Angel Food Cake (part two)

The Angel Appearing before the Shepherds by Thomas Buchanan Read (1822-1872)  Dayton Art Institute

The Angel Appearing before the Shepherds by Thomas Buchanan Read (1822-1872) Dayton Art Institute

Food historians believe the white sponge cake was a creation of the Northern European immigrants to America. After all, this group made ample amounts of egg noodles (which used only the yolks) leaving many leftover, whites, and the women also made various ring cakes, that were traditionally cooked in a “deep, round, fancy cake pain with a center tube[1] (a pan not called for in other immigrant, or classic cooking recipes)

Antique Turk’s Head (also known as Monk’s Head) pans can be found in two style: either like a very plain swirled bundt pan,  or, a shallower version of what, today, we call a tube pan, that was referred to in the early 1900’s as an Angel Cake Pan.

early 1900's "turk's head" pan

early 1900’s “turk’s head” pan

In the 1950s, a group of women in Minneapolis asked a NordicWare designer to recreate a fancy tube cake pan, like the ones their mother’s had brought from the old country. The result was what NordicWare named the “Bundt”. The name was trademarked by NordicWare. Sales languished, and the bundt pan was nearly discontinued until a winner of one of the Pillsbury Bake-Off contests submitted a chocolate cake, dubbed “Tunnel of Fudge”[2] baked in a bundt pan. Interest in the pan skyrocketed, and bundt pans soon surpassed the tin Jell-O mold pans as the most sold pans in the United States. The trademarked name “bundt” was, later, rejected by the U.S. Trademark Office as too generic a term.

(In Australia a tube pan is called a ring tin.)

Cakes baked in Turk’s heads, and similar pans are, in part, derived from a bread-like cake made in Germany and Hungary called a gugelhumpf or bundkuchen, the Eastern European babka, burgunder rodon, the Dutch tulband, and the Finnish kermakakku, to name a few.

Evan Jones, wrote in his book American Food: The Gastronomic Story[3], his angel cake theory:

“…angel (or angel food) cakes, may have evolved as the result of numerous egg whites left over after the making of noodles, and may or may not be the brainchild of thrifty Pennsylvania cooks who considered it sinful to waste anything..”

Tube pans (a straight-edged, or slightly sloping baking tin) were created in the late 1800s. These pans appealed to housewives and became a staple in American kitchens. The tube pan has an advantage over regular cake pans for all sponge cakes because heat flows around the center of the cake, which allows the cake to rise higher, cook faster, and more reliably. It is also more stable and less likely to fall, or collapse when removed from the oven. These tube pans were sold, specifically, as angel pans in catalogs in the early 1900’s.

Variations in flavor of angle food cakes recipes range from vanilla, to almond, to rose water, and orange.

Angel Food Cake

1 cup cake flour, sifted

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

1½ cup egg whites (approximately 12 eggs)

1½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Line the bottom of a tube pan with parchment paper (do not grease pan)

In a bowl sift together flour, cream of tartar and salt, several times. Set aside.

Wash a copper bowl[4] or regular bowl, in hot soapy water, to make certain there is no residue of great, and dry thoroughly. Beat room temperature egg whites, until foamy, and then start adding sugar. Beat in a tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is used up and the egg whites are stiff and form peaks (2-3 minutes with an electric beater, considerably longer if hand whipping). At the very last minute, add the extracts.

Sift the flour mixture over the foam, and fold in, a little at a time, very gently (to not flatten the foam) until all the flour is mixed in.   Immediately spoon batter into the tube pan, then tap the pan on the counter several times to dislodge any large air pockets in the batter. Place the tube pan in the oven, and cook for about an hour, or until the cake is golden brown, and the yields gently to pressure, but springs back up when the pressure is released.

Cool the pan, inverted on the feet build into the pan, or over the neck of a bottle so that air can circulate around it. Cool for several hours.

 

Run the edge of a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen, and remove from the pan. Cut with a serrated knife.

[1] The Settlement Cookbook by Lizzie Black Kander (1910)

[2] Ella Helfrich, the woman who submitted the recipe took second place in 1966.

[3] Dutton Publishing; 1st edition 1975

[4] Copper bowls react with the proteins in egg whites, and create firmer foam.

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