I’ve been cooking for forty years, and my angel
food cakes were always successful—until now. Lately,
everything is fine until I add flour to the egg-and-sugar
mixture. For some reason, the mixture now becomes gluey
and horrible. I’ve blamed the flour, so I’ve
switched to an instant flour, and I’ve also cut
down on the amount of sugar (though I was very careful
about how much I used before). What’s gone wrong?
As you’ve discovered, there’s little middle
ground when you make an angel food cake. When angel food
cake is good, it’s positively ethereal with its
high volume and fine texture. But when angel food cake
doesn’t turn out right, it’s truly dreadful.
Angel food cake recipes are also unique because they contain
beaten egg whites for leavening and because no fat is
used in the batter. Without the fat, there’s no
tenderizing effect on the batter and the gluten develops
more easily, which can result in a gummy mixture. So it’s
important to use flour that’s low in gluten.
An angel food cake is best when it’s made with cake
flour or a combination of cake and pastry flours, because
both types have less gluten-forming potential than instant
flour. When instant flour is processed, all the flour
particles are altered so that they are free-flowing and
uniform in size. Therefore, the particles don’t
form the frameworks necessary for fine baking in the same
way as they do in cake and pastry flours. The instant
flour you’re currently using is better suited for
making “unlumpy” sauces rather than for baking.
A second factor that reduces the volume of your angel
food cake is cutting back on the sugar. When sugar is
used in baking, it does more than simply sweeten the mixture:
It also has a strong effect on the volume of the finished
product because it raises the temperature at which the
batter sets, giving the cake extra rising time before
its structure firms. The rising process also stretches
the batter extensively, which contributes to the cake’s
very tender texture.
We recommend that you go back to the original amount of
sugar in the recipe. You might even try a fine granulated
sugar. Also, use cake flour instead of instant flour.
We’ll bet that your next cake will be superb! Good
Anne & Sue