Chocolate Angel Food Cake Recipe

This chocolate angel food cake is moist and light, and flavored with orange and espresso.

A slice of chocolate angel food cake.

Serious Eats / Yvonne Ruperti

Why It Works

  • A precisely calibrated ratio of flour and cocoa powder gives this cake a pleasing, airy texture and rich chocolate flavor.
  • Espresso powder and orange zest complement and accentuate the chocolate without altering the texture of the cake.

I usually shy away from desserts claiming to be "low fat" because I don't really see the point—except after a holiday binge. During the gluttonous festivities each year, I give myself a free pass. No, I take that back. To be totally honest, I give myself a free pass all year long, but it's only after the holidays that I end up feeling guilty. If you're a big fan of chocolate, and feeling jiggly and bloated just like me from the nonstop nibblings, this dessert is for you: a chocolate angel food cake.

The amazing thing about angel food cake is that for a cake that's so lean, it's still satisfying. You can plop on whipped cream or ice cream and still feel in the clear. How does it work? Plentiful whipped egg whites provide structure to a cake that has just a modest amount of flour. As the cake bakes, it rises tall with a beautiful moist, light, and airy texture.

Things turn tricky, however, when you change the cake from plain to chocolate. I like my chocolate cakes super chocolaty, but angel food cakes are inherently sweet. It's almost a losing battle to get a deep dark chocolate flavor and to keep the light-as-air texture. As I tried to balance out the sweetness using my favorite vanilla angel food cake recipe as a starting point, I ran into trouble. Adding too much cocoa, with its fine powdery texture, turns the cake dense. But you can't just swap out flour for cocoa either—you'll end up with a structure-less, squat cake. After five experiments with different ratios of flour to cocoa, blooming a bit of the cocoa in hot water (to generate extra flavor), and adding espresso powder to bump up bitterness, I landed in a chocolaty sweet spot that was worth two chocolate thumbs up.

January 2013

Recipe Facts

Active: 15 mins
Total: 4 hrs
Serves: 10 to 12 servings
Makes: 1 cake

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (3 ounces) cocoa powder, divided

  • 1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar, divided

  • 1 cup (4 ounces) cake flour

  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 cup boiling water

  • 1 tablespoon zest from 1 orange

  • 15 large egg whites

  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 1 orange, sliced thin for garnish

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Sift 1/2 cup cocoa, 3/4 cup sugar, and flour into a medium bowl; set aside.

  2. Place remaining cocoa, espresso powder, and salt in large bowl. Stir in boiling water and orange zest until smooth; set aside.

  3. In a standing mixer fitted with whip attachment, beat egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and continue to beat until whites are beginning to turn opaque, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and slowly add remaining cup sugar. Continue to beat until meringue forms stiff but not dry peak, 3 to 5 minutes.

  4. Whisk about 1 cup meringue into cocoa and water mixture to lighten (see notes). In 3 stages, gently fold in remaining whites. Sift 1/3 flour mixture onto meringue and gently fold in. In 2 additions, sift and fold remaining flour mixture into batter until combined, taking care not to deflate egg whites.

  5. Gently spoon batter into pan (see notes). Bake until cake is puffed, just set, and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

  6. Set pan on wire rack for 5 minutes, then invert pan onto wire rack so that cake can completely cool in pan upside-down, about 4 hours (see notes). Run knife along inside of pan and invert cake onto serving plate to serve. Serve with orange slices.

Special Equipment

10-inch or 15 cup tube pan, standing mixer

Notes

As you stir in the first amount of beaten egg whites into the bloomed chocolate mixture, make sure it's smooth before continuing. Take care not to deflate the egg whites as you fold into the batter.

Do not grease the pan. The cake needs to grab onto the sides to rise properly.

Take care inverting the pan upside down. Don't set the pan on a wine bottle—my cake fell out that way.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
198 Calories
1g Fat
41g Carbs
7g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 198
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 114mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 41g 15%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 29g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 2mg 8%
Calcium 6mg 0%
Iron 3mg 18%
Potassium 113mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)