Angel Food Cake…. It’s Science!

On April 1, the library will host its first Science Fair! No, this isn’t an April Fools joke. Everyone is welcome to participate (even librarians). I’ll be representing the library with the “Science of Baking.”

To prep for the science fair, I’ve been busy baking cakes (It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it). I started off by looking at Baking Illustrated for some inspirational recipes. Baking Illustrated is edited by the same people who put together Cooks Illustrated. So if you end up liking Baking Illustrated, you should check out the magazine. I also looked at other books like The Professional Pastry Chef, How Baking Works and Understanding Baking. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I started with Angel Food Cake (mostly because I’ve never made one before).

If you’ve ever had Angel Food Cake, you know it is very light and fluffy. To achieve this kind of fluffiness, you need to beat 12 egg whites into an almost meringue consistency.

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I really try to make an effort to not waste, so when I ended up with 12 egg yolks, I quickly started thinking of other things I could make. If this ever happens to you, think about making custard or hollandaise sauce. In case you’re wondering, this is what 12 egg yolks look like.

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Back to the egg whites. I added some cream of tartar and started the Kitchenaid. The cream of tartar is there for structure to help keep the egg whites together.

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Compared to other cakes, Angel Food cake has very little sugar and flour. Pound cake will normally contain 3 cups of flour AND 3 cups of sugar (along with 3 sticks of butter) compared to Angel Food cake, which normally contains only 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of sugar (and NO BUTTER?!). This helps to keep it light and fluffy, which is why Angel Food cake is so popular with dieters. It contains the protein to keep you fuller, but with less calories.

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Lastly, we put in the delicate mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Why don’t we grease it? The cake will gradually stick to the sides of the pan to rise up. If it’s greased, it won’t be able to “climb.” It’s just one of the downsides of being so airy. After it’s done baking, you should immediately turn it upside down to set. The first time I baked it, I immediately tried to take the cake out, which resulted in a severely deflated cake (fail).

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The major downside of an ungreased pan is that it’s much more of a struggle to actually get the cake out. You might also want to make sure you use a plastic knife, so that you aren’t scratching the pan. Here are a couple pictures of the finished product.

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One of my baking secrets is this Princess Cake emulsion. I add it to almost everything I bake instead of vanilla extract. Emulsion is not alcohol based, so the flavor doesn’t bake out like normal extracts do. It makes cakes much more flavorful and comes in a variety of flavors. This particular Princess flavor is similar to vanilla, but with an added nutty and slightly citrus flavor. I highly recommend it.

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Well, that’s it for now. Stay tuned for more cakes! For more information about the upcoming Science Fair including how to register, click here.

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