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Angel food cake

Updated: Thu, 21 March, 2024

Angel food cake is the lightest, airiest, floatiest sponge of all. It’s a cloud of a cake, a whisper of a dessert and mouthfuls of bliss.

angel food cake

What do angels eat?

Why is it called angel food cake? I suppose it’s difficult to imagine old archangel Gabriel tucking into a juicy, rare T-bone steak, or shovelling in platefuls of bangers and mash.

But take Michael on the other hand: he’s a big, strapping, sword-wielding lad (erm - archangel) with an enormous shield, and just look at the wings on him! It sure takes a couple of muscles to carry that pair around!

Without proper food down him, I seriously doubt he could find the strength to leads God's armies against Satan's forces elsewhere than up the garden path.

Michael aside though, angel food is, both in actual cake and in perception, airy-fairy, floaty, fluffy and insubstantial. It’s like eating cloud. Really sweet cloud.

But surprisingly, it can be sliced and layered, filled with cream and fruit and curd without fear of collapsing. What it is basically is a butterless, fatless, egg yolk-less sponge. Airy-fairy.

egg white only angel food cake

Air-lifted cake

When first testing the recipe from Joy of Baking, I was really worried that it wouldn’t hold.

Egg whites are beaten to a lovely stiff meringue, but seeing as there’s nothing else to hold it apart from a bit of cream of tartar, I thought it might rise sky-high in the oven and collapse in a heap when removed. No fear though: it holds great, better than a couple of genoises I’ve encountered.

The only downside - if it is a downside - is that you’re left with about a million egg yolks afterwards, so you have to very quickly bake a gateau Breton or make industrial quantities of mayo.

separated eggs

Do I need the special angel tin?

I’m afraid so: either the proper angel food cake tin with a removable bottom and chimney, or at least an aluminium ring tin. The inside surface is important: the batter needs to stick and cling to the sides in order to stay upright, so anything non-stick is definitely out.

And this amount of airy batter would probably collapse in the centre if there was no chimney to support it in the middle. So the answer is yes, invest in the tin if you want the cake. You won’t regret it though, I dare say.

egg yolkless and fatless angel sponge cake

How to make angel batter?

Eggs are easier to separate when cold, but beat better when at room temperature. I actually store mine outside the fridge, so separating needs a lot of care but then I can get onto the action straight away.

It is obviously similar to a meringue or at least starts like one. The egg whites are beaten with cream of tartar to keep them stable, and salt, ditto.

Half the sugar amount should be sifted with flour, or at least airily mixed together. The other half is gradually added to soft-peaked egg whites, by a spoonful, until a glossy, splendid meringue.


The flour and sugar mix needs to be folded gently and expertly, in order not to lose any of that glorious air in the batter. The flavourings can vary, from almond and vanilla extract to citrus juice and zest, or my favourite: rose water.

Once loaded into – ungreased! – tin, you can cut through it with a spatula to get rid of any hidden air pockets. We want air, but evenly distributed throughout.

angel food cake batter

Hang the angel

It bakes for about forty minutes and it’s fine to skewer it to test doneness.

The angel tin has those weird little legs which serve to prop the tin upside down when it’s out of the oven. But just to be safe, I usually support it on the central chimney, not willing to risk the middle, removable part dropping with half my cake.

hanging angel food cake

How to serve angel food cake?

It is light, but might be a little bland all on its own. That’s why I consider it the perfect spring bake, because paired with pillows of whipped cream and luscious new season berries, it becomes divine. Fit for angels.

angel food cake with strawberries

More airy sponge recipes

Genoise sponge cake with mascarpone and blueberry filling. The celebration gateau that is all about class, simplicity and sophistication. No wonder - genoise is after all the classic sponge recipe of the French patisserie.

Victorian Savoy cake, or biscuit de savoie, is the lightest butterless sponge cake. Fuller taste than angel food, more forgiving than genoise and far more sophisticated than a Victoria sponge.

Authentic Spanish recipe for tarta de Santiago, a traditional Galician almond cake or pie. Tarta or torta de Santiago has only three basic ingredients and is the most famous Spanish dessert.

More egg white based recipes

King Oscar II cake is also known as Swedish almond tart. It's an almond macaron style cake filled with almond buttercream, easy to make and absolutely delightful.

Cherry cream dacquoise is an exquisite gateau which is far easier to make than you’d think. Almond meringue dacquoise layers filled with fresh cream and homemade candied cherries – a riff on black forest gateau.

Raspberry meringue roulade: the perfect dessert recipe by Ottolenghi, with raspberries and whipped mascarpone cream filling, decorated with rose petals and pistachios. The meringue base can be baked a day ahead.

angel food sponge cake with cream and berries

Angel food cake

Servings: 12-16Time: 1 hour 30 minutes


  • 125g plain flour
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 360ml egg whites (11-12 eggs)
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp rose water or your favourite extract (almond, orange)


1. Sift the flour with half the amount of the sugar into a bowl. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Get a two part angel food cake tube pan ready but do not grease it.

2. Separate the eggs while cold and bring them to room temperature. Place them in the bowl of a standing mixer with a balloon whisk attachment, or in a very large bowl if using a hand held mixer with a whisk. Beat until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, salt and the lemon juice and continue until soft peaks.

3. Start adding the remaining sugar, by a tablespoon, and continue beating until the meringue is stiff and glossy and the sugar is used up. Add the vanilla extract and rose water, and beat in.

4. Fold the flour and sugar mix into the meringue in four additions, using a spatula or a hand whisk – be careful not to deflate the mix. Pour the batter into the tin, cut the spatula through the batter to smooth it out and remove any air pockets.

5. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean and the sponge springs back when gently pressed.

6. Immediately invert the tin and prop it up on an upturned bowl or small pot, so the cake is suspended in the tin. Leave it to cool completely.

7. When cold, run a palette knife around the sides of the tin to release the cake, then run it along the bottom and around the tube to unmould it. Place on a serving dish and decorate with strawberries and/or cream.

Originally published: Sun, 14 August, 2016

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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