Naturally fat-free, angel food cake is my go-to dessert when I'm in healthy eating mode. While it may not be quite as delicious as that thick slab of German chocolate cake oozing with coconut frosting, it's fluffy, sweet, and pleasingly spongy—a bit like a marshmallow in cake form.
Who wants to stand over the sink and separate a whole carton of eggs?
The trouble is, making angel food cake from scratch is no small feat. Most recipes call for 10 to 12 egg whites (who wants to stand over the sink and separate a whole carton of eggs?), dry ingredients that have been sifted at least three times, and a precarious folding process that must be done just right, lest the batter deflate before it even gets into the oven.
Store-bought angel food cakes are much more convenient but severely lacking in flavor. Too often they are cloyingly sweet, sticky, and quick to go stale. The solution? Angel food cake mixes, which deliver straight-from-the-oven flavor with a minimum amount of elbow grease.
There are a number of options: high-end versions like the Barefoot Contessa's Lemon Angel Food Cake Mix ($11.95) but I like Duncan Hines' Angel Food Cake Mix (only $2.50), available at most supermarkets.
Preparing the cake is easy.
Simply beat the mix with 1 1/4 cups of water for a minute and a half, pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan, and bake at 350°F for 38 to 48 minutes.
The one tricky part is cooling the cake—you have to hang it upside down while it's still in the pan so that it sets properly and doesn't deflate. I've found that an empty wine or beer bottle stuck through the hole in the middle of the pan works quite nicely.
My favorite part of the Duncan Hines Angel Food Cake is the top crust, which always comes out toasty and brown with that caramelized sugar flavor. The interior is pillowy and pulls apart in clumps like cotton candy. It has a mild, sugary taste laced faintly with vanilla.
Though quite tasty alone, the cake would be even better topped with fresh berries, a drizzle of chocolate or lemon syrup, or a spoonful of citrus sauce made from orange segments simmered with marmalade and a bit of water.
Angel food cake may never knock your socks off, but it also won't pop your pants button. And sometimes—especially in the middle of January—that's the sweetest thing about it.
Or, If You Enjoy Separating Eggs..
And have some extra time to kill, here's how to make angel food cake from scratch »
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