric mixture, whip the cream until thick. Stir in the peach preserves, or peach jam until completely incorporated.
- If filling the cake, spoon some of the peach whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted only with a coupler. Flip the cake upside down and squirt the cream directly into the center of the cake, like a twinkie (see picture above).
- Flip the cake right side up and frost with the rest of the whipped cream.