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

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

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

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.

Whipped egg whites

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.

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.

Angel food cake cooling in pan

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.

Angel food cake on marble cake stand

Helpful Tools

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

angel food cupcake

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.

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

Print
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 (130g) 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

285 Comments

  1. I’ve never tried angel food cake before, so I can’t wait to try this one….see if it tastes as good as everyone says it does!!! 😉

  2. Hi Sally!
    Sadly, my sister and I won’t be able to make this cake. We only have bundt pan and as you said, that won’t work. Would have loved to enter the challenge 🙁 Maybe someday we will get a pan and try this cake. Thanks Sally 🙂

      1. Thanks Sally! I forgot Angel Food cupcakes were an option, silly me. I think I’ll be joining this month’s challenge…:)

  3. Sally, this cake looks lovely! I don’t own an angel food cake pan, but I do have muffin pans, so maybe I’ll tackle angel food cupcakes this month! I love angel food cake and have always wanted to make it at home 🙂 Sounds like a lot of fun!

  4. I cannot wait to make this! The only problem… I can never find cake flour in any store! I have looked in multiple big chain grocery stores with no luck! I know there was a previous recipe where you said how to make cake flour… Can you possibly post that addition to this one? Thank you so so much!ktie

    1. Hi Katie! You could also order it online, but I know that can get expensive and is a hassle. In a pinch, you can use the DIY cake flour alternative but the results may not be as exact! To make 1 cup of cake flour, combine 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp of all-purpose flour with 2 Tbsp of cornstarch. Sift together. You’ll have to do this twice, then measure out 1 cup + 2 Tbsp for this recipe.

  5. When I lived in northern Alabama a few years ago, I used to visit an Amish store and bakery in Tennessee. The ladies there made beautiful flavored angel food cakes, strawberry and black raspberry were my favorites. I haven’t been able to figure out what they used to flavor and color them with. I know they did not use fruit. I’ve wondered if they used jello powder, but I’m not sure enough to try, that is a lot of eggs if I’m wrong. Any ideas?

    1. Hi Karla! I wish I could help! I assume they’d use jello powder as a flavor, but you’re right– that’s a lot of eggs to waste if it doesn’t work out. I found this article with different flavors and variations if you want to check it out though!

      1. Freeze dried fruit powder? (Maybe) It provides the fruit taste, color and shouldn’t effect the texture of the delicate cake.

  6. This cake looks delicious. And I just happen to have strawberries on hand. I am definitely going to make this recipe.

    1. Hi Katie! I recommend non-stick, but it doesn’t matter either way. The cake will stick either way, but running a thin knife around the edges helps release it.

      1. Thanks for clarifying! I was confused since the epicurious article said they used a non non-stock pan.

      2. MikeI agree. I’ve made AFC in both regular and non-stick tube pans without any issues. End result was equally as beautiful in both.
        My new favorite pan is Wilton’s AFC Loaf pan. It makes a nice long, high loaf using the same ingredient quantities that a standard tube pan uses and is great for slicing.

  7. Looks delicious! My mom made angel food cake weekly as a kid. She would set the cooling cake (in pan) upside down over an empty wine bottle. This cooled the cake with out crushing it. Can’t wait to make this!

  8. Hi, Sally! I’m excited to try this recipe! Instead of making the granulated sugar super fine in the food processor, could I use the Domino Superfine sugar? I have some on-hand and am curious. Can’t wait to try!
    Thanks!

  9. So keen to make your Angel Food Cake! Just wondering why you process your granulated sugar rather than purchasing Caster sugar?

    1. Hi Nanette! Caster sugar isn’t a common ingredient where I live, so that’s why this recipe begins with granulated sugar. Feel free to use caster sugar/superfine sugar as noted in the recipe notes!

  10. I use bakers sugar so I would assume I don’t have to process that? Could you use the egg white that they sell in the cartons? I normally have those one hand.

    1. Hi Christine! Bakers Sugar has a very fine grain, so that’s acceptable to use. I recommend fresh egg whites for best results.

      1. If you look on the carton the egg whites are in it likely says that they will not whip up like fresh whites because they are pasteurized. I made that mistake once.

    1. If you temporarily pause any ad blockers, the video shows right up. Or you can find it on my youtube page!

  11. I just now made this! Gorgeously rose up in my oven and cooling now so obviously I havent tasted finished cake but the batter was delicious!!!!

  12. I find it interesting you recommending fresh eggs. My mom raises chickens and the fresh eggs whites cannot handle the process of making sponge and angel food cakes. We never had issues with store bought eggs and always had deflation problems using the fresh eggs. We would even hold some eggs back in the hopes of not having this issue when making cakes for 4-H to no success. One of my judges said that older egg whites have a stronger protein structure than fresh from the chicken egg whites. The fresh egg whites would produce a beautiful cake but as time progress’ out of the oven it would deflate. We always called it a downfall to having our own chickens.

  13. This is very interesting! So we usually only get a homemade angel food cake around Easter because it takes so many egg whites. The yolks go into a traditional Italian Easter dessert called Grain Pie.
    Besides Lemon curd – what else can I do with a dozen egg yolks?? I’m always struggling not to waste them but there is only so much lemon curd we can make…!
    Any other suggestions? Thanks!

      1. How long can you store egg yolks? If I bake the cake one day, how long before I’d need to use up the yolks?

        I’m looking forward to trying the recipe!

      2. I guess you learn something new everyday – Key Lime pie is one of our favorites but I’ve never made one to know the filling takes yolks (not unlike lemon curd…!) Very excited to try this – thanks so much!

  14. Why does my cake sometimes fall out of the pan while cooling? There is no oil in the pan…

  15. Hi Sally,

    Sally here. I don’t have a blender or food processor. What can I use as a substitute? Would a good whisking help at all? Thank you? You have no IDEA of how much I have learned from you and how much I enjoy it.
    Sally from Hamilton, Ontario

    1. Hi Sally! I’m so glad that my recipes and site have been helpful to you. Can you purchase superfine sugar in any stores near you? If so, you can skip the food processing for the dry ingredients and simply sift them a few times before sifting into the whipped egg whites.

  16. First time making an angel food cake, and I will never go back to the store bought cakes! The process was fairly simple after measuring all the ingredients. My cake got the gorgeous crackly, brown top and it was delicious. Perfect summer treat – I added raspberry preserves to the top for my first slice but ate the remainder completely plain. Thank you for this recipe. It is fantastic and absolutely worth the effort to make it at home.

  17. Check your thrift stores if you don’t have a Angel Food cake pan. The 1950s thu the ‘70s angel food was very popular to make so many kitchens had this pan. Then the national cake brands had a 2 part mix that made a good product.
    Many variations were in magazine ads and articles. One variation was to grate chocolate into the cake. It made a beautiful speckled cake with a thin chocolate glaze added for the frosting.

    1. If you temporarily pause any ad blockers, the video shows right up. Or you can find it on my youtube page (posting it on there tomorrow!) 🙂

  18. I’m excited to make this! My dad’s favorite type of cake is Angel food cake. This will make a great father’s day cake. 🙂

  19. We love your recipes, Sally! I plan on trying this for my son’s first birthday, since he adores strawberries. My 3 and 4 year old are excited to help whip the eggs!

  20. Hi sally, guess I pulsed the sugar correctly. My angel food cake came out “amazingly angelic “!! I just love your site. Have made several items but this is my first time in joining the monthly challenge.

      1. So sorry, I must have not hear correctly. Sorry for the trouble. The cake turned out perfectly. I really believe baking is a science and that one must fallow the recipe, but I’m thinking it could use just a tad bit more flavor. What do you think about adding a few drops (or more) of pure almond extract?
        My sisters and I grew up on angel food cake with orange butter icing for our birthdays… orange zest and a small amount of orange juice.

      2. Almond extract would be lovely in this! I recommend about 1/2 or 3/4 teaspoon. It’s pretty potent!

  21. One other reader asked why her cake fell out of the pan. She described the exact cake pan I have – 40+ years old, aluminum, 2 pieces. My cake immediately fell out of the pan, leaving the lovely crust behind. Without the structure of the crust it also deflated quite a bit. My husband loved it, but it certainly wasn’t photo worthy.

  22. You may have Answered this already … didn’t have time to read all of the comments. In the video you said 350 degrees but the recipe said 325.

  23. Hi Sally! The angel food cake looks so yummy! Do you think it would work to add some lemon zest and replace some of the vanilla extract with lemon extract to make a lemon version? Or would it mess up the other ingredients?

    1. Hi Jen! You can add a little lemon zest when you add the vanilla extract. Lemon extract would be a great addition too– 1/2 teaspoon – 3/4 teaspoon would be plenty. I would still add about 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract though.

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