Victory, at Last
One of my favorite cakes has always been angel food cake. In fact, for a long time, the husband made it for me for my birthday every year. It’s a really great cake: light, fluffy, and fat free. I had my first homemade angel food cake as a newlywed when a friend baked one for us as a surprise for our one month anniversary. That cake was delicious! I had never had an angel food cake made from scratch–it is a totally different cake. The store bought ones must have some weird chemicals or fake something in them, because after that homemade one, I could never eat another store-bought angel food cake.
It’s not a really hard cake to make. I have made it successfully many times. Except for the last 5 years. For the last 5 years, I have been unable to successfully make an angel food cake. They all turn out like this.
Fallen failures. This latest was two weeks ago when I had a lot of whites leftover from making the chocolate truffle tartlets for TWD. I decided to try it again. It looked great going in the oven, but then it fell when I went to retrieve it. Something was wrong and I had a feeling it had something to do with my failed attempts to make marshmallow frosting way back in December.
The husband thought it might be my cream of tarter. Cream of tarter helps to stabilize egg whites so that they keep their volume. I think it has something to do with the ph. Baking is half skill and half chemistry. And since the husband is the chemistry expert, I decided to try out his theory. I went to the store and bought a new jar of cream of tarter. My old one was probably several years old. However, I did not try it again right away. In fact, I was so sad about my angel food cake failures that I felt I needed to gather up my courage again.
Then, last week, a close friend requested angel food cake for his birthday cake and I knew the time had come to conquer the beast. I used a recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book. I figured this would be the most tested one out there and therefore most likely to succeed. I followed the recipe to the letter and it looked great going in the oven, but so did the other 10 cakes before it.
After an hour, I checked the cake and I was afraid when I saw that the cake was pulling away from the sides just a bit. However, once I turned it upside down, I knew it was going to be alright. See?
No falling cake. And it was delicious, too. Especially with Meyer lemon curd.
And just to prove that it was not a fluke, I tried the recipe that failed two weeks ago.
This is the Chocolate Tweed Angel Food cake from Heavenly Cakes. As you can see from this really blurry picture, it stayed in the pan, too!
This is a lesson to me to refresh my ingredients more regularly. I like to be kind of hoardy and try to use up stuff before I buy new supplies, but it does not pay with some things, such as cream of tarter. In some ways I feel silly for not having figured this out sooner, but in other ways I am also relieved that it had nothing to do with my baking skills. Now I can enjoy homemade angel food cake again!