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Thursday, July 3, 2014

July ABC Challenge: Strawberry-filled Angel Food Cake FAIL

I really think there's something to that story Like Water for Chocolate, that you transfer a part of yourself into whatever you're making in the kitchen.  This post is a good example of what happens when your heart is off in another room instead of in the kitchen with you.  I couldn't commit myself to making this, mostly because it seemed like more trouble than it was worth.  So when I finally got around to it, I was only going through the motions, somewhat grudgingly.  I wasn't sure I wouldn't rather have been doing something else.  (Mostly, though, it meant another task ahead trying to figure out how to use up the egg yolks.)

To minimize (literally) my concerns, I reduced the recipe to one quarter the size.  Perhaps this was the reason for the poor results. Or perhaps it was because I didn't use cream of tartar.  (While vinegar or lemon juice are suitable substitutes when boiling sugar, I don't think they do a damn thing for egg whites, despite all the advice forums.  But I threw in some vinegar anyway.)  Certainly my pan selection played a part.  I looked at the volume of the whipped whites and chose a larger pan (an 8-inch springform pan with a soda can in the middle) than I had initially anticipated using.  But I didn't count on losing a lot of volume when I added the flour mixture.  And then the cake didn't rise AT ALL.

I think the whites should have been whipped more.  The directions said shaving cream consistency -- that's what I had, at least on top.  But as I folded, I found that the bottom of the bowl was looser than the top.  And then, as the coup de grĂ¢ce, I forgot to cool it upside-down until I noticed it visibly shrinking in the pan.  So what you have here is an angel food pancake.  Or very fluffy divinity.  (Or a rubber biscuit, heheheh.)

Sad little thing.

I might have used it anyway, filling it like a layer cake, but it was sticky and not cutting nicely.  It just so happened that last night I spotted a mini angel food cake on discount for only $1.19.  Bargain!  I know many cringe at the thought of a commercial angel food cake, but this one had no artificial ingredients! It really wasn't too bad, although sweeter than the one I made.  I decided to employ it as a stand-in. From there, the recipe went off without a hitch.

Here's what I used:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar (reduced by 2 tablespoons from original)
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (instead of cream of tartar)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup frozen strawberries and raspberries, drained and mashed
1/4 envelope (generous 1/2 teaspoon) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar (double the original recipe)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (instead of vanilla)

I'm not reprinting the directions here because they're long, and I certainly don't suggest anyone follow my lead.  Best to refer to the King Arthur Flour web site.  I'll note, though, that in addition to reducing the recipe, I made a few other changes...

As far as I can tell, the vinegar had no effect -- the whites whipped up normally but weren't particularly stable.  Many complained that the dessert was too sweet, so I reduced the sugar in the cake (the equivalent of 1/2 cup less than the original.)  I was happy with that choice.  There were also comments that there wasn't much strawberry flavor, so I threw in some raspberries to amp up the flavor a bit.  However, my berries were quite tart, so I had to double the sugar of the filling.  It still was only mildly sweet.  Lastly, I decided to use almond instead of vanilla in the filling, since apparently almond is a traditional flavoring in angel food cake, and I thought it would be more interesting.  That was also a good choice.

Conclusion:  Seriously, this was so not worth the effort.  While not bad at all, and actually a nice choice for a summer dessert, there's simply no "wow" factor.  AFC, store-bought or homemade, is just bland.  And as with others,  I thought the filling lacked flavor and "splash".  The whole ensemble reminded me of the frozen pie my aunt used to make from strawberry yogurt and Cool Whip, only that was a LOT faster and easier.  (Might even have been tastier, too.)  The worst part though, is that because it's bland, there's a tendency to eat MORE -- the exact opposite of what you might do with something like Death By Chocolate.  Speaking of chocolate, I had intended to make an easy warm chocolate ganache to drizzle across the slices, but decided I'd had enough time in the kitchen with this cake.  It could have use it.

Recipe:  Strawberry-filled Angel Food Cake via King Arthur Flour

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