Posts Tagged With: Cake

Year Round Recipes: Angel Food Cake

With our recent excursions to Aztec-era Mexico and the California crops of today, I thought it was time to return to my Pennsylvanian roots (and our less-than-tropical climate) for this week’s recipe of angel food cake. Thanks to the culinary archeologists who have researched Pennsylvania’s historic cookware and crockery, angel food cake (or as it was known in the early – mid 19th century, “snowdrift cake”) is actually a Pennsylvanian invention, thanks to the overabundance of historic tube pans discovered in early Pennsylvanian towns (tube pans being the smooth bundt-cake style pan that angel food cake is typically made in). But, even with its potentially northern inception, angel food cake truly caught on in the antebellum South because of one horrific practice: slavery.

A bowl of egg whites, sugar, and a lot of time and energy

A bowl of egg whites, sugar, and a lot of time and energy

Not unlike the scullery maids who allowed early English land barons to produce bigger and better culinary creations at the expense of their workers’ health and safety, African American slaves supplied the sheer manpower necessary to create the light and fluffy creations desired by southern plantation owners. Angel food cake batter, because of its high egg-white content, must be whipped with consistent, arm-crippling force for ten, fifteen, even twenty or more minutes to turn a veritable puddle of egg into a dense, rich foam. Because of the sheer time and energy requirement behind dishes like angel food, producing these types of desserts for friends, and neighbors became a show of status and wealth. Closing a meal with a plate of angel food in the days before electric mixers told your audience that you not only had the means to pay for a person or team of cooks and kitchen hands, but that you also had enough surplus labor to dedicate one or more slaves to the sole purpose of whipping egg whites. Thankfully, with the abolition of slavery, kitchen scientists stepped in to take away the brute force needed to whip egg whites (first with mechanical egg beaters and now with electric mixers, immersion blenders, and the like).

For our angel food recipe today, we’ll be using a set of instructions geared towards the modern kitchen. However, if you’re interested in making angel food cake traditionally, the 1881 cookbook of Abby Fisher, a former slave, (appropriately titled “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Southern Cooking“), is still in print and widely available! I encourage you to at least attempt whipping your egg whites with nothing more than a balloon whisk, if only to gain a small sense of what pre-electric cooking was like; and then, after your arm gives out after several minutes like mine did, feel free to switch to your electric mixer with a renewed appreciation for modern food tech!

Angel Food Cake Recipe

 

The edible cloud

An edible cloud

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 egg whites (Be careful if you’re planning on using a carton of pre-separated egg whites, as these are generally treated in such a way that the whites will not whip up successfully)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and 3/4 cup of granulated sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, vanilla extract, cream of tartar, and salt. Whip by hand, or with an electric mixture until the mixture turns white and forms medium-stiff peaks. Slowly add in the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, and continue to whip until the batter forms stiff peaks.
  3. In three additions, fold the flour and sugar mixture into the egg whites, being careful not to overmix.
  4. Preheat your oven to 375°F / 190°C.
  5. Pour the completed batter into a completely clean, dry, and ungreased tube pan (any residue in the pan could interfere with the whites’ ability to expand. Bake in your preheated oven for 30 – 45 minutes (begin checking the cake at 30 minutes to stave off overcooking), or until the top is brown, and the cracks in the top are dry.
  6. To cool, turn the tube pan upside down, balance the pan on top of a bottle, and let cool completely. When cooled, run a knife along the edge of the cake and remove the angel food gently from the pan.
  7. Slice and enjoy with a a topping of fresh fruit, whipped cream, or on its own for a taste of heaven on earth.

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As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you again as we unearth another of humanity’s collective culinary creations!

Keep digging,
~Nate

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Categories: Baking, Breakfast, History, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn Recipes: Spiced Pumpkin Roll

The autumnal season (and its inherent deliciousness) returns once more!

The autumnal season (and its inherent deliciousness) returns once more!

Over the past week, with the plummeting leaves finally being outmatched by the temperature, I resigned myself to allowing my remaining ties to autumn fall away. However, in the maelstrom of daily life, I completely forgot about Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to all that autumn embodies; namely, a bountiful harvest, the warmth of loved ones, and taking the time to appreciate what might otherwise be ignored. So even though snow is prophesied for our area this Thursday, the autumnal glow of the hearth will be enough to keep winter from completely invading our hearts (for this week, anyway)!

So, to kick off what may be this year’s final celebration of the harvest season, we’re going back to pumpkin for our first Thanksgiving recipe: spiced pumpkin roll! Now, before you judge my pumpkin roll too harshly, I have to admit that this was my first attempt at this type of dessert. And, while I may have rolled my cake before it completely cooled (causing it to break in places), and, though it’s possible that I overfilled the center (resulting in a slightly bulbous roll), I assure you that this recipe, whether it ends up looking perfectly or not, is one of the most deliciously pumpkin-y desserts I’ve ever had (and as a lifelong lover of pumpkin, that’s saying something)! Disclaimers out of the way, let’s dig in!

Spiced Pumpkin Roll

Ingredients for the Cake

Rich cream cheese wrapped snugly in the essence of autumnal flavor!

  • 3/4 cup flour (white whole wheat or all purpose)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree

Ingredients for the Filling

  • 1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese (I use dairy-free cream cheese, but any variety will work!)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F / 190 C. Line a 10×15 jelly roll pan (or a baking sheet with a rim) with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla, and sugar until smooth and creamy with an electric mixer. Slowly mix in the pumpkin puree until smooth. Mix in the dry ingredients.
  4. Spread the batter into your prepared pan until evenly distributed. Tap the tray on a hard surface to release any air bubbles in the batter.
  5. Bake in your preheated oven for 13-15 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched.
  6. Sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar and top with a clean, dry dish towel. Place an upside-down cooling rack on the towel and quickly flip the pan, towel, and rack over to release the cake. Remove the baking pan and carefully remove the parchment paper. Roll up the towel and cake together. Let cool completely (trust me-let it cool completely!) with the seam side down.
  7. While waiting for your cake to cool, beat the cream cheese, sugar, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon together to make the filling.
  8. Carefully unroll the cake when it has completely cooled. Remove the towel and spread the filling onto the cake. Leave some room around the edge of the cake to prevent it from overfilling. Now reroll the cake one last time.
  9. Wrap the pumpkin roll tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
  10. Your freshly made pumpkin roll will keep in the refrigerator for five days; however, if, like me, you’d like to use it for Thanksgiving, this recipe will freeze well if you rewrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil before placing in your freezer!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this weekend’s recipe! Just so you know, next week may look a bit different compared to our typical Tuesday/Saturday schedule. If all goes according to plan, still plan for Tuesday’s customary breakfast excavation, however, there may be a few other dishes sprinkled in on Wednesday and Thursday, in case you’re in need of a last minute Thanksgiving recipe!

Happy holidays and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Odds and Ends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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