Angel Food Cake

Using only 6 ingredients, this perfect angel food cake bakes up tall, light, and airy. For best results, follow this recipe and video tutorial closely. The delicate texture can only be achieved with particular ingredients and careful mixing methods.

Angel food cake with berries

Ready for a slice of heaven? We are no stranger to decadent and rich cakes. But what about a cake recipe where butter, fat, and egg yolks run away in fright? Meet angel food cake. Angel food cake is a low fat cake recipe made mostly from egg whites, cake flour, and sugar. It’s pristine white on the inside with a chewy light brown crumb around the exterior. What it lacks in butter makes up for in texture. This tall, tender, and timeless cake has a cloud-like crumb and ultra light flavor.

I’ve published angel food cupcakes and a super fun sprinkle angel food cake on my blog, but now it’s time visit where both originate: classic homemade angel food cake!

Angel food cake slices with strawberries on white plate

Angel Food Cake Video Tutorial

Let’s dive right in. First, here’s a video tutorial where I walk you through each step. The steps and ingredients are pretty straightforward, but it’s always helpful to have a clear visual. 🙂

Top of angel food cake with berries and pink peony flower

6 Angel Food Cake Ingredients

You only need 6 ingredients to make angel food cake. With so little ingredients, understand that each one is imperative to the cake’s final taste and texture. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Granulated Sugar: The recipe begins with granulated sugar. Pulse it in a food processor to create superfine sugar. Superfine sugar’s granules are the best size to provide optimal structure for angel food cake. It’s not as coarse as granulated sugar and not as fine as confectioners’ sugar. Granulated sugar is simply too coarse, while confectioners’ sugar dissolves too quickly in the egg whites.
  2. Cake Flour: Cake flour is a low protein flour and yields a tender angel food cake. Do not use all-purpose flour because the cake will taste like white bread…! In a pinch, you can use this cake flour substitute. But real cake flour is ideal.
  3. Salt: Adds flavor.
  4. Egg Whites: You’ll notice there’s no baking powder or baking soda. The egg whites are actually the sole leavening ingredient providing all the cake’s rise. Use freshly separated eggs because they aerate the best. Carton egg whites or egg whites that have been frozen won’t expand as much during the whipping process, which will negatively affect the rise of your cake. You’ll have a lot of leftover egg yolks, so make some lemon curd and serve it with the cake!
  5. Cream of Tartar: Cream of tartar is an acid and stabilizes the whipped egg whites, just as it does in my chocolate swirled meringue cookies too. Without it, the cake would collapse. Other acids, such as lemon juice, can work but they aren’t nearly as effective. Cream of tartar is found in the spice aisle and is actually a common baking ingredient. I have many recipes calling for it!
  6. Vanilla Extract: Adds flavor.

Superfine sugar in food processor

How to Make Perfect Angel Food Cake

I’m confident this will be the most perfect angel food cake to ever hit your lips. We can’t achieve angel food cake perfection for free, so make sure you follow these steps closely.

  1. Pulse the granulated sugar into superfine sugar. Use a food processor or blender.
  2. Set 1 cup of the superfine sugar aside. You’ll add it to the egg whites.
  3. Add cake flour and salt to food processor. Pulse them with the remaining sugar. This aerates the dry ingredients.
  4. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar together. Beat on medium-low speed until foamy.
  5. Slowly add 1 cup of superfine sugar. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and pour in the superfine sugar you set aside.
  6. Beat into soft peaks. Whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and superfine sugar into soft and lofty peaks. This takes at least 5 minutes. After that, add the vanilla.
  7. Sift and fold in dry ingredients. In 3 additions, sift and fold in the dry ingredients.
  8. Pour/spread batter into a tube pan. Do not grease the tube pan. Greasing the pan causes the batter to slip down the sides, preventing it from properly rising. If you already greased it, wash and wipe it completely clean.
  9. Bake at 325°F (163°C). A higher temperature won’t properly cook the cake.
  10. Cool upside down on a wire rack. If cooled upright, the cake’s own weight will crush itself. Cool it upside-down on a cooling rack so it holds its shape and air can reach it.
  11. Run a thin knife around the edges to release. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to help loosen the cake, too.
  12. Slice with a serrated knife. A regular sharp knife squishes the cake.

Can I use a Bundt pan for angel food cake? No, do not use a Bundt pan for angel food cake. You’ll have a very hard time getting it out in one piece. You need a tube pan which has a flat bottom and straight sides. If you don’t have one, I recommend this tube pan. It’s relatively inexpensive for its great quality. Though it’s labeled as nonstick, the coating is VERY thin and has never been an issue for my angel food cakes.

And good news: here’s a helpful trick for how to bake angel food cake without a tube pan.

2 images of cake flour in measuring cups and food processor

You need 1 cup (16 Tablespoons) + 2 Tablespoons of cake flour. Sounds like an odd amount, but 18 Tablespoons is the precise quantity to bring enough structure to the cake.

2 images of whipped egg whites on a whisk attachment and in glass bowl

Soft Peaks, Not Stiff Peaks

Remember, whip the egg whites into soft peaks. (Pictured above.) Soft peaks don’t hold a stiff shape. Instead, they “wilt” back into the mixture after a few seconds. Soft peaks are the optimum consistency because they’ll continue to expand in the oven. Stiff peaks, on the other hand, means that the egg whites have been over-whipped for angel food cake and will likely collapse in the oven.

Important to remember: Don’t let a drop of egg yolks into the mixing bowl. Any lingering fat could prevent the egg whites from forming peaks at all. Crack eggs over an egg separator into a small bowl, then add the whites one-by-one into the mixing bowl. This way if the yolk breaks, it doesn’t break directly in the mixing bowl.

2 images of angel food cake batter in mixing bowl and tube pan

Sift the dry ingredients over the beaten egg whites in a few additions, gently folding together after each addition. The goal is to retain as much of the whipped volume as possible. Pouring the dry ingredients on top all at once will quickly deflate the egg whites.

2 images of angel food cake cooling in pan and pan upside down on cooling rack

The Magic is in the Details

I’ve thrown a lot of information at you in this post, so here’s a quick summary of all the important success tips. Remember that the magic is all in the details.

  1. Use freshly separated egg whites.
  2. Pulse granulated sugar into superfine sugar.
  3. Whip egg whites into soft peaks, not stiff peaks.
  4. Sift and gently fold in dry ingredients.
  5. Do not grease the tube pan.
  6. Cool the cake upside-down on a wire rack.
  7. Use a serrated knife to slice.

Helpful Tools

Want to make angel food cupcakes? I have you covered. 🙂

angel food cupcakes topped with berries

Angel food cake doesn’t need to hide under frosting, but tastes blissful with fresh berries and a dollop of whipped cream! Feel free to dust the top with confectioners’ sugar, too. If you enjoy these flavors together, you’ll love my fresh berry cream cake. (Which, if I’m being honest, isn’t quite as fussy as this cake!)

I know what you’re thinking: is this cake really worth it? The answer is YES. Angel food cake boasts a texture like no other and once you go through the process, you’ll understand the preparation isn’t that difficult– it’s just a little picky. 😉 Let’s do this!

Angel food cake on marble cake stand

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Angel food cake with berries

Angel Food Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: serves 10-12
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Using only 6 ingredients, this perfect angel food cake bakes up tall, light, and airy. For best results, read the recipe in full before beginning and have all your ingredients ready to go. Enjoy! 


Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar*
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons (133g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 large egg whites, at room temperature*
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • optional: confectioners’ sugar for dusting, whipped cream, and berries

Instructions

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position and preheat oven to 325°F (163°C).
  2. In a food processor or blender, pulse the sugar until fine and powdery. Remove 1 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.
  3. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip egg whites and cream of tartar together on medium-low until foamy, about 1 minute. Switch to medium-high and slowly add the 1 cup of sugar you set aside. Whip until soft peaks form, about 5-6 minutes. See photo and video above for a visual. Add the vanilla extract, then beat just until incorporated.
  4. In 3 additions, slowly sift the flour mixture into the egg white mixture using a fine mesh strainer, gently folding with a rubber spatula after each addition. To avoid deflating or a dense cake, don’t add the flour mixture all at once. Sift and very slowly fold in several additions. This is important! Pour and spread batter into an ungreased 9 or 10 inch tube pan. Shimmy the pan on the counter to smooth down the surface.
  5. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking. The cake will rise up very tall while baking. Remove from the oven, then cool the cake completely upside-down set on a wire rack, about 3 hours. (Upside-down so the bottom of the tube pan is right-side up, see photo and video above.) Once cooled, run a thin knife around the edges and gently tap the pan on the counter until the cake releases.
  6. If desired, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice the cake with a sharp serrated knife. Regular knives can easily squish the cake. Serve with whipped cream and fresh berries.
  7. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Prepare the angel food cake one day in advance, then cover tightly and store at room temperature overnight. Angel food cake can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature before serving.
  2. Sugar: In this recipe, you use granulated sugar and pulse it in a food processor to make superfine sugar. If you have superfine sugar or caster sugar, use that. Pulse 3/4 cup of it with the dry ingredients in step 2. Use 1 cup of it in step 3.
  3. Egg Whites: I strongly recommend using fresh real egg whites instead of egg white substitutes, previously frozen egg whites, or egg whites from a carton. Separate the eggs when they’re cold, then bring the egg whites to room temperature. Fresh room temperature egg whites whip into the fluffiest volume. With the extra yolks, make lemon curd or some of these recipes.
  4. Pan: An angel food cake pan (aka tube pan) is imperative. Do not use a Bundt pan. Angel food cake’s structure and stability requires the tube pan’s particular specifications. Some angel food cake pans come with little feet, which makes cooling the cake upside down easy. If your pan has feet, no need to use a wire rack. Whether your tube pan has feet or not, cool the cake upside down as directed in step 5.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Keywords: cake, whipped cream

Angel food cake on marble cake stand

518 Comments

  1. I made this cake 10/9/21 for a coworker’s birthday and it was a HIT. I followed the instructions completely and if it weren’t for the video being included, I would have messed up big time but it came together beautifully with some strawberries and blueberries along with some homemade strawberry whipped frosting (your other recipe for strawberry whipped frosting I believe). This cake was not dense, the texture was perfect and was even told it looked almost like a store bought cake but tasted much better than that. Definitely making this again in the future, thanks again for the awesome recipe!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re so happy to read this Alicia – thank you so much for giving our recipe a try!

      1. I used grams measurements that you provided and they are completely off. A cup and two tablespoons of flour does not equal 133g.

      2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Ana! You can read more about measuring baking ingredients in this post.

  2. Hi, Sally! Thank you for sharing your recipe. I was wondering if I could use 6×2 aluminum round pans for this recipe. The bottom part is not detachable though. And can I use the blender instead of the food processor since we don’t have one? Thank you so much!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Eunice, an angel food cake pan (aka tube pan) is imperative – see recipe notes for more details. You may love these angel food cupcakes instead — but even there, we recommend the cupcake pans rather than cake pans (as we fear they won’t rise the same). A blender will work in place of a food processor.

      1. My husband is on a no fat diet for a complication following surgery and is allowed to have angel food cake and fruit. We have carton egg whites so, I used them. They whipped up beautifully – just like your video! I just took it out of the oven and it’s so pretty! I am concerned about my two piece tube cake pan crushing the cake while it’s cooling but, it is non- stick. I will let you know! So far, so good!

  3. As usual, Sally’s Baking Addiction, you NAILED IT! I’ve never made angel food cake before and this came out perfect. Thank you! Please keep doing what you do. Your recipes are THE BEST!

  4. Followed the recipe to a T and this was DELICIOUS! I always thought I didn’t like angel food cake until I tasted this one. One question – I let it rest upside down in the pan for 3 hours like the recipe stated, however, the nice brown “crust” stuck to the pan. So it was basically just white on the outside. Obviously didn’t impact the taste, just not at pretty as Sally’s! Any thoughts on this??

    1. I’m so glad that you loved this recipe, Jamie! Was the pan you used nonstick?

  5. Hi Sally, I love to bake. This recipe if followed to a “t” will come out perfect. I made it for the first time for a dinner party. I added a light compote of berries and whipped cream it was great. I had one slice left. Thanks!

  6. Hi Sally! Can I pulse the sugar in my blender? My food processor broke a few days ago.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Grace, a blender will work just fine in place of a food processor.

  7. Your elaboration of each ingredient helps so much in understanding how your recipes come together to taste their best. It helps people like me who are learning to cook. Thank you! I do have one question. What if you used lemon juice as well as cream of tartar?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tamera, we haven’t tried this recipe with lemon juice, but you can try replacing some (not all) of the vanilla extract with lemon juice/extract for a lemony cake. You could do a 1:1 substitution of lemon juice for the cream of tartar, but keep in mind that it is not as effective. Let us know what you try!

  8. Thank you for the detailed recipe! I am sure it was your tips that resulted in a light and tasty angel food cake that looked just like the photo (the first time that has happened:)).

  9. Hi There! I am so excited to get a chance to make this recipe, the rave reviews are very encouraging. One question, can I use baker’s sugar, which is finer than regular granulated sugar and less fine than powdered? I would love to save the blending sugar step if possible:)

    1. That should be just fine!

  10. Everything seemed to work perfectly, and the cake rose in the oven nicely, but then when it cooled upside down, it collapsed into itself. So it tastes nice but is quite a dense texture. Any ideas what might have happened? I did leave it to cool for a long time upside down, could it have needed to be taken out of the pan earlier?

    1. Hi Julia, angel food cake can collapse if the egg whites were over-whipped. Only whip until soft peaks form before adding the vanilla and then the dry ingredients. When folding in the dry ingredients, do so very slowly and in stages as the recipe suggests. Folding in the dry ingredients quickly or all at once can cause the cake to lose volume and deflate. And yes, if you try the recipe again, you could also try removing the cake from the pan earlier.

  11. Karen Frankland says:

    Hi!
    Can I use store bought egg whites (in a container) instead of separating the eggs?
    Thanks,
    Karen

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Karen, Carton egg whites don’t whip up to nearly the same volume. You can try to use them, but the results will differ from the intended texture and pictured cake. See recipe notes for details on egg whites. Hope you enjoy this recipe!

      1. Thanks for the quick reply. I will make some custard to use up the yolks 🙂

  12. I would say I’m a decent baker. My cake turned out dense, not soft and fluffy at all. After googling I’m guessing somehow I managed to overmix the eggwhites? They looked like a good texture though like the video so not sure how I managed this. Unsure now whether I should reattempt this recipe or not :/

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Over or under-whipping the eggs will lead to a dense angel food cake. We hope you’ll give it another try!

  13. Could I use almond flour rather than cake flour? I need a gluten-free flour and would love to hear if you think that will work.

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Natalie, we haven’t tested a gluten-free version of this cake. If you do, we’d love to know how it turns out for you!

  14. Excited to try this recipe, but all I have is a bundt pan. Will that work for this recipe?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Madelyn, You need a tube pan for this recipe, not a Bundt pan. We link to the tube pan we use in the post above. If you don’t have a tube pan this is a great hack.
      Or you can make Angel Food Cupcakes instead.

  15. This is my husbands favorite cake for his birthday and this recipe is perfect! I thought I didn’t like angel food cake until I started making this recipe!

  16. does anyone know if i can use liquid egg whites (the kind you buy in a milk-type carton) for this?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Briana! We recommend fresh egg whites for best results.

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