Perfectly Pink Angel Food Cake
Hello, hello! Happy Friday! There comes a time when, in a land of layer cakes galore, a classic simple cake can, and should, reign supreme--particularly when that classic simple cake is pink upon pink and adorned with a handful of rainbow sprinkles. You know? A few months ago, my sister and I were helping mom pack up her apartment, and I came across the tattered and beloved Canadian Five Roses Flour Cookbook she used for my entire life, and for many years before that, I'm sure. I can recall the little cookbook cupboard above our rather large, and at that time novel, microwave oven, storing a handful of cookbooks and a red binder stuffed to the brim with handwritten and typed family recipes, clipped newspaper and magazine recipes, and more. But it was the Five Roses Cookbook that mom seemed to have propped up on the counter most days, making everything from savory to sweet (I fondly remember her peanut butter cookies and lemon meringue pie the most--mom was never really into cake-making), and it was the first cookbook I ever read. And I mean read. Every rainy day or weekend little me would ask if I could pleeeease bake something from the book, and despite her hesitation (I was and still am a rather, hmm, messy baker!) she'd always let me. I would usually make something like chocolate coconut macaroons, sugar cookies, or my rather organically shaped gingerbread men (if I only had the patience to chill dough at that age). Funny how we sort of stash these memories away until we get zapped by a certain scent or visual (like when I came across this guy on ebay and my heart skipped a beat! This was the exact gingerbread cutter we had, and I loved him). I just loved baking from this cookbook. So to make a short story long, as I tend to do, I am so excited to have this Five Roses Cookbook in my possession! It really has me in the classic, vintage cake sort of mood. I sat down and went straight to the cake section, and the first thing that jumped out at me was Angel Food Cake--a classic, for certain. A light, fatless, sponge cake that gets its notable height and loftiness from the air we beat into many an egg white, sugar and cream of tartar before gently folding in a mixture of cake flour and sugar. We bake the cake in an ungreased 10" tube pan, or "angel food cake pan," so that the cake can grab onto the sides of the pan and achieve substantial height. The cake is moist as can be and has a definite spongy quality you feel when cut a bite with the side of your fork. But for some reason, as soon as you put that bite into your mouth, it melts away. So I woke up the next day and knew that it was time to bake a pink angel food cake--that's all there was to it. My first round I used the recipe exactly as it was in the book, but I added a few drops of pink food coloring. It had me feeling all authentic and nostalgic as I folded the dry ingredients in by hand and gently transferred the batter to the pan. It baked up beautifully, and it tasted so good--a perfect hit of vanilla and subtle egginess that I love. But then I got all curious about angel food cake in general, and the science of it and what I could do to possibly make the cake even lighter, even taller, and perhaps add just a touch more flavour. As I searched other angel food cake recipes online, I noticed that some of the more recent versions called for confectioners' sugar in the dry mixture, along with the granulated sugar in the meringue portion. So I made 3 more billowy batches using different combinations of ingredients until I felt that the cake was indeed "perfect" in my opinion, or at least perfect for my taste. I ended up using confectioners' sugar in the dry mix, but a bit less than other recipes, and then used superfine sugar (see Sweetapolita's Notes below) for the meringue portion, as it dissolves quickly into the egg whites and lends to a gorgeous meringue. I increased the egg whites and cake flour and added vanilla bean paste and a small bit of almond extract for incredible flavour. Oh, and of course pink! I added just a few drops of the pink gel paste. So my final version of this Perfectly Pink Angel Cake is an adaptation of the Angel Food Cake recipe in my beloved Five Roses Cookbook tweaked with some things I learned from this epicurious version, and those few other changes I made to make the cake "perfect" in my opinion. Like a dream. The confectioners' sugar and cake flour lend to this super-soft texture and fine crumb that almost melts in your mouth. I frosted the cake with pink marshmallow frosting, which is the ultimate in billowy and satiny-ness, and topped it all with a handful of rainbow nonpareils. Sometimes the true gems embrace simplicity, you know? It can be as simple as tinting a classic recipe a fun colour, or baking it in a unique shape, but in a world of over-the-top recipes, I think it's important to cherish some of the vintage recipes we grew up on, and our parents and grandparents grew up on. Oh, and a note for my fellow cake stand junkies who may ask where to get this dreamy turquoise cake stand, I found it at Winners here in Canada, along with 2 other colors--pink and yellow--right before Easter. I went in for nail polish and of course came with 3 cake stands--you know how it goes. The brand is Grace's Teaware, but yet I can't find them (the stands) online at all. (I remember wanting to include them in my recent cake stands post, but having no way of guiding you to the source or a how-to-buy option.) Okay, so onto this pink beauty! I suggest you drop everything (except the carton of eggs) and make this cake! :)Sweetapolita's Notes:
Pink Angel Food Cake
Classic, light as air, moist pink angel food cake topped with billowy swirls of pink marshmallow frosting and rainbow sprinkles.
For the cake:
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (140 g cake flour)
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (150 g confectioners' sugar)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups 13-14 egg whites, room temperature (left out about 1 hour)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (180 g superfine sugar (see Sweetapolita's Notes))
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
- Few drops pink soft gel paste food color (see Notes)
For the pink marshmallow frosting:
- 6 egg whites (180 g)
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (390 g granulated sugar)
- 2 tablespoons 45 g light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
- Few drops pink soft gel paste food color (see Notes)
- Rainbow nonpareils (optional)
Make the pink angel food cake:
- Arrange oven rack to the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Sift the cake flour, confectioners' sugar and salt together 4 times. Set aside.
- Wipe the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add the egg whites and beat on the lowest speed until they start to become frothy, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and sprinkle the cream of tartar over the egg whites. Beat on medium speed until the egg whites thicken just slightly and you can see swirl lines in the mixture from the whisk (very soft peaks), about 1 minute. Add the superfine sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and beat until the egg whites thicken and reach soft/medium, droopy (not stiff) peaks, 1-2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and almond extract, and a few drops of the food colouring, if using.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer. Sift the dry ingredients 1/4 at a time on top of the meringue and fold gently but thoroughly with a rubber spatula. Gently transfer the batter to an ungreased 10" angel food cake pan and smooth the top with a small offset spatula. Bake on the lower rack of the oven until the top of the cake springs back when touched lightly, and when a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Don't check the cake before 35 minutes, or you could deflate your cake, but also try not to over-bake.
- Remove the cake from the oven and invert the whole pan onto a wire rack so it cools upside down. Let cool for one hour and then loosen sides around the center and outside of the cake using a thin metal spatula or knife. Gently coax the cake out of the pan onto the wire rack and let cool completely.
Make the marshmallow frosting:
- Wipe the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar and salt and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 130°F (54°C) on a candy thermometer.
- Return the bowl to the stand mixer and beat on low speed for 2 minutes, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes. Increase the speed to high and beat until it is very thick and glossy, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla and food colour, if using, and beat to combine. Best used right away (for best texture to apply frosting to the cake--after that it's best enjoyed up to 1-2 days at room temperature).
Frost the cake:
- Place the cake wide end down onto a cake plate, board or pedestal. Pile the frosting on top of the cake and use a metal spatula to spread the frosting from the top down. Create swirls using the back of a spoon and sprinkle with rainbow nonpareils). Slice cake using a serrated knife in a gentle sawing motion. Cake keeps at room temperature for up to 2 days. Best enjoyed day 1 (the cake stays very moist for days, but marshmallow frosting is best enjoyed sooner than later).
- As I mentioned in the post above, I use "superfine" sugar for most of my cake and meringue recipes (in my book as well) as it lends to a lighter cake and dissolves quickly into meringue, etc. This is simply a finer grain of granulated sugar that you can purchase as such (also referred to as caster sugar, baking sugar, and more), such as this India Tree brand Superfine Caster Baking Sugar. What I do is put my granulated sugar in the food processor and let it go for about a minute and voila! Superfine sugar.
- For the food colour, I used a few drops of AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste Food Color in Soft Pink for both the cake and the frosting, but you can certainly go all white--that would be gorgeous and classic. You can also use powdered food colouring or your favourite brand of food colour. I like the concentrated soft gel paste because it only takes a few drops.
- I used a classic 10-Inch Angel Food Cake Pan, but I also recommend one with a removable bottom (like this 2-Piece Angel Food Pan if you're going out to buy a new one, otherwise I did just fine with the classic style), particularly if you might opt to serve the cake without frosting. With coaxing the cake does come out of the classic pan just fine, but it tends to take the very thin brown top "crust" off the cake, which I loved for a cake that will be frosted (typically not a big fan of the brown cake crust).
- I used LorAnn Oils Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste, which is wonderful, but I also love Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste. You can certainly use pure vanilla extract (I suggest a good quality one), though.
- You can find rainbow nonpareils in most grocery shops, but if you use them often, larger quantities can be purchased online and at cake decorating shops. Or if you need serious sprinklage in your life, try this Party Decoratifs 3.4 lb! That huge jar just makes me so darn happy.