One of the simplest and most delightful cakes to make from scratch is an angel food cake. It doesn’t have the bitter tang of a boxed angel food cake mix, and can be gussied up with an endless variety of flavors and additions. As long as the additions are relatively dry and in moderate quantities, the sky’s the limit. I’ve used chopped cherries, shaved chocolate, lemon, and lavender so far with great results.
You don’t even need a tube pan; the batter works wonderfully in lined cupcake tins or even bread pans. For a beautiful presentation, however, nothing beats an angel food cake with the hole in the center filled with fluffy whipped cream. During the holidays of my youth, the whipped cream was flavored with crushed candy canes and marshmallows – a light, festive treat.
I was afraid that juicy huckleberries would weigh down the batter and keep it from rising well, but was pleasantly surprised to find that they didn’t affect the loft at all…just added an amazing pop of flavor and color. How could anyone resist a slice of huckleberry heaven? Of course you could use blueberries instead, but there’s just nothing like the flavor of a ripe mountain huckleberry. Take your chances with the bears, bees, mosquitoes, and fallen logs, and hit the hills for this precious bounty.
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar (important to use superfine)
1 1/3 cups egg whites (11 or 12 eggs), room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond or lemon extract, if desired
1 cup huckleberries (or small blueberries) – divided
Heat the oven to 325F.
Prepare a tube pan by cutting a circle of parchment the size of the bottom of the pan and cutting a round hole in the middle so that it will fit over the tube. Do not grease or flour the parchment.
In a small bowl, sift flour 3 times with ½ cup of the sugar.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle the salt and cream of tartar over eggs and beat until they hold soft peaks.
Add the rest of the sugar, ¼ cup at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in flavored extracts.
Remove 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture and place in a small bowl with 3/4 cup of the berries (the remaining 1/4 cup will be used later for the glaze.) Toss the berries in the flour and set aside.
Add the flour and sugar mixture ½ cup at a time, folding gently after each addition. Add the berry and flour mixture last and very carefully fold into the batter to keep from deflating the precious air bubbles.
Put batter into the prepared tube pan and bake approximately an hour at 325 degrees, until deep golden brown on top. Turn pan upside down on rack. When cool, lift pan. If cake doesn’t come out, slide a knife around the outside to release it.
Note: You can also bake the batter in cupcake pans with liners, or in two loaf pans with a piece of parchment paper in the bottoms only. Don’t grease the pans! Cool the loaf pans upside down so the cakes don’t deflate. You may have to get creative—balance them between two pans or even coffee mugs.
1/4 cup huckleberries
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon powdered egg whites (optional..this just makes the glaze dry firmer and faster)
In a small pan on low heat, combine 1/4 cup huckleberries and 1 tablespoon of water. Heat on low for approximately 10-15 minutes to soften the berries and release the juice. Stir in the lemon juice and salt.
Combine 1 cup of powdered sugar with the powdered egg whites and gradually whisk into the berry mixture. At this point, depending on how juicy your berries are, you can adjust the glaze by adding more water or more powdered sugar to achieve a pouring consistency. Drizzle over thoroughly cooled cake.
Since I can never resist “gilding the lily”, I like to fill the center with fresh whipped cream with a few berries on the top. Dig in!