Angel Food Cake, 6 Ways

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On Friday, I snagged an angel food cake that I made at school to take home for me and Chad. On Saturday, we had a few slices. On Sunday, I wanted to do something more.

I experimented, Iron Chef style. Using 11 slices of leftover cake and anything that happened to be in my kitchen (cream and milk were not), Chad and I made and tasted variations with the cake. For guides, I used Gale Gand’s Butter Sugar Flour Eggs, internet sites found with Google, and my own tricks and mischief. And everything was paired with an excellent sparkling wine, Iron Horse Blanc de Blanc 1998.

Overall, the most valuable lesson that I learned was that, generally, when attempting such recipes as these, the cake should be toasted. It holds its shape better, and it is even more delicious toasted because it deepens the flavor and diversifies the texture.

Angel truffles

These truffles were adapted from Gand’s Valentine Chocolate Kisses, which normally uses pound cake. I pulverized a cup of cake (2 slices) into crumbs in the food processor, and then toasted them for about ten minutes. I mixed them with 1 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/2 c conf sugar (I tried to use less, b/c of all the sugar in the cake, but volume and absorption help were needed), and then drizzled in a 2.25 tsp honey and 2 tbs rum mixture. Mixed it all together, and then coated about 8 still-frozen cherries before chilling them. Half an hour later, I melted some Guittard bittersweet chocolate over a double boiler and rolled them around in it; I didn’t think tempering was in order for this. They then chilled for 30 mins more.

They turned out quite nicely. When we ate them from the fridge, the crumbs acted almost like hazelnuts and they were much like Ferrero Rocher chocolates crossed with rum balls and cherry-centered cordials. I liked how the cherries also absorbed a bit of the rum, so that they burst with an alcohol tang. Later in the day, when I tried one, the crumbs had softened a bit more, into a texture like coconut. I promptly ate another.

Angel Samich

An Angel Food and Pear Sandwich with Limencello Sauce has long been a favorite of mine. Usually, I toast the bread under a broiler, and spread ricotta over the less-toasted sides, incorporate layers of Asian pears, and serve it with conf sugar mixed with limoncello for dunking. On Sunday, I happened to have mascarpone and a Bosc pear instead. The mascarpone melted a little too much, like butter, into the cake, and the Bosc was a bit mealy and insipid. The glaze was good as always, though, and I think I’ll stick with Asian pears and ricotta.

Angel Caramel

This was my biggest challenge of the day because I wanted to emulate the Caramelized French Toast from The City Bakery, and caramel is a tricky thing. Other than butter and sugar, and probably corn syrup, I wasn’t sure what kind of caramel glaze would have the right give while chewing and low tackiness to the touch.

On the left, I grilled a piece of cake, and then dipped it in a mixture of 3 Tbs butter and 1 2/3 oz dark brown sugar that had been mostly melted together, and then baked it at about 250 for a while; I adapted this from a sticky bun recipe, since that was roughly what I was going for. It ended up tasting nice and caramel-y with an undertow of smoky goodness from grilling, but the sugar crystals never quite became ungranulated, so the texture was off.

On the right, I adapted a caramel popcorn recipe, because I figured that it had the tackiness quotient that I want, even if I would try to avoid the crunchy-ness. On med heat, for 5 mins, I boiled 1/4 c packed light brown sugar, 2 tbs butter, and 2 tbs corn syrup. I then mixed in 1/8 tsp vanilla paste. I left out the baking soda because I couldn’t think of how it would help my cause. I let it bake about 20 mins at 250, because I wanted it a bit drier, but not the full hour because I didn’t want it to be fully dried like caramel corn. This was much closer to the City Bakery version, and I liked it a lot. It was still a little too chewy, though, and since the cake hadn’t been grilled/toasted, it got a bit moist under the caramel. If it’d been toasted, I think it would have great. Sure, sugar wrapped in sugar, but great nonetheless.

Angel Perdu

This was based on Gand’s Grilled Pain Perdu with Buttermilk, which is usually meant for brioche or challah. I whisked 35 g eggs (about 2/3 of 1 egg), pinch salt, 25 g sugar, a drop of vanilla, and 1/4 buttermilk together. It was supposed to also have a 1/4 cup half and half that I didn’t have, so um, I drizzled in some water instead, just to give it more moisture. I then grilled them.

Upon tasting it, Chad curled his arm around the plate in an (unsuccessful) attempt to keep it for himself. In this case, the creamy texture of the cake between the grill marks was just right, and the toppings of maple syrup (left) and reduced sugar marionberry preserves (right) were perfect to make this a lighter, yet still sweet version of french toast.

Angel Maple

Gand specified angel food cake for this maple glaze, and it was also good. I like how angel food naturally approaches the lighter side of maple and caramel, so the maple was a good topping. I simply mixed together 1/2 conf sugar (sifted), 1 tsp egg white, and 1 Tbs maple syrup. I also had some leftover melted chocolate from the kisses, so I drizzled that on top of one. It’s ironic that the addition of more sugar–when clothed in chocolate–can mellow the sweetness of it. It balanced the flavors more, and took the focus off sugar just a little.

Angel Berries

It bothers me that although fruits are perfectly wonderful when eaten alone, once they are cut up or are to be used in a recipe, they almost always require more sugar. So, I just had to try, just once, baking something that was just out of the puree of fruits, and I thought of something along the lines of a fruity bread pudding. I pureed thawed frozen blueberries with their juices, poured some into the bottom of a ramekin, dotted it with cubed angel food, and baked it at 350 until toasted. Then I added raspberry puree made from frozen raspberries and their juices with dried cherries/blueberries/strawberries plumped in kirsch. And baked it.

So, yes, there’s a reason why this isn’t done. The purees dry out unflatteringly, the cake gets deluged with moisture, and it all tastes of the steam that was trying to escape. Next time, I guess a better move would be to toast a slice, maybe top it with melted reduced-sugar marionberry preserves or a fruit sauce, and finish it off with whole berries. Or, forget about heat totally, and make a layered summer pudding with it.

By that point, we’d eaten all the cake we could eat in one day. Plus, it was all gone, save for 4 truffles.

7 Responses to “Angel Food Cake, 6 Ways”

  1. Cate O'Malley Says:

    Wow, so many different variations, hard to know where to start!

  2. Nina Says:

    Yeah, that’s why I ended up making all of them. :) I can’t decide which I liked best. I’d probably eat all of them again, except for the fruit puree one, but I do want to refine it more.. I’ve been snacking on the truffles today, but could also go for the pear sandwich, or the pain perdu, or the caramel… or the maple…. :)

  3. Joe Says:

    So many ways to make angelfood cake fun! Great ideas here Nina!

  4. lizelle Says:

    i’m not too fond of angel food cake but it’s exciting to see how much you could do with it using your creativity. i love how you describe each permutation of cake! kudos!

  5. Nina Says:

    Joe: Thank you. :)

    Lizelle: Thanks. :) I’ve come across quite a few people who aren’t into angel food cake — I almost cribbed a Milton line for this post about “justifying the ways of angel food cake to man” but I couldn’t quite fit it in!

  6. Jane Says:

    haha… excellent.

    we’re melting butter right now and have the brown sugar ready to go.
    c’mon carmel!


  7. Nina Says:

    Good luck! Hope it turns out well!

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