Angel food cake, or angel cake, is a type of sponge cake.
It is made with egg whites, flour, and sugar. A whipping agent, such as cream of tartar, is commonly added. It differs from other cakes because it uses no butter. Its aerated texture comes from
whipped egg white.
Angel food cake is usually baked in a tube pan, a tall, round pan with a tube up the centre 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.
These cakes are cooled upside down. Some tube pans have “feet” or “fingers” that extend off of the top rim of the pan. The “feet” are placed on a cooling rack. If the pan does not have “feet” it is customary for home bakers to place a glass soda bottle or something similar through the tube to ensure that the pan is elevated.
Angel food cakes have a shelf-life of a few days at room temperature or up to a week in a refrigerator because of the tendency for moisture to migrate and evaporate. After a few days the cake will be dry and lack flexibility.
The name, which comes from the texture, which is “so light that angels could eat it and still fly without being weighted down”, has given it a special association in some communities. Among African Americans, the cake is often served at funeral receptions, with the idea that the deceased person is now living in Heaven among the angels. Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, it is considered a wedding cake, and the couple is said to be blessed by angels.
The origin of this cake has been debated over the years, even though it is believed to have originated in the United States in the mid-1800s. Historians believe that these cakes originated from African American slaves because making the cake required intensive labor to whip air into the egg whites. Alternatively, a number of historians suggest that angel food cakes originated in southeastern Pennsylvania because of the abundant production of cake molds in the area.
The first recipe in a cookbook for a white sponge cake is in Lettice Bryan’s The Kentucky Housewife of 1839. Since there is no butter in the cake, the angel food cake is not related to the butter cakes: snow-drift cake, silver cake or lady cake.
The first recipe for Angel Food Cake is in the 2d edition of Isabella Stewart’s The Home Messenger Book of Tested Recipes, Detroit, 1878. What’s more, Angel Food recipes appear at least six times before 1884 (starting in 1878) and it was first called ‘Angel’s Food’ – the current name – in the Home Messenger book. So, the ‘Angel Cake’ (not Angel’s Food Cake) in Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book is not the first recipe for Angel’s Food.
The invention of the rotary egg beater led to a jump in popularity of the cake. Invented by Willis Johnson, the egg beater was patented in 1884. Originally he inented the device as a mixing machine not intended to
whisk the eggs only.
By the 1930s, the angel food cake recipe was firmly established. During this time several research efforts were pursued to better understand the science behind the manufacturing process.
Angel food cake has a lower fat and calorie content than other commercial cakes, and thus represents an alternative for low calorie consumers. A commercial food cake provides 259 kcal per 100 g serving.
The largest recorded Angel cake was 1 metre in length and 50 centimetres in width, which was baked in the English town of Bakewell.
Angel Cake was one of the favorite dessert of Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893), nineteenth President of the United States.
National Angel Food Cake Day on October 10th celebrates the delicious, light, and fluffy cake.
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. However, unlike angel food cake, devil’s food cake is a type of butter cake.