Is there anything dreamier than the tender crumb of a light-as-air angel food cake? I've loved angel food cake ever since I first tasted it as a child. It reminded me of cotton candy. No wonder: angel food cake is essentially a fluffy blend of a super-sugary meringue laced with just enough flour to give it a little structure. In other words, there was very little to get in the way of the pure-sugar flavor that my childhood palate adored!
In the 80's, low-fat became the "healthy" battle cry, and angel food cake came into vogue, with no fat weighing it down, but plenty of white processed sugar fluffing it up. In fact, fat-free-but-sugary baked treats were practically a diet fad unto themselves for well over a decade. Of course, modern science (and let's just say it: common sense) tells us that we could all benefit from cutting down on processed sugar.
So how to bring back the flavor and texture of the angel food cakes I adored as a child without throwing our blood sugar levels out of whack? Today's recipe is the solution.
First, I cut the sugar down by about 25 percent over typical recipes and it worked great. Secondly, I skipped purchasing "superfine" white sugar, and tried less-processed organic versions. I pulsed the coarser sugar in the blender myself to make it powdery-fine. (It's still sugar, but even baby steps toward healthy eating count!).
Instead of using super-starchy, lower-protein cake flour, I pulsed up regular flour in the blender to mimic the lightness. Also, I made the cake in a loaf pan, which resulted in us eating smaller slices versus tube pan versions by some visual trick of nature that I don't fully understand, but have proven multiple times with my own family.
For flavor, since I'm not a huge plain-sugar fan anymore, I added lemon zest and lovely-speckled vanilla bean. I served it with a quick lemony glaze made from Greek yogurt that my family loves, but you can consider optional, if you are an angel food cake traditionalist. Or, try a slice of this cake with a tiny square of dark, bitter chocolate for a perfect pairing.
Lemon and vanilla bean angel food loaf cake
Start to finish: 2 hours, including inactive cooking and cooling time
2/3 cup organic sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, grains scraped from pod
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup egg whites, from approximately 7-8 eggs
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup organic powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place the sugar, zest and vanilla bean in a dry blender and pulse until well-blended and sugar is fine and fluffy. Pour about half the sugar into a small bowl and set aside. Add the flour to the remaining sugar in the blender and pulse again a few times to create a fine flour mixture. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.
In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar on medium speed just until frothy (under a minute). While mixing, carefully add the fine sugar (without the flour) to the egg whites, a tablespoon at a time. Continue beating the eggs until soft peaks form. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, place a sifter or sieve over the bowl and sift in half the flour and sugar mixture, and fold gently five or six times with a rubber spatula.
Sift in the remaining flour mixture and gently fold until no flour streaks remain. Scrape batter into a standard sized ungreased loaf pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until top is golden.
Remove from oven and place the loaf pan upside down, resting on two cans on the counter to cool (upside down, not touching the counter) completely (45 minutes).
Once cooled, remove the cake by sliding a knife around the edges of the cake. Whisk the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and drizzle on the cake when serving, if desired.