I always feel sort of bad for an angel food cake. Somewhere in the past twenty years food writers pushed it into the fat-free food world and it got stuck there, only celebrated for what it wasn’t rather than what it was. Then once that whole fad became a joke, and we all decided to put down the Snackwells and eat more vegetables, angel food cake never seemed to recover from the stigma.
Also, angel food cake is always an afterthought to custard. A solution to food waste. Custard is angel food cake’s sultry opposite. Rich, luscious custard requires luxurious yolks. Humble angel food cake just needs the whites. They practically can’t exist without each other. At least that’s how it is in my world, where a carton of eggs scream dessert and only dessert. It’s only after a custard making bonanza that I ever think to make an angel food cake. It’s never the other way around. Poor thing.
But it's so good. Completely on its own merit. Cloud cake. Dream cake.
This time I put angel food cake first. I made it just because it’s delicious. (And well, because I can’t get enough of the smell of cake flour. I relish the opportunity to use it. After making this cake I spent the rest of the day with cake flour in my bangs because I couldn’t stop putting my face into the bin.) Anyway, this time, I wanted angel food cake to know it’s worth. I wanted her to feel like the pretty, light-as air, pure, fluffy, special sweet cake it is.
Once in a while, she deserves to come first. And she deserves to feel special. So I threw in some rose water. Like a dab of special perfume before going to a party. And I gave her a lime glaze. Just a little makeup. (Now I’m singing the first verse of Wonderful Tonight to my cake. She likes it.) And I baked her before I even thought about custard.
Rose Water Angel Food Cake with Lime
I encourage you to splurge a little on rose water. The cheap stuff in the big bottle is tempting but not nearly as delicious.
For the cake:
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup cake flour
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
12 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons rose water
For the glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a food processor, process sugar until finely ground. Using a fine mesh sieve, sift half of the sugar with flour and salt into a large bowl.
2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium until they form very soft peaks, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat the egg mixture while slowly adding the remaining sugar until it is shiny and holds stiff peaks, about 4 minutes. Whisk in rosewater.
3. Sift about a third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it in with a large spatula. Repeat sifting and folding until all of the flour mixture is incorporated. Scoop batter into an ungreased tube pan and smooth top. Run a butter knife through the batter to eliminate any air bubbles. Bake until the cake is golden brown and bounces back when pressed gently in the center, about 30 minutes. Invert the cake pan and cool completely. (If your tube pan has feet, this is what they’re for. If not, you can set it upside down on the neck of a liquor bottle.)
4. Run a thin knife around the edge of the cake and around the center hole and invert it onto a serving plate. It might take a little nudging but it will come out.
5. Make the glaze: Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and lime juice. Drizzle glaze over cake. Let glaze harden at room temperature. Serve with whipped cream and berries, if you like.