The grand thing about cooking is you can eat your mistakes. -Julia Child

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chocolate-Kissed Angel Food Cake

When I was young, I don't remember my grandmother baking very often.  This was the 80s, everyone was busy learning to microwave!  Or at least she was.  Don't get me wrong - there were still several grandmotherly treats issued:  small candy bars from my grandfather's stash (Snickers!), caramel and butterscotch hard candies (Werther's!), gum (Freedent!), trips to Dairy Queen (Mr. Misty slush!), even the occasional pan of brownies.  But I have this one vague memory of a true baking marvel - my first angel food cake.

Or that's at least what I think I remember.  I have the worst memory ever.  (Apparently for everything but prepackaged food products.)  But when I think angel food cake, I think grandma, so I'm going to just fill in the blanks here and imagine that we baked one of these together and had a special moment.  I think the story went something like this:  We were in the cake mix section of the Kroger or some other southern grocery chain, and my grandmother asked me what kind of cake I'd like to bake.  I chose angel food cake because it had the prettiest name.  Doesn't angel food sound better than just "yellow"?  It baked up big and tall and fluffy good.

Ever since then I've loved the stuff.  The adult in me can look past the name and love it for what it is - a light, fluffy cake that is fun to eat.  Added bonus - it is lower in fat and calories than most other cakes, so a slice isn't going to derail your diet.  This version involves the addition of flecks of chocolate, giving the interior the speckled appearance of cookies and cream ice cream.  And oh yeah, no box mix needed.

Chocolate-Kissed Angel Food Cake
Adapted from Ina Garten
Printable version

1 1/3 cups cake flour (make your own if needed)
2 cups sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups egg whites, room temperature (from 10-12 eggs)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated semisweet chocolate, plus extra for garnish (grate a chocolate bar with a cheese grater or Microplane)
powdered sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together flour and 1/2 cup of the sugar.  Sift the same flour/sugar mix one more time and set aside.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high speed (or using your own arms and a whisk) beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar together in the largest bowl you have until mixture just barely reaches the firm peaks stage (about one minute).
Slowly add the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar with mixer on medium speed.  Return to high speed and beat for a few more minutes until mixture is billowy and shiny.  (Admire how pretty it is!)
Whisk in the vanilla.
Sift 1/4 of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it in gently with a rubber spatula.  (See the link on the side of the page for a good demonstration of proper folding technique.)  Fold in the rest of the flour mixture in three parts, sifting flour prior to addition.
Fold in the grated chocolate.
Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.  Use your spatula to smooth the top.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until cake will spring back after a gentle touch.
Remove cake from oven and invert pan on cooling rack.  (If your pan does not have those helpful prongs to keep your cake elevated, place the pan upside down on top of a bottle with a long neck like a wine bottle.)
When the cake is cool, gently run a knife along the sides of the cake and lift the center portion of the tube pan out of the sides.  Run a knife along the bottom of the cake to separate it from the base of the pan.  Invert cake and  remove pan base.
Dust top with chocolate shavings and powdered sugar.  Serve.

Verdict?  Such a good take on angel food cake.  Ina's original recipe calls for a thick, chocolatey glaze to be poured over the cake.  Since I'm not a huge fan of chocolate this seemed like overkill to me and I didn't make it, but if that seems like your cup of tea then I urge you to follow the link above and check out the original recipe.  My pictured cake also uses a scant 1/4 of chocolate.  I was worried that the cake would be too chocolatey for me to properly enjoy as an angel food cake so I went light on it.  My concerns were relatively unfounded, though, so feel free to use up to Ina's recommended 1/2 cup.  This was great with a scoop of coffee ice cream on the side.  Yum.....


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