Something strange happens to me around birthdays. It has to do with cakes. And my firm belief that every birthday is better – significantly better – with a cake made just for you.
So when my husband’s birthday came around, I wanted to make something special. First I was going to make an ice cream cake with homemade salted caramel ice cream. But I didn’t have time.
So I decided to go back to his childhood favorite and attempt to make it from scratch. And his childhood favorite was angel food cake. Which everyone knows is best made from a box. Because it calls for 10 – count them, 10! – egg whites. And a lot of whisking. And is prone to not rising properly. And being finicky in other ways. And generally risking disappointment on the big day.
So I took a deep breath and trusted the Baked Boys. They’ve come through before. And they came through this time.
I was disappointed that my cake didn’t rise quite as much as I had hoped. Disappointed because first of all, the angel food cakes of my childhood (made from the box) always rose so beautifully. Disappointed because our Belgian friends we had invited over for dinner had never had an angel food cake before and I wanted their first experience to be a positive one.
But then we cut into it and all disappointments disappeared. The cake had a delicious, light texture; slightly sticky from the sugar and lifted from the egg whites. The lime zest and glaze provided a welcome zing, cutting some of the sweetness. And the pistachios gave the cake some crunch.
In fact, the consensus among guests who had had angel food cake before was that the homemade version was significantly better than the box, as it tasted “real” and “less sweet.”
The only thing keeping me from making this cake more frequently is the resulting egg yolks. I did find a good website that lists recipes you can make to use up the egg yolks and I ended up making a yellow cake with chocolate ganache which went down very well.
Lime Angel Food Cake with Lime Glaze
From Baked Elements
Yield: One tube cake
Baked note: As with most angel food cakes, this cake should be cooled upside down over a funnel or bottle (unless you are lucky enough to own one of those fancy angel food cake pans with feet); this keeps the cake tall (so it won’t collapse in on itself). However tempting it may be, do not grease your pan or use a nonstick pan, as the cake will just plop before it has cooled. It will appear as though your cake is stuck, but I promise it will free itself quite naturally with a little gentle coaxing.
For the Lime Angel Food Cake
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar, divided
1 cup cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest (from the lime used below)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cream of tartar (I haven’t found this here; I import it from the US)
For the Lime Glaze
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided (about 2 limes)
1/2 cup unsalted raw pistachios, finely chopped
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon tequila (optional)
Make the Lime Angel Food Cake
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup superfine sugar, the flour, and the salt. Repeat the sifting process two more times.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, lime zest, and vanilla on medium speed until frothy (do not let the greenish hue of the batter scare you, it will return to normal after the remaining ingredients are added). Sprinkle the cream of tartar over the mixture and beat on medium-high until soft peaks form.
Gradually (in a stream or a few tablespoons at a time) add the remaining 1 cup of superfine sugar and beat just until stiff peaks form. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sprinkle one-third of the flour mixture over the egg whites. Gently – really gently – fold in the flour. Add half of the remaining flour and fold in gently. Add the remaining flour and fold in until just incorporated.
Transfer the batter to an ungreased 10-cup tube pan with removable bottom (do not use a nonstick pan). Use an offset spatula to smooth the top of the batter.
Bake the cake for 35 to 38 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time until it is pale golden in color and a toothpick or skewer inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Immediately invert the pan onto a work surface if the pan has feet, or place the center of the tube pan onto the neck of a bottle or metal funnel, and cool the cake completely.
Using a long, thin knife, cut around the sides of the cake and the center tube to loosen. Lift out the center tube with the cake still attached; run the knife between the cake and the bottom of the pan to loosen. Remove the cake from the center tube and invert it onto a wire rack. Set the rack with cake onto a rimmed baking sheet.
Make the lime glaze
In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons of the lime juice until the sugar dissolves. Brush the lime syrup over the top and sides of the cake and immediately press the finely chopped pistachios over the syrup so they adhere.
In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, the remaining tablespoon of lime juice, and the tequila until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake in a zigzag pattern. Let the glaze set, about 10 minutes, before serving.
The cake can be stored at room temperature, tightly covered, for up to 3 days, though angel food cake is generally best served within 48 hours.