What is Angel Food Cake?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Angel food cake is a delicate, airy sponge cake. It had its heyday in the late 19th century, but this cake is still served with tea and after meals. A European version is heavier and richer than the American type. Making angel food can be challenging, as it requires the ability to manage egg whites well and the fold dry ingredients into egg whites without compromising their bubbles.

Cake flour and eggs, two of the ingredients in an angel food cake.
Cake flour and eggs, two of the ingredients in an angel food cake.

The taste of angel food cake isn't for everybody. It is very light and foamy, with a crumb that seems to melt in the mouth. Some people compare it to moist cotton or sponge, and find it distasteful. The cake must also be cut and handled carefully; cooks should never use a plain knife to cut it, since it will compress the air out. A serrated knife with a gentle sawing motion is the best tool and technique.

Angel food cake is light and airy due to the egg whites in the batter.
Angel food cake is light and airy due to the egg whites in the batter.

The recipe for this cake is simple, with flavor variations left up to the cook. Some ingredients can be combined with the cake directly, but the flavoring is more often dictated by the glaze used. As a general rule, the cake is not frosted, since heavy icings would obscure the light texture and flavor of the cake. Glazes can be made with orange, cinnamon, lemon, chocolate, or other flavors.

When making angel food cake, the tools and mixing bowls need to be spotlessly clean, dry, and free of grease. The baking pan should also be ungreased. Some cooks prefer to wash everything thoroughly before they begin to ensure maximum cleanliness. A cooling station should be set up for the cake, which must be cooled in an inverted position to prevent collapse.

A baker can start by preheating an oven to 350°F (191°C). She should then sift together 1 cup (137 g) cake flour, 0.75 cup (150 g) sugar, and 0.5 teaspoon (3 g) salt multiple times, ensuring that the ingredients are well integrated. The cook will not be able to mix them once she adds them to the egg white mixture. In a separate bowl, she should beat 12 egg whites together with 1 tablespoon (14.78 ml) warm water, 1 tablespoon (14.78 ml) lemon juice, 1 teaspoon (3 g) cream of tartar, and 1 teaspoon (4.92 ml) of vanilla. Other extracts, such as orange or almond, can also be added at this stage. When the egg whites have foamed, the cook should add 0.75 cup (150 g) sugar, very slowly, and beat the mixture into soft glossy peaks.

A this point, the cook folds the flour mixture slowly into the egg whites, taking care not to crush the foam. She should then pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. The cake must be cooled completely before glazing. Experts often recommend that the cake be allowed to rest for at least six hours before serving, since it sometimes has an eggy flavor for a few hours after cooking.

Angel food cake is a type of sponge cake, which contains no shortening.
Angel food cake is a type of sponge cake, which contains no shortening.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Wow--angel food cake as a wedding cake. If you did it, I'd say do it with fresh fruit and a very light glaze or thin buttercream of some description. I know in some countries, the marzipan and heavy frosting are traditional for wedding cakes, but if the bride wants angel food, she may have to be willing to compromise on the decorations.

I don't know that angel food cake would really hold up well in a wedding situation, either. It's a fussy cake that doesn't stay fresh and moist for long. I love it, but it's really a temperamental kind of cake, and I wouldn't think it would be at its best after sitting for two or three days until the wedding. It just does keep well at all.


I love angel food cake because it is a healthy alternative to cookies and cakes. Angel food cake has very few calories and has low sodium and sugar.

Angel food cake can be made into a delicious dessert if you pair it with the right ingredients. Try topping angel food cake with fresh fruit such as strawberries and blueberries. Then top it with fat-free whip cream. This dessert is the perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth without the added calories.


pandapop- I think that your intuition is correct. I think that angel food cake will not withstand heavy ingredients like marzipan and sugar paste. Try consulting with the bride and ask if she would consider using a different base. Patiently explain to her that angel food cake will simply not work and suggest similar alternatives.

Wedding details such as the cake are often very touch subjects with brides so she might have an unpleasant reaction. Be understanding and try to suggest alternatives that she will be happy with.


I have been asked to make a wedding cake with angel cake. My first thought is that it is too light and airy to support marzipan and sugarpaste. Does anyone have any advice on this.

Thanks, Amanda

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