April Bake-Along: Angel Food Cake

This homemade angel food cake is light, airy, and tastes like a slice of summer. It bakes up wonderfully high, and is much easier to make than you might think! Serve it with fresh whipped cream, berries, ice cream, or eat it simply on its own (my favorite way!); this is a fantastic dessert for any spring or summer birthdays, picnics, or special occasions.

Three plates of angel food cake served with blueberries and raspberries.

Welcome to the April Bake-Along! We are celebrating the beginning of spring with one of my very favorite summer desserts, and one that might be perfect for your Easter festivities this month!

For as much of a chocoholic as I am today, angel food cake was one of my all-time favorite desserts when I was growing up. As far as I can remember, no one in my family made them from scratch, but they were a Sunday staple at my grandma’s house during the summer. I always enjoyed a big slice of angel food cake, lots of sliced fresh strawberries and a big dollop of Cool Whip to cap off my Sunday dinner.

Angel food cake is one of those store-bought favorites that I had been wanting to make from scratch for a long time. I did for the first time about eight years ago, and it was good, but I thought it could be better. I made a few tweaks and arrived at this absolutely phenomenal angel food cake recipe.

Spoiler alert: It’s not nearly as difficult as you might think, and it’s so, so much more delicious than store-bought!

Ingredients for angel food cake prepped in bowls and measuring cups.

Angel Food Cake Ingredients

Angel food cake is made with only six ingredients (and you may have all of them in your pantry right now!).

  1. Cake Flour: We use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour because it has a lower protein content and will ensure a soft and tender crumb.
  2. Granulated Sugar: To sweeten the cake!
  3. Salt: Balances out the sweet and brings out all the wonderful flavors.
  4. Egg Whites: The star of the show! Angel food cake relies upon egg whites for all of its leavening. Using only whites (no yolks) gives this cake its super light texture.
  5. Cream of Tartar: This helps to stabilize the egg whites and keep them from deflating.
  6. Vanilla Extract: Delicious flavor! See the notes below for other flavor options.

Sifting dry ingredients into a large stainless steel bowl.

How to Make Angel Food Cake

There are only a few steps standing between you and a phenomenal angel food cake!

  1. Sift, sift, sift! You are going to sift together the cake flour, some of the sugar, and the salt five times. Yes, FIVE TIMES… that’s not a typo. This creates a super fine combination of dry ingredients that will be readily absorbed into the egg white mixture and not weigh it down while the cake bakes.
  2. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks: The hallmark of the angel food cake! You will beat the egg whites until frothy, then add the cream of tartar and vanilla extract (or whatever flavoring you are using), then increase the speed and gradually add the rest of the sugar, continuing to beat until the egg whites have transformed into stiff, glossy peaks.
  3. Fold in the flour mixture: More sifting! You will sift about 1/4 cup of the flour mixture at a time over the egg whites and ever-so-gently fold it in, which will keep the egg whites from deflating.
  4. Transfer the batter to the tube pan: Spoon the cake batter into the pan (remember – do NOT grease the pan!) and run a butter knife through the batter to clear any air bubbles.
  5. Bake: The cake is baked at 350 degrees until a skewer comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.
  6. Cool upside-down: Perhaps the most important part! Cooling the cake completely upside-down allows the cake to continue its climb up (now down) the walls of the pan and maintain that amazing volume and height!

A bowl of beaten egg whites with flour being folded in.

Do You Have to Use a Tube Pan to Make Angel Food Cake?

tube pan is a specialty pan that is used for angel food cakes and chiffon cakes. The tall sides and inner tube allow the cake to “climb” the pan and cling to the sides while it bakes (which is why you never grease these pans!). Perhaps even more important, however, is the “feet” you see on a tube pan; these allow the cakes to cool upside down without the top of the cake touching the counter or a cooling rack (if your pan does not have feet, you will invert the center onto the neck of a bottle to suspend it upside down during cooling). This is vital in ensuring that the cakes maintain their volume and do not collapse.

Baking an angel food cake in a traditional cake pan or Bundt pan will unfortunately not work; the cake will fall.

Spooning angel food cake batter into a tube pan.

What is the Difference Between Angel Food Cake, Sponge Cake and Chiffon Cake?

Chiffon cake sets itself apart from other cakes in that it uses vegetable oil as its fat source, as opposed to butter, which keeps it incredibly moist. In order to get that amazing volume, the eggs are separated and the whites are whipped into a meringue, then combined with the rest of the batter.

Angel food cakes use no fat at all and no chemical leaveners; they rely only on whipped egg whites that have been stabilized with cream of tartar to give the cake its volume. Sugar is added for sweetness and a very small amount of flour for structure, plus additional flavorings, as desired.

A traditional sponge cake, meanwhile, uses butter as the fat, and usually starts with the butter being whipped with the sugar. The eggs are either beaten into the sugar mixture or the yolks are added while the whites are whipped into a meringue and folded into the batter. The flour is typically sifted onto the batter and folded in gently.

Three plates with slices of angel food cake alongside fresh berries.

Angel Food Cake Recipe Tips

A ton of notes to ensure your angel food cake is the BEST EVER!

  • Eggs separate easier when they are cold, and if there is any yolk in with the egg whites, it will prevent them from whipping up into stiff peaks, so I recommend separating and measuring the eggs while cold, then allow them to come to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
  • How many eggs you use will vary based on the size of the egg and the size of the yolk in each individual egg. I typically only need 10 eggs to get 1½ cups of egg whites, but most recipes say 11 or 12 is the average.
  • You can substitute almond extract, orange extract, lemon extract, or use them in combination with the vanilla to adjust the flavoring. Be sure to check the label on them, however; if there is any oil (which is sometimes included in flavored extracts) it can prevent the eggs from forming stiff peaks.
  • While the mixing is easiest with a stand mixer using a whisk attachment or a hand mixer, you can whisk the egg whites by hand using a balloon whisk and elbow grease!
  • A tub pan is essential for this recipe; you want one that has a 16-cup capacity – this is the one I use.
  • Very important – DO NOT GREASE THE PAN. The cake needs to cling to the sides of the pan in order to rise, as well as during the cooling process. This ensures that the angel food cake will be high and retain its volume. If your tube pan does not have a removable bottom, then line the bottom only with parchment paper for an easier release.
  • If the pan has little feet on the bottom, you can simply set it upside down to cool on a wire rack. However, if it does not have feet, then you will want to invert the pan onto the neck of a glass bottle for the cooling process.
  • It’s super important that when cutting angel food cake, you use a sharp, serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion (I use my favorite bread knife). Using a straight-edge knife and/or cutting straight down will smoosh the cake.
  • Serving Suggestions: Fresh berries, whipped cream, and /or chocolate ganache are all wonderful accompaniments!
  • MAKE-AHEAD – Angel food cake can be prepared one day in advance; once cooled completely and removed from the tube pan, cover with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
  • FREEZER INSTRUCTIONS – Angel food cake can be frozen by wrapping it (either the whole cake or individual slices) tightly in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Place in a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw at room temperature.

Angel food cake on a serving platter with two slices cut and on their side.

JOIN THE BEB BAKE-ALONG!

To tackle angel food cake and bake along with me this month, simply do the following:

  • Bake the angel food cake!
  • Snap a picture and either share it on social media (#BEBbakealong on Instagram or Twitter), upload it to the BEB Facebook group, or email it to me.
  • Check in on Instagram and Facebook throughout the month to see everyone’s angel food cake!
  • And a quick reminder that you can sign up for special Bake-Along emails – be alerted to new recipes, receive troubleshooting tips, and end-of-month recaps (you’ll receive a few emails per month) >> CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!

This is such a lovely cake – light and spongy, with just a hint of vanilla flavor, just like the angel food cakes that I remember from when I was a kid.

If you haven’t tackled angel food cake from scratch yet, I highly recommend it. Not too difficult, and very rewarding. I can’t wait to see your cakes! :)

More Favorite Light Desserts

If you love this angel food cake, give these lighter desserts a try. They are all perfect for spring and summer holidays and special occasions!

Plates of angel food cake with berries and a forkful taken out.

Four years ago: Grandma’s Fried Dough
Six years ago: Soft and Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies

 

Watch How to Make
Angel Food Cake

Angel Food Cake

Servings 10 to 12 servings
Prep 30 minutes
Cook 40 minutes
Total 1 hour 10 minutes
Course:Dessert
Cuisine:American
Author: Michelle

This homemade angel food cake is light, airy, and tastes like a slice of summer. It bakes up wonderfully high, and is much easier to make than you might think!

Ingredients:

  • 1
    cup
    cake flour
    (sifted)
  • cups
    granulated sugar
    (divided)
  • ¼
    teaspoon
    salt
  • cups
    egg whites
    (at room temperature)
  • teaspoons
    cream of tartar
  • 1
    teaspoon
    vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Have an ungreased 16-cup tube pan ready.

  2. Sift half of sugar with flour and salt. Repeat 5 times.

  3. Beat egg whites on low until frothy, then add vanilla extract and cream of tartar. Increase to medium, adding remaining sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase to medium-high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks, scraping sides and bottom of bowl once or twice as needed. Sift about ¼ cup flour mixture on top and fold gently to incorporate; repeat until all flour is used.

  4. Spoon into tube pan, smooth the top, then run a knife through batter to break any air bubbles. Bake until skewer inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.

  5. Cool upside down at least 1 hour. Run knife around edge and turn out onto serving dish; run knife around bottom and release. Place on a serving platter, slice and serve. Angel food cake is best the day it is made, but can be stored for up to 2 days at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic wrap or stored in an airtight container.

Recipe Notes:

  • Eggs separate easier when they are cold, and if there is any yolk in with the egg whites, it will prevent them from whipping up into stiff peaks, so I recommend separating and measuring the eggs while cold, then allow them to come to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
  • How many eggs you use will vary based on the size of the egg and the size of the yolk in each individual egg. I typically only need 10 eggs to get 1½ cups of egg whites, but most recipes say 11 or 12 is the average.
  • You can substitute almond extract, orange extract, lemon extract, or use them in combination with the vanilla to adjust the flavoring. Be sure to check the label on them, however; if there is any oil (which is sometimes included in flavored extracts) it can prevent the eggs from forming stiff peaks.
  • While the mixing is easiest with a stand mixer using a whisk attachment or a hand mixer, you can whisk the egg whites by hand using a balloon whisk and elbow grease!
  • A tub pan is essential for this recipe; you want one that has a 16-cup capacity - this is the one I use.
  • Very important - DO NOT GREASE THE PAN. The cake needs to cling to the sides of the pan in order to rise, as well as during the cooling process. This ensures that the angel food cake will be high and retain its volume. If your tube pan does not have a removable bottom, then line the bottom only with parchment paper for an easier release.
  • If the pan has little feet on the bottom, you can simply set it upside down to cool on a wire rack. However, if it does not have feet, then you will want to invert the pan onto the neck of a glass bottle for the cooling process.
  • It’s super important that when cutting angel food cake, you use a sharp, serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion (I use my favorite bread knife). Using a straight-edge knife and/or cutting straight down will smush the cake.
  • Serving Suggestions - Fresh berries, whipped cream, and /or chocolate ganache are all wonderful accompaniments!
  • MAKE-AHEAD - Angel food cake can be prepared one day in advance; once cooled completely and removed from the tube pan, cover with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
  • FREEZER INSTRUCTIONS - Angel food cake can be frozen by wrapping it (either the whole cake or individual slices) tightly in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Place in a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw at room temperature.

Nutrition:

Calories: 182kcal
Sodium: 119mg
Potassium: 146mg
Carbohydrates: 39g
Sugar: 30g
Protein: 5g
Calcium: 0.4%
Iron: 0.8%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Update Notes: This recipe was originally published in June 2011 and updated in April 2019 with a new and improved recipe, new photos, a video and extensive recipe tips.

[photos by Ari of Well Seasoned]