COOKING ADVENTURE #34: Angel Food Cake
Dear Lord! I have gone an entire week without posting a Cooking Adventure. I am ashamed of myself. If it is any consolation, I have been dealing with trying to get my new car repaired as it had the following things wrong with it: bad tires, bad brakes, a leak in the head gasket that was dripping on the exhaust pipe, shredded alternator belt, a bad alternator connection, shifter improperly installed, faulty neutral safety switch, and the most disappointing of the problems, a broken CD player. For the record, I’m extremely thankful to the folks at Rockport Automotive for doing all of those repairs for me. You folks are awesome! You can’t really blame me for not having the time to make a cake in the midst of not having a vehicle to get groceries. Not that it really matters anyway. After making the cake, I discovered that it was destined to flop. After thinking I was getting so much better at baking, this recipe has made me reconsider.
The day I decided to make this angel food cake, we had some of the weirdest weather. It started raining in the morning, then it was sunny, then there was a sudden thunderstorm which passed within twenty minutes, and then sun once more… Not to mention the temperature was around 80 degrees outside and the air as thick as soup. It was pretty dreadful. For some reason, my brain decided it would be a good idea to bake in the crazily humid environment of my apartment.
I rounded up all of the ingredients and read the recipe over. First, in a bowl, I was to combine the flour and sugar. Now, in all of the recipes that I found, they call for cake flour. Having not been smart enough to deduce that there was a special type of flour involved, I didn’t have any cake flour to use. I searched for an alternative recipe that could use all purpose flour and found this one. In my excitement, I read the directions hurriedly and proceeded to dump one cup flour into the glass bowl along with 1 1/2 cups of sugar. It was only when I checked the directions that I gasped. I was only supposed to have used half of the sugar. No need to call me an idiot, I did plenty of that at the time.
I progressed with the recipe, already knowing that this cake wasn’t going to turn out the way I’d hoped. In another bowl, I was to combine 12 egg whites, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Now, even though I’ve called myself the master of separating eggs, I wasn’t feeling confident enough that I could separate 12 of them without there being an accident of some kind. So I went to the store and bought a carton of egg whites. Yes, it’s technically cheating but honestly? I didn’t want to waste a bunch of egg yolks. The only issue was knowing how much of this clear glop to measure out. I googled a few measurement conversions and found somewhere that 12 egg whites equals roughly one and a half cups. Later, having done the math the correct way, I found out that this was inaccurate. Each egg white is approximately 3 tbsp. according to the carton. 3 x 12 = 36 tbsp. which then converted into cups is 2 and 1/4 cups. Blast.
I shook the egg whites thoroughly before pouring the 1 and 1/2 cups into the bowl, then added the salt, and the vanilla. Then came the fun part; the electric mixer. The last time I used the electric mixer to beat something so that it had stiff white peaks, it was my recipe for Flourless Lemon Almond Cake. And when I made that recipe, I couldn’t get the egg whites to actually stiffen at all. The same goes for this recipe. I first mixed it until it was “frothy”, then sprinkled the required 1 and 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar over it before resuming the beating. After roughly 15 minutes of beating this stuff and finding that it still wasn’t “peaking” properly, I unplugged the mixer with a growl and decided that that was as close as it was ever going to get.
At this point, I normally would have added in the other half of the sugar mixture to the “stiff peaks”. Unfortunately, since I’d already mixed it into my dry mixture, I just spooned that into the liquid and folded everything together. What I got in the end slightly terrified me. The cake batter was extremely liquidy. It was at this point that I figured, “I’ve already messed it up. Best to just forget about it turning out okay and get through the rest of it as painlessly as possible.” I turned my attention to the baking pan.
I’d borrowed my mom’s bunt cake pan. The directions said I didn’t need to oil the angel food cake pan. I took one look at the bunt cake pan and knew I had to grease it, otherwise, I wouldn’t be getting any cake out of it. I took some vegetable oil and slicked the pan up with a paper towel. Then with a cringe, I poured the batter in and then placed the cake in the oven at 325 for 40 minutes. To be on the safe side, I set the oven for 30 so that I could check it. I’m glad I did that. By the time a half an hour had rolled around, the cake was already golden brown on top and spongy to the touch. I took it out.
The directions made me scratch my head. They told me to place the pan upside down on top of either a metal funnel or a glass bottle so that the cake wouldn’t collapse. Confusion abounded me. I didn’t own a metal funnel nor did I think it was a good idea to try and balance a bunt cake pan atop a glass bottle. I noticed my frying pan sitting on top of the stove and decided I’d just put it upside-down on that. That way, if it fell out and splattered, it would at least be in the frying pan and not on the stove top.
The cake looked rather flat before I set it upside down. I was worried that it would have little to no taste and that it hadn’t risen properly. And my fears were realized after I turned it right side up and cut myself a slice. The top 1/4 inch of the cake actually had a cake-like consistency. It was light and fluffy and smelled wonderful. However, the bottom inch of the cake was a solid mass of gel, which cut like play dough and smelled just about the same. Yes, readers, I tasted it. And chucked the slice soon after. There wasn’t any way that this cake was going to be saved.
If I’d been more patient with the beating or had actually added the sugar correctly, I think this would have come out better. But I have a feeling it will be a while before I attempt to make an angel food cake again.
Next week on Cooking Adventures (as in September 6th), I’ll be creating an old favorite of mine. Chicken Pot Pie is next! Stay tuned!
[Inspiration Through Music will be up by Thursday. Sorry for the wait.]