Angel food cake
|Alternative names||Angel cake|
|Place of origin||United States of America|
|Main ingredients||Wheat flour, egg whites, cream of tartar|
|Cookbook: Angel food cake Media: Angel food cake|
Angel food cake, or angel cake, is a type of sponge cake originating in the United States that first became popular in the late 19th century. It is so named because of its airy lightness that was said to be the "food of the angels".
Angel food cake requires egg whites whipped until they are stiff, Cream of tartar is added to the mixture to stabilize the egg whites. Remaining ingredients are gently folded into the egg white mixture. For this method of leavening to work well, it is useful to have flour that has been made of softer wheat; cake flour is generally used because of its light texture. The softer wheat and the lack of fat causes angel food cake to have a very light texture and taste.
Angel food cake should be cut with a serrated knife, as a straight-edged blade tends to compress the cake rather than slice it. Forks, electric serrated knives, special tined cutters or a strong thread should be used instead.
Angel food cake is usually baked in a tube pan, a tall, round pan with a tube up the center that leaves a hole in the middle of the cake. A bundt pan may also be used, but the fluted sides can make releasing the cake more difficult. The center tube allows the cake batter to rise higher by 'clinging' to all sides of the pan. The angel food cake pan should not be greased, unlike pans used to prepare other cakes, this allows the cake to have a surface upon which to crawl up helping it to rise. After baking, the cake pan is inverted while cooling to prevent the cake from falling in on itself. Angel food cake is sometimes frosted but more often has some sort of sauce, such as a sweet fruit sauce, drizzled over it. A simple glaze is also popular. Recently, many chefs (Alton Brown in particular) have popularized the idea of adding aromatic spices such as mace and cloves to the cake.
Angel food cake is a white sponge cake made with only stiffly beaten egg whites (yolks would make it yellow and inhibit the stiffening of the whites) and no butter. The first recipe in a cookbook for a white sponge cake is in Lettice Bryan’s The Kentucky Housewife of 1839. Since there is no butter in the cake, the angel food cake is not related to the butter cakes: snow-drift cake, silver cake or lady cake.
The Home Messenger Book of Tested Recipes, 2d ed., 1878, by Isabella Stewart contained the first recipe for Angel’s Food Cake, not The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Mrs.D.A. Lincoln, published in 1884. Stewart’s detailed recipe called for eleven egg whites, sugar, flour, vanilla extract and cream of tartar. 
A variety of chocolate cake known as Devil's food cake, considered Angel food's "counterpart", is another popular American cake that was developed later. However, unlike angel food cake, devil's food cake is a type of butter cake.
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