I’m glad you’re here today. After some (many) frustrations with making angel food cake, I have put together an angel food cake troubleshooting guide I hope you’ll find useful.
Angel food cake is made using the egg foam method, and it’s one of the only American style cakes that is almost completely fat free.
Read on to learn more!
Perfection Sometimes Takes a Lot of Tries!
The first time I made angel food cake, I had a few issues. So I’ve put together this troubleshooting guide to help you avoid my mistakes.
For the first two tries, I based my recipe on this recipe from King Arthur.
I’m not saying this is a bad recipe–that wouldn’t be fair.
What I am saying is with two tries, I wasn’t able to achieve fluffy angel food perfection using this recipe.
You may have different results, and it has obviously worked for other people. Just not for me. Sigh.
Also, I want to point out that I didn’t follow their recipe exactly.
In Search of the Perfect Angel Food Cake
The first cake tasted great, so yay for that. But the texture was too chewy. The crumb looked more like bread than cake.
Maybe I overmixed it? Maybe there wasn’t quite enough sugar to tenderize it?
I think using cake flour is a better bet than using all purpose. Gluten is not our friend with angel food cake.
Since they contain zero fat (more or less), angel food cake needs plenty of sugar to keep them tender.
I also think I made a serious error by adding the citrus zests in with the egg whites. (I was making lemon lime angel food cake. Recipe coming soon!)
I think the amount of oil in the zest inhibited the foaming action.
A tiny bit of fat really doesn’t make an enormous difference like everyone tries to scare you into believing, but the amount of citrus oil in the zest of 5 fruits was maybe a bit more than my whites would let me get away with.
If At First You Don’t Succeed…
Round 2. Same recipe. Different procedure.
I used cake flour. I added all the zest in at the very end and folded everyone together.
The cake tasted great; the texture was definitely better, but the cake sank a bit while still in the oven, and the sides and top were wet once it had finally cooled and I depanned it.
What is up with that? Wet cake? Gross.
I think that, whatever happened to make it sink also ended up squeezing some of the water from the egg whites out of the mix. Sigh.
After some crowd-sourced troubleshooting on facebook, my friend Janice Mansfield told me that the ratio she uses to make an angel food cake is 3:3:1 whites:sugar:flour.
Using that formula, I went with 12 oz each of sugar and egg whites and 4 oz of cake flour. And guess what? Success!
I love a good ratio, and I’m here to tell you that this one really works.
The Ratio Is Important
The magic ratio of 3:3:1 works.
This is great news, because now you can make a small angel food cake or a big old angel food cake with the same ingredient list.
All you have to do is change the amounts and stick to the ratio.
For a “full-size” angel food cake made in a standard aluminum footed angel food pan, you’re looking at 12 oz each of whites and sugar and 4 oz of cake flour.
Need a half-size (6″) angel food cake? No problem. 6 oz each egg whites and sugar and 3 oz cake flour.
If you don’t already own one, please buy a kitchen scale so you are absolutely sure that your ratios are correct.
Remember the ratio is 3:3:1 by weight, not volume, so a scale is really necessary to ensure best results.
After all my trials and errors, I feel pretty confident about making an Angel Food Cake Troubleshooting Guide.
And here it is.
The Importance of Getting the Whites to the Correct Texture
This issue alone could be cause for many problems with your angel food cakes.
If you beat the whites to stiff peaks, they won’t be able to expand further in the oven. So, take your whites to medium-stiff peaks–the peaks should bend over when you hold the whisk upright.
Note you will further “whip” the whites when folding in the flour, so be sure to use a very gentle hand.
And this is another good reason to stop beating short of stiff peaks.
Of course, you’ll probably want some flavoring.
Traditional is vanilla with maybe a touch of almond extract, but feel free to try out other extracts, or even add cinnamon or ginger.
Note that since angel food cake is pretty lean, there’s a negligible amount of fat to carry the flavor, so most angel food cake is fairly mild.
To make a chocolate angel food cake, simply replace an ounce of your cake flour with an ounce of cocoa powder. Be sure to sift the two together very well so your cake doesn’t have streaks.
For Best Results
Here are some Rules about getting your angel food cake right the first time, followed by the troubleshooting guide.
- Use an un-coated pan. Plain aluminum with a removeable bottom is best.
- Whip whites to medium-stiff peaks. For best results, use a hand mixer or stand mixer. Now is not the time to be a hero and whip the whites by hand!
- Use a light hand when folding in the flour
- Always sift the flour to lighten it and to incorporate it more easily into the whites
- Bake at 325F, the sweet spot for angel food cake.
- Invert the cake pan to cool
PRO TIP: If your angel food pan doesn’t have feet, invert the tube pan over a soda bottle so air can circulate around the entire cake.
- Bake in a non-stick pan
- Whip egg whites to stiff peaks
- Whisk or stir in the flour. Use a large spatula to gently fold in your flour.
- Bake in a too hot or too cool oven
- Use old eggs. Fresher whites means a more stable foam and less weeping.
- Cool the cake upright, or it could (probably will) collapse, at least partially.
How To Remove Angel Food Cake from the Pan
Since you’re not going to be oiling your pan or using a coated pan, the cake will stick.
And that’s what we want. The batter can “grab” onto the sides of the cake. This is what helps it rise.
So, once your cake is cooled (inverted, yes?) completely, run a thin, serrated knife down around the inside of the pan to loosen the side.
Carefully remove the sides, and then use your knife again to gently “saw” between the base and the bottom of the cake.
Then, gently lift the cake off the base and place it on a cake plate.
PRO TIP: A serrated knife is the best tool for cutting angel food cake. Gently saw rather than pressing straight down to keep your cake from tearing and/or getting squashed.
Need to Brush Up on Other Mixing Methods?
And to find an overview of all of these methods as well as links to recommended equipment and books, I think you’ll find my Mixing Methods overview to be of use.
These mixing methods are foundational baking skills, and learning how to do them by heart can free you up from always being tied to recipes.
If you have any other questions about angel food cake troubleshooting or any other baking/pastry questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You can leave a comment here, and I will be back in touch in about 24 hours.
If your question in more urgent, you can email me and I answer within about 4 hours.
Either way, I promise to help!
I really hope you find this post helpful, you guys!
If you make an angel food cake using my guide, please share a photo with me before you devour it, either in the Pastry Chef Online Facebook Group or on instagram by tagging @onlinepastrychef and using hashtag #pcorecipe.
I’d also love to have you join my PCO newsletter, The Inbox Pastry Chef!
Thanks, and enjoy!
Angel Food Cake Troubleshooting Guide
|Cake's Texture is Too Coarse||Not Enough Sugar |
Whites under- or over-beaten
Too much gluten in the flour (use cake flour)
|Cake Doesn't Rise||Egg Whites Over-beaten |
Oven not hot enough
Grease pan--you need an ungreased pan.
|Cake Sinks in Oven||Egg Whites Over-Beaten |
Oven temperature too low
|Outside of Cake is Damp after baking||Egg Whites Over-Beaten |
Old Egg Whites. Fresh whites don't weep as much as older whites.
|Cake Sinks While Cooling||Cake not inverted to cool|
|Cake Overly Domes and Short||Oven Temperature too high. The sides set before the whites achieved optimum rise|
Please Sign Up for the PCO Newsletter!
Get notifications when I post a new recipe, plus the occasional newsletter with tips and tricks, announcements, and more! I’d love to see you there!
I hope this guide helps you successfully troubleshoot all your angel food cake issues.
Thanks for reading. Take care, and have a lovely day.