February 20, 2009

angel food cake- FAIL

While out thrifting the other day I came upon a brand-new tube pan for just $2 and since I don't already have one, I couldn't pass it up. I remembered seeing Alton make an angel food cake in one on Good Eats, and I decided that would be my project for the day. I came home and cued up the video on You Tube to refresh my memory and then set to work.

If you've never made angel food cake before, you should definitely do it- it's pretty cool and feels almost scientific, unlike a box-o-cake where you just mix, pour, and bake. It takes twelve egg whites, and you have to be really careful not to get any yolk in them and the flour has to be sifted and folded in a tiny bit at a time. It's an easy cake, just with very specific directions.

Anyway, I put my batter together following Alton's recipe (except I used lemon extract instead of orange) and carefully spooned it into my fancy new tube pan and baked it up. About forty minutes later, it was gorgeous and smelled even better. It puffed up and filled the pan and had a nice golden brown crust on top. My skewer came out clean, so I pulled it out and grabbed my cooling rack to invert the pan onto to set.

And right about now- this is where things went terribly, horribly wrong. See, you have to cool angel food cake upside down, because the delicately foamed egg white batter is too fragile to hold it's own weight until it fully sets. If you leave it right side up it will deflate. That's why the pan is designed with the middle tube section taller than the rim of the pan- so you can rest it on that during the cooling process. Well, my pan also has three little legs that stick up over the rim, presumably to offer more stability during the upside-down business.

Probably those legs are a good thing and maybe I would even be glad they were there if they didn't totally ruin my cake and almost my day. So, one of the legs got stuck in the grid of my cooling rack, and it was making my cake sit all lopsided and wonky. I tried to poke it out, but it was really stuck, and since I can't leave well enough alone I flipped the whole thing back over to get it loose.

Big mistake. Huge.

The second I turned the pan over my beautiful masterpiece flattened into a mushy mess and I suddenly realized that they weren't messing around when they said the thing couldn't hold itself up. Literally deflated like a holey balloon in half a second. Heartbreaking.

Twelve eggs! Fifteen minutes of whipping to achieve just-right medium peaks! Delicious fat-free lemony goodness destroyed in seconds. I almost cried. Almost.

Fortunately, once it was cooled and topped with berries it was amazing anyway, but I'm sure it could have been extraordinary. I will be making this again, and it will not get the best of me next time. I'm wiser now, and I know what to do.