Angel Food Cake

angel food cake

Last summer when I was in New York, a French acquaintance sent out a missive, looking for an Angel Food Cake pan in Paris. I’ve been thinking about making one for a number of years. But there are a number of American baked goods that don’t quite translate, and this classic cake – made like a big, baked meringue – well…I was pretty certain this would be one of them.

For one thing, the French don’t normally do tall cakes (except for le Croquembouche, a tower of cream-filled pastry puffs, which is generally reserved for weddings), and the local palate would probably find Angel Food Cake a bit on the sweet side. And indeed, for years, I didn’t like Angel Food Cake either and tended to avoid it. Until one day, I was eating a slice, and decided that I did like it. In fact, I realized that I loved it. And now, for the rest of my life, I have to spend my nights staring at the ceiling over my bed, filled with regret for the years that I went without it.

whipping egg whites for angel food cake

So I told her that since I was in the states, I would pick up a tube pan and bring it back for her. As I rifled through the vast collection of cake pans at the cookware store in Manhattan, I thought about getting one for myself, too, but she’d said that she just wanted to borrow mine (she was working on a food styling project), and she’d give it back.

angel food cake batterplum-raspberry compote
angel food cake meringue and vanilla

She kindly returned it last August, however I’ve felt bad because I’ve been holding onto this pan ever since she did the door-to-door drop off, but I haven’t gotten around to whipping up the cake. However after a week-long obsession with a certain French dessert that I’m working on for a book project, I found myself with an extremely large tub of jiggly egg whites in my refrigerator. And rather than subject my Frenchman to a week of egg white omelets, which he kindly put up with during the time I wrote my ice cream book, I let him eat cake.

Angel Food Cake

One 9-inch (23 cm) cake

I prefer my Angel Food Cake in its natural state, flavored just with a touch of vanilla, although it lends itself very well to a big heap of sugared berries, or other fruit, on the side. I made a plum-raspberry compote, adapted from Ready for Dessert, which is made by making a sugar syrup, adding a vanilla bean, then dropping plums and raspberries into the warm syrup. The plums are a nice, tangy contrast to the fluffy-sweet cake.

An American astuce (kitchen tip) is to add cream of tartar, (which is not the same thing as tartaric acid), which helps stabilize the egg whites. I’ve not seen it in Europe so I bring it back from the states (along with cake pans!) You can leave it out if it’s unavailable.

  • 1 cup (130 g) cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 cup (200 g), plus 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups egg whites (from about 12 large eggs), at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Have a 9-inch (23 cm) tube pan ready. (Do not use a non-stick tube pan.)

2. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, begin to whip the egg whites on medium speed. When they become foamy, add the cream of tartar and lemon juice.

4. Increase the speed to high and continue to whip the egg whites until they just begin to hold their shape in soft, droopy peaks. Gradually whip the remaining 1 cup of sugar into the whites, 1/4 cup at a time. Do not overwhip; the egg whites should not be overly dry or stiff, but soft and cloud-like. At the last moment, mix in the vanilla.

5. With a rubber spatula, then fold the flour and sugar mixture into the whites gradually, a small amount at a time.

6. Spoon the batter in the tube pan, smooth the top, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately invert the tube pan over a cooling rack. If the pan doesn’t have “feet”, set it over the neck of a heavy bottle or overturned metal funnel, using the center hole of the pan to hold the cake, until cool.

Note: Cake flour is specially milled flour and is low-gluten and slightly acidic and is stocked in most grocery stores. You can remove 2 tablespoons from 1 cup of all-purpose flour and replace it with corn starch, and sift the two together several times for a reasonable facsimile, although it’s not quite the same. In France, I use farine à pâtisserie. (Farine à gâteaux often has leavening added. You can use that if you find one without leavening in it.)

Also in France, I used sucre semoule, rather than the coarse sucre cristal. (See my post on French sugars for more details.)

Related Links and Recipes

Homemade Marshmallows

Recipes to Use Up Leftover Egg Whites

Chouquettes: French Cream Puffs

Ingredients for American Baking in Paris


  • @Kathryn… let your annual tradition resume… I have a delicious gluten-free version of Angel Food Cake at I don’t even tell people it’s gluten-free anymore because folks can’t tell the difference – it’s that good! Promise.

  • I never noticed that we French never bake “tall” cakes, how true. I wonder if it’d work in a kougloff pan, I’ll have to give it a try next time I go to La Grande Epicerie and pick up an egg white carton.

  • I was wondering why there weren’t any tube pans in the cookware shops here! Well no matter, I will just have to have friends pick one up for me when they’re in the states. I suppose this means I’ll need to make a lot of creme brulee in order to generate enough egg whites for an entire angel food cake!

  • i do have a deep love of angel food cake. so light and pretty.

  • Hey David,

    Check out Rose Beranbaum’s Chocolate Flecked Angel Food cake from Rose’s Celebrations, if you can. Grated unsweetened chocolate in a regular angel food cake. It cuts the sweet perfectly. I promise it is the most delicious idea!

  • this cake looks really great! :) yummi!

  • Slide a piece of leftover angel food cake briefly under a broiler or toast it.

  • Thanks for a wonderful and easy recipe! We had guests today and it was a huge hit!

  • When I was a teenager, I made angel food cakes to sell at the farmer’s market. Even though I have made hundreds of angel food cakes, they are still my favorite. Love the addition of salt and lemon juice in your recipe! Most recipes also call for almond extract, half vanilla amount. Sifting the flour with 1 cup of sugar is also essential.
    However, I thing you forgot a fundimental aspect, one that makes most attempts fail: The MOST important thing is DO NOT grease the tin, and DO NOT use a nonstick pan. The cake needs to cling to the pan as it bakes and raises up. As a cake cools it tends to fall, hence turning it upside down to cool. If you have a non-stick pan, it will slide right out!

  • Sorry, ment to edit that last post. Sounds a bit stern:)
    To get the cake out of the pan it needs to literally be ‘cut out’. You can run a metal spatula around the outside and remove the sides, then do the same on the bottom. I find this to be the tricky part.. to remove the cake while keeping a pretty brown edge. I think this is why most angel food cakes are frosted.. hahaha.

  • I love this recipe… However, I’m not typically in a situation where I have 12 egg whites on hand. I’d have to also have 12 egg yolks on hand and that would mean, I suppose, that I’d have to make multiple batches of custard-style ice cream. That would be frowned upon in my household, where freezer space is at a premium and high calorie sweets are beloved, but in small quantities. So, is it possible to use the egg whites that are sold seperately in the grocery store? Trader Joe’s, for example, sells a container of just egg whites, but I don’t know if they are too old or otherwise inappropriate for this recipe. Anybody have any experience with this or other tips?

  • Along the same lines as Mike’s question, I wonder if one could use meringue powder (reconstituted) instead of fresh egg whites?

    I love angel food cake, but collecting that many egg whites just doesn’t happen for me.

  • Lee and Mike: I’ve not used reconstituted egg whites but since there are so many egg whites in this cake, which provide both flavor as well as texture, I’d be concerned that the taste of them would not be very delicious.

    You can buy containers of egg whites in certain places and countries, but be sure to read the label to make sure that they are suitable for whipping, as some aren’t.

    Armelle: It would work in a kugelhof pan or even a loaf pan, as long as you turned it upside down to cool. It may be a bit of a chore getting it out of the kugelhof pan with the ridged surface, but let me know if it works out.

  • Just lovely. Will make for husband’s birthday. He loves angel food cake.

  • Michael Ruhlman makes a makeshift angel food cake pan by placing a pint glass/heatproof glass in the center of a springform pan and then pouring in the batter. Could be great, but I haven’t tried it (yet).

  • David, apologies because this is about the chocolate beet cake and not the angel food cake but, when I went to post on the choc page, I guess it isn’t taking more posts. I’ve been keeping the beetroot cake recipe handy and finally got a chance to use it. (I knew I daren’t make it for just me!) Had to make it in a 9″ springform but had no problems. Since I live in France, I exploited our availability of cooked beets in the weekly market which made it that much easier, I was nervous, serving it to a dinner party. What a smash hit! (I also had only Isigny creme fraiche so I lightened it up with a couple of tablespoons of cream and a dash of vanilla. Yum!)

  • Hi David
    Didn’t you find the Cream de tartar at G. Detou? I believe they have it.

    They may have it (I saw it in bulk, at the Metro store that I was in today) – but I just have a few jars that I brought back from the states that I use so haven’t had to actively search it out. But it’s not something one could find in the supermarket in France as it’s not a common ingredient and I’ve never seen a recipe that called for it. -dl

  • The recipe looks delicious but I’m surprised at your difficulty finding a suitable pan in France – Angel Food Cake is indeed known to non-American home bakers in France as Gateau des Anges and the pan is available online for around 20euros – although admittedly not widely available. Search for “moule Gateau des Anges” I’ve never made it myself but as a keen ice cream maker it’s always good to be reminded of another way to use up egg whites. I suppose at a pinch you could also use a savarin mould couldn’t you?
    I also wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog David. You are a very talented and amusing writer and as a fellow foreigner in France I love your musings on this wonderful and occasionally infuriating country and people, just as much as your excellent food writing. Please never stop!

  • Hey David!

    I really enjoy you’re posts, I’ve been reading for a while now. I wonder if I may be able to bother you with a request. When you’re working on pastries do you weigh your ingredients or do you always measure? I ask because I always weigh, and I would appreciate it if you posted your weights (if you have them).

    Thanks a lot!

  • Steve: All my recipes on the site, and in my books, are in standard and metric measurements – as is this one. If you’re not seeing the metrics, perhaps refresh your browser? (I don’t list weights for teaspoons or tablespoons, which is common in France and in French recipes that are metric, where “soup spoon” and “coffee spoon” are used.

    Linda: Interesting, because the person that was looking for the pan is a very accomplished French food writer and recipe developer, and she couldn’t find one. I figure they likely may have them at places like MORA in Paris, but have never checked. (Although I was at BHV yesterday and didn’t see any.) But good to know they exist, in case I need another one : )

  • Can I ask? 1/2 t of which kind of salt? table? sea? kosher? thanks!

  • Angel Food has always been my favorite cake. I like the fact that it is usually NOT covered with sticky frosting. Maybe just some fruit or preserves. Yum. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  • Angel Food Cake is my favorite cake only because it’s inextricably linked to childhood memories of my mom, who does not cook well or often, working so hard to bring together a lavish Easter dinner for my father and brother and I in the 80s. I’m all grown up and moved far away and I imagine if I could ever convince Mom to get on a plane and visit me in a small Texas town, I’d ask her only to bring that same light and airy cake and beautifully dented and loved tube pan which I imagine hasn’t held AFC in years but still enriches my best family memories, persisting despite the dents of life and lack of cake. Thank you David. I must call Mom and check for a flight.

  • Hi David. I made my first angel food cake today, using your recipe (halved for a 7inch pan). It’s so different to other cakes that I make and I don’t think it is going to become one of my favourites, as I tend to prefer cakes with more flavour and texture, but I did really enjoy it with raspberry and blueberry compote. Thank you for introducing a new baking technique and a new tasting experience to me. I look forward to using my tube pan again.

  • Hi. Cream of Tartar is easily available in the UK – you need to head over the Channel and do some stocking up!

  • This looks delicious! I’ve never had any angel food cake but the one my mom made from a box when I was a kid, so I’m excited to try this. Can you tell me how long leftover egg whites last in the fridge? Thanks!

  • In France, you can buy cream of tartar (called crème de tartre) at the drugstore (pharmacie) where it is usually sold by the weight

  • Toast the leftovers and eat them like biscotti. :-)