Why It Works
- Toasted sugar tames the sweetness of angel food cake, adding notes of caramel, too.
- Combining eggs and sugar all at once yields a dense but stable meringue, one with an explosive rise.
- Whipping the meringue in stages creates a fine network of air cells for a more delicate crumb.
- Plain aluminum gives the cake traction through its rise and cooling period—never use nonstick!
Thanks to toasted sugar, this twist on angel food cake has a subtle sweetness tempered by a caramel edge. Use quick-toasted sugar to add just a hint of caramel, or toast it up to three or for hours for a darker, bittersweet caramel flavor.
- 5 ounces bleached cake flour (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons; 140g) (see note)
- 15 ounces cold egg whites (2 cups; 425g) from about 12 large eggs
- 15 ounces toasted or quick-toasted sugar (2 cups; 425g)
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
- 1 ounce fresh juice (2 tablespoons; 25g) from 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon (1g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350°F. Sift cake flour and set aside. Combine egg whites, sugar, and vanilla extract (or seeds) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on low to loosen, about 1 minute, then increase to medium-low (4 on a KitchenAid) and whip 3 minutes; the whites will be dense and dark.
With the mixer still running, add lemon juice and salt. Immediately increase to medium (6 on a KitchenAid) and whip 3 minutes longer; the meringue will be thin but foamy. Increase to medium-high (8 on a KitchenAid) and continue whipping until the meringue is glossy white and thick enough that you can see the pattern left by the wire whisk; this can take between 2 and 4 minutes, depending on the freshness of the whites and the horsepower of your mixer. When meringue is ready, it should be soft enough to flow off the wires when the whisk attachment is removed, but thick enough to mound up on itself like soft-serve in the bowl.
Sprinkle cake flour on top and stir with a flexible spatula to roughly combine. Switch to a folding motion, scraping from the bottom up and folding through the center, until no pockets of flour remain. Scrape the batter into a 10-inch aluminum tube pan (do not butter or grease pan); if you notice any small pockets of unincorporated flour, simply pause to mix them in. Bake until the cake is puffed, golden blond, and firm to the touch, about 45 minutes, or to an internal temperature of 206°F on an instant-read thermometer.
Invert pan onto its stilts or onto a trio of cans (see note) and cool upside down until absolutely no trace of warmth remains, at least 2 hours. Slide an offset spatula around the sides of cake to loosen, remove the insert, and slide spatula under the bottom as well. Flip onto a serving plate, pulling gently on the sides of the cake to release it from the center tube. To serve, cut with a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion and only the slightest downward pressure. If you like, serve with your favorite chocolate sauce or homemade caramel. Wrapped tightly in plastic, leftovers will keep up to 1 week at room temperature.
The success of this recipe depends on traditional bleached cake flour (not self-rising). Look for brands such as Swans Down, Softasilk, or Purasnow—unbleached and DIY alternatives will not perform in this recipe. If your tube pan does not have stilts for inverted resting, and cannot rest over the neck of a wine bottle, set up a trio of cans of the same height to suspend the tube pan before you begin to bake. The cans should be arranged so that the inverted pan just rests on their edges (the cake will rise above the top of the pan).