Angel Food Cake
Made entirely from scratch with just six ingredients, light and fluffy angel food cake is a summertime staple. This homemade cake is easier than you think to make and always impresses a crowd. Top with whipped cream and fresh berries for the ultimate seasonal dessert!
While a chocoholic at heart, I have a soft spot for angel food cake. Since childhood, it’s been one of my favorite desserts – a big slice of it always capped off each summertime Sunday dinner at my grandma’s house. Today, I’m recreating those memories with this fluffy angel food cake recipe!
Only 6 Ingredients
I always appreciate simple recipes, especially when summer rolls around. You only need 6 simple ingredients for angel food cake – many of which are probably already in your pantry.
With such a short ingredient list, each plays an important role:
- Cake Flour: Cake flour has a lower protein content and ensures a soft, tender crumb. I don’t recommend using all-purpose flour instead – your angel food cake will be incredibly dense and will likely fall. If you don’t have cake flour, use this cake flour substitute from The Kitchn.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar sweetens the cake.
- Salt: A little bit of salt balances out the sweetness and enhances the other flavors.
- Egg Whites: The star of the show! They provide all of the leavening for angel food cake. Using only whites (no yolks) gives this cake a super light texture. Be sure to use only fresh eggs; liquid egg whites in a carton have been pasteurized, which can prevent them from whipping into stiff peaks.
- Cream of Tartar: Stabilizes the egg whites and keeps them from deflating. This helps create that light, fluffy texture.
- Vanilla: Vanilla extract adds incredible flavor! For angel food cake variations, try replacing some or all of the vanilla with almond extract, orange extract, or lemon extract. If making a swap, be sure to check the extract label! If there is any oil (sometimes included in flavored extracts), it can prevent the eggs from forming stiff peaks.
A note about eggs: You’ll need about 10-12 large eggs to get 1½ cups of egg whites – it all depends on the size of the yolk in each individual egg. For best results, separate them when cold, then let them come to room temperature.
Best Pan to Use
A 16-cup tube pan is a must for this cake (I use and love this angel food cake pan). With tall sides and an inner tube, this specialty pan allows the cake to “climb” the pan and cling to the sides while it bakes. Perhaps even more important are the “feet” that allow the cake to cool upside down without the top of the cake touching the counter or a cooling rack. This is vital in ensuring the cake maintains volume and doesn’t collapse.
Do not grease the pan before adding the batter. The cake needs to be able to cling to the sides of the pan while it bakes and while it cools. Any grease will prevent this from happening. If your tube pan has no removable bottom, line only the bottom with parchment paper for easier release.
If you’re tempted to try a Bundt or traditional cake pan instead, I don’t recommend it. The cake will fall when this cake bakes and cools in something other than a tube pan.
How to Make Angel Food Cake
No fancy layers or complicated steps are required! Here’s a quick overview of the process – you’ll find the full recipe card and instructions at the bottom of this post:
- Sift: Sift, sift, sift! Sift half of the sugar with flour and salt. Repeat this process 5 times.
- Combine: Beat the egg whites on low speed until frothy, then add vanilla extract and cream of tartar. While mixing is easiest with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a hand mixer), you can certainly whisk the by hand using a balloon whisk and elbow grease!
- Add: With the mixer on medium speed, add the remaining sugar, one tablespoon at a time.
- Look for Stiff Peaks: Once all of the sugar is added, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.
- Fold: Working 1/4 cup of the flour mixture at a time, sift onto the egg white mixture and fold gently to incorporate. Repeat until all flour is used.
- Fill: Spoon the angel food cake batter into the ungreased tube pan. Smooth the top and run a knife through the batter to break any air bubbles.
- Bake: Bake the cake for about 25-40 minutes – until a skewer inserted halfway between the edge and the center comes out clean.
Cool Upside Down
Yes, really! Cool angel food cake upside down until it’s completely cool. This usually takes at least an hour.
Footed Pan: If your tube pan has little feet on the bottom, simply set it upside down to cool on a wire rack.
Unfooted Pan: If your tube pan does not have feet, invert the pan onto the neck of a glass bottle and let it cool that way.
When ready to serve, first run a knife around the edge of the cake and turn it out onto a serving dish or plate. Then, run a knife around the bottom and release. When ready to slice, use a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to cut slices (a bread knife or tomato knife work great). Using a straight-edge knife and/or cutting straight down will smoosh the cake.
Topping & Serving Ideas
One of the many things I love about angel food cake is that each slice is delicious with just about anything. A few of my favorite angel food cake toppings are:
- Homemade whipped cream or 7-minute frosting
- Fresh fruit or berries (blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are my favorite!)
- Homemade berry jam
- Drizzle of chocolate ganache or salted caramel
- Lemon curd
- Sprinkles or mini chocolate chips
For a crowd, set up a toppings bar with a variety for everyone to choose from!
You can also use this baked and cooled angel food cake as a base for the red, white, and blue berry trifle!
Make Ahead Tips
- Storage: Tightly wrap any leftover angel food cake with plastic wrap and place in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
- Make Ahead Instructions: Make the angel food cake as directed up to 1 day in advance. Once cooled completely, remove from the tube pan, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and keep at room temperature.
- Freezing Instructions: Wrap the entire cake or individual slices in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Place in a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze for up to 4 months. When ready to serve, thaw at room temperature.
FAQ and Troubleshooting Tips
Why is my angel food cake falling?
I’ve been there many times, and it’s so frustrating. There are 3 main reasons your angel cake may fall:
- Opening the oven door: This releases heat from the oven and can cause the cake to collapse while baking. I know it’s tempting to check on the cake multiple times, but wait until the minimum baking time has elapsed before checking the cake for doneness.
- Incorrect oven temperature: If the oven is too hot, the exterior of the cake will bake more quickly than the interior, causing the cake to collapse as it cools. I highly recommend an oven thermometer and adjust the temperature as needed so the interior of the oven is 350 degrees F while the cake bakes.
- Cooled in the pan incorrectly: Inverting the pan ensures that the cake continues to expand and hold its shape once cooled. Cooling the cake upside down is crucial – if you cool the cake in the pan right side up, the cake will collapse on itself.
Why is my angel food cake tough?
Angel food cake should be light, airy, and fluffy. If your cake has a tough texture, the flour may have been mixed in with too much force, causing the egg whites to deflate. Next time, gently mix the flour into the batter so the whipped egg whites retain their ary texture.
Light as air and virtually fat-free, angel food cake is the dessert of your dreams! If you haven’t tackled angel food cake from scratch yet, I highly recommend it. If you want to try something a little different, give this strawberries and cream angel food cake roll a go!
Watch How to Make This Traditional Angel Food Cake:
If you make this recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️
Angel Food Cake
- 1 cup (112 g) cake flour, sifted
- 1½ cups (298 g) granulated sugar, divided
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups egg whites, at room temperature
- 1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Have an ungreased 16-cup tube pan ready.
- Sift half of sugar with flour and salt. Repeat 5 times.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Equipment: A tub pan is essential for this recipe; you want one that has a 16-cup capacity – this is the one I use.
- Do NOT Grease the Pan: This is very important! 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.
- Egg Whites: Use real, fresh eggs for this recipe. Egg whites in a carton have been pasteurized, which can result in their inability to be whipped to stiff peaks.
- Cooling: 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.
- Stand Mixer Alternatives: 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!
- Number of Eggs: 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.
- Separating Eggs: 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 allowing them to come to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
- Different Flavors: 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.
- Slicing the Cake: 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, vanilla ice cream, 7-minute frosting, 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.
- Freezing 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.
Photography by Ari Laing.