Light-as-air Angel Food Cupcakes
Summer's right around the corner and that can only mean one thing: air conditioning.
But if we're talking dessert, summer is home to many seasonal favorites like key lime pie, peach cobbler, cherry pie, strawberry shortcake, blueberry crisp, and angel food cake. Topped with homemade whipped cream and served with fresh fruit or embellished with chocolate ganache and sprinkles, angel food cake is truly the epitome of simple summer sweets. It's been awhile since we talked about angel food cake and in the spirit of Memorial Day weekend, I'm showing you how to turn angel food cake into party-perfect cupcakes.
But not just any angel food cupcakes... light-as-air angel food cupcakes made from scratch with just 7 ingredients. We can't achieve this perfection for free, we need to ensure we're handling the angel food cake batter with care. I have a few other guaranteed tips and tricks for you today. If our tastebuds are anything alike, I'm confident these will be the best angel food cupcakes you try!
LITERALLY EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ANGEL FOOD CUPCAKES
First I'm walking you through the steps so you can fully understand what you're doing. Then I summarize the tried-and-true tricks before leaving you with the full recipe!
Prepared without any fat like butter, oil, or egg yolks, angel food cake relies on a few very specific ingredients and mixing methods. You need a food processor or blender to make this recipe possible. I use my little ninja. The first step is to pulse regular granulated sugar in a food processor, grinding it down into a superfine sugar. Larger sugar granules harshly cut into the angel food cake batter, deflating the egg whites in their path. Don't sabotage your recipe from the beginning; it's imperative to use superfine sugar. At this point, remove some of the superfine sugar to mix with the egg whites. The remaining will be mixed with the dry ingredients.
Following so far?
Since you already have your food processor out, pulse the remaining superfine sugar with the dry ingredients. This is called aerating the dry ingredients and it's CRUCIAL to the outcome of your angel food cupcakes. Aerating (1) fluffs the dry ingredients up and (2) allows them to dissolve quicker and more easily into the egg whites. Both important!
The dry ingredients are cake flour and salt. Cake flour is another crucial component to this recipe. All-purpose flour produces a dense angel food cake. Think of a piece of white bread. That's what you'll get.
1st step is to turn granulated sugar into superfine sugar. Use a food processor to grind it down into a finer consistency. Remove 1/2 cup of the superfine sugar. This will be whipped with the egg whites.
To the remaining superfine sugar, add cake flour and salt. Pulse them together to aerate the mixture. This aerated mixture are the dry ingredients in the angel food cake batter.
Set those aerated dry ingredients aside because now we're focusing on egg whites. The more diverse my baking becomes, the more I find I'm separating eggs. From pastry cream and pavlova to salted caramel macarons and banana cream pie. Eggs are a truly magical ingredient in baking because they can do so many things as a whole and even more when separated. When baking with pavlova a couple months ago, I drove myself crazy preventing any yolks from getting into the bowl. Maybe you're better at this than me, but I desperately needed an egg separator. And you know you're old when you ask your husband for an egg separator for your birthday and then he gifts it to you early because it's an egg separator and you're going to use it right now!!!!! Yay!!!!!
Anyway. This is Yolky. And I love him.
So now it's time to whip the egg whites. Egg whites, a little water, and cream of tartar make the base of angel food cake. You'll whip them, along with the 1/2 cup of superfine sugar you set aside, until light and fluffy. Make sure there are no yolks hiding in the batter as their fat will prevent the egg whites from whipping properly. You'll notice that baking powder and baking soda are missing from the recipe. That's not by mistake; the *air* in whipped egg whites give the cupcakes all their rise. Since we're not leaning on a chemical leavener as a crutch, it's important to handle that *air* with care so the cupcakes don't deflate. Meaning... don't overwork the batter as you add the dry ingredients. Literally do less work.
What does the cream of tartar do? It holds the air bubbles in place, ensuring that angel food cake's batter maintains its fluffball volume when baked. If cream of tartar is left out, the egg whites will deflate.
And the water? It breaks up the sugar so the cupcakes aren't as sticky.
Remember when I told you not to overwork the cake batter? We'll put that into practice when we add the dry ingredients. Grab your sifter.
↑ This is the fluffy egg whites + cream of tartar + superfine sugar.
↑ And now we'll slowly sift the dry ingredients in.
Sift the dry ingredients into the egg whites in parts, folding between each addition. Sift a little in, fold together, sift a little more in, fold together, etc. Dumping all the dry ingredients into the delicate egg whites will deflate them. If you haven't caught on by now, the fluffier and puffier your angel food cake batter, the fluffier and puffier your angel food cake.
Now let's bake. The batter is foamy (yay! air!), so you can't pour it into your cupcake liners. Instead, grab a spoon and spoon the batter into each cup filling about 3/4 full.
The cupcakes only take about 18-20 minutes. The tops will be a very pale golden brown and will bounce back if you gently poke them. Let them cool completely before frosting.
For topping, I chose homemade whipped cream. I didn't want anything to weigh down or take away from these cupcakes, so something just as light-- or even lighter-- keeps the spotlight on the angel food cupcakes themselves. Lightly sweetened homemade whipped cream, in all of its fluffy glory, is just the right ticket. Plus it only takes, like, 2 minutes to make. You can pile it on top with a knife or use a piping tip for a more polished look. Either way, garnish the whipped cream with fresh berries to celebrate this season.
So let's quickly review. I just threw a lot of information at you, but don't want you to feel discouraged from trying angel food cupcakes.
THE TRICKS WE DISCUSSED
- use superfine sugar and cake flour
- whip egg whites until fluffy
- pulse the dry ingredients to aerate
- sift the dry ingredients into the egg whites
- carefully fold the batter together
This photo speaks for itself where you can see the deflated and shriveled cupcake vs the light and fluffy cupcake. Taking a few extra minutes to correctly prepare the recipe makes all the difference.
Skip the pool floats this summer, these cupcakes are so refreshingly light you'll float away after 1 bite!!!
Angel Food Cupcakes
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (60g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon warm water
- 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons (15g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position and preheat oven to 325°F (163°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2-4 liners - this recipe makes about 14-16 cupcakes. Set aside.
- Make the cupcakes: In a food processor or blender (I use this one), pulse the sugar until fine and powdery. Remove 1/2 cup and set aside to use in step 3; keep the rest inside the food processor. Add the cake flour and salt to the food processor. Pulse 5-10 times until sugar/flour/salt mixture is aerated and light.
- In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip egg whites, water, and cream of tartar together on medium low until foamy, about 1 minute. Switch to medium-high and slowly add the 1/2 cup of sugar. Whip until soft peaks form, about 5-6 minutes. See photo above for visual. Add the vanilla extract and beat just until incorporated.
- In several additions, slowly sift the flour mixture into the egg white mixture using a fine-mesh strainer, gently folding after each addition. To avoid the cupcakes from deflating or tasting dense, don't add the flour mixture all at once. Sift and very slowly fold in several additions. This is important! Spoon batter into liners, filling only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides.
- Bake the cupcakes until very lightly browned around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. For around 3 dozen mini cupcakes, bake for about 10-12 minutes, same oven temperature.
- Allow the cupcakes to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- Make the whipped cream: Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. Spread or pipe onto cupcakes. I used a small icing spatula for some, but a Wilton 8B tip looks wonderful (see picture above!). Garnish with fresh berries.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Make ahead tip: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Whipped cream can be made a few hours in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. To freeze, wrap unfrosted cupcakes individually in aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and freeze in a large container. Thaw on the counter before frosting and serving.
- 1 large egg white is about 2 Tablespoons, so if using carton egg whites, use around 12-13 Tablespoons. For the best accuracy and texture, I strongly recommend using egg whites from eggs you crack yourself.
- Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!
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