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.
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 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. 🙂
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Salt: Adds flavor.
- 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!
- 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!
- Vanilla Extract: Adds flavor.
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.
- Pulse the granulated sugar into superfine sugar. Use a food processor or blender.
- Set 1 cup of the superfine sugar aside. You’ll add it to the egg whites.
- Add cake flour and salt to food processor. Pulse them with the remaining sugar. This aerates the dry ingredients.
- Beat egg whites and cream of tartar together. Beat on medium-low speed until foamy.
- Slowly add 1 cup of superfine sugar. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and pour in the superfine sugar you set aside.
- 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.
- Sift and fold in dry ingredients. In 3 additions, sift and fold in the dry ingredients.
- 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.
- Bake at 325°F (163°C). A higher temperature won’t properly cook the cake.
- 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.
- Run a thin knife around the edges to release. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to help loosen the cake, too.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Use freshly separated egg whites.
- Pulse granulated sugar into superfine sugar.
- Whip egg whites into soft peaks, not stiff peaks.
- Sift and gently fold in dry ingredients.
- Do not grease the tube pan.
- Cool the cake upside-down on a wire rack.
- Use a serrated knife to slice.
- Food Processor – These range in price. You can use a little ninja, a big food processor, or even a blender.
- Egg Separator – This is very inexpensive, but SO HANDY!
- Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer
- Fine Mesh Strainer (Sieve/Sifter)
- Tube Pan
- Cooling Rack
Want to make angel food cupcakes? I have you covered.
Angel food cake doesn’t need to hide under frosting, but tastes blissful with fresh berries, raspberry sauce, and/or 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!
See Your Angel Food Cakes!
Many readers tried this recipe as part of a baking challenge! Feel free to email or share your recipe photos with us on social media. 🙂Print
Angel Food Cake
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 4 hours
- Yield: serves 10-12
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
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!
- 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
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position and preheat oven to 325°F (163°C).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: angel food cake
Reader Comments & Reviews
I absolutely love this recipe and so did my whole family! So light and delicious! I served it with your homemade whipped cream and sliced strawberries. I followed your recipe exactly and I’m so happy with the way it turned out!
This cake is terrific- not cottony at all. I plan on toasting some slices on the grill tonight and serving with lemon curd, sliced strawberries and whipped cream- yummy!!
Holy moly, this was amazing!! Light, fluffy, and really so easy! Thanks for another awesome recipe, Sally!
Perfectly airy and delicious. Easier than I ever expected. First attempt was a hit and toddler approved!
I was looking for a cake recipe for the whole family and I stumbled on this article. I read and followed the instructions carefully and I made it deliciously! Every member of my family is so happy! Thanks for this!
Absolutely delicious and easy to make! I will never buy angel food cake from the store again!
This recipe was so easy and delicious! It was super easy to follow and each tip was so helpful! The cake came out perfect!
WOW! this recipe is absolutely amazing. I’ve never made an angel food cake and to be honest wasn’t even sure I like it LOL. This was seriously SO good. This will def be a go to recipe of mine
First time challenge baker and first time Angel Food Cake maker. I loved it… and this is what I served for my first meeting of the bake club started at work. Going to try the cupcakes as well! Delish. 🙂
Although mine did not come out as well as Sally’s, I know where I made my mistakes and look forward to trying again. Still tastes wonderful and so fun to make.!
This recipe is so easy! First time making a from scratch angel food cake. I used my ninja to make the sugar super fine. It worked great. I also used it to get the flour and sugar together. I don’t have a stand mixer so I used a hand mixer with wisk attachment and it works just the same.
Watching the video helps a lot !
This was amazing! I’ve never been a huge fan of angel food cake (store bought versions are so dense) but this recipe was out of this world delicious. The texture is melt-in-your-mouth and it goes perfect with sliced strawberries and fresh whipped cream!
This was so fun and new! I enjoyed the challenge
This recipe was easy and delicious! You have to follow the instructions exactly, and be careful not to get any egg yolk in with your whites or they wont properly come to peak. The end result was fluffy and delicate cake, perfect for whipped cream and fresh strawberries!
So glad I tried this monthly challenge recipe! The angel food cake is delicious and much easier than it looks. Thanks Sally! I’m pretty proud!
Came out great! Love it!
Seriously, one of my proudest moments as a home baker was making HOMEMADE Angel Food Cake Cupcakes!! Of course it was your recipe and they worked out perfectly! I was amazed to learn how easy it actually was to make! I am excited to make these again for the June challenge 🙂 Thank you Sally!
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?
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.
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.
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.
how long do I pulse the sugar?
I’d say 10-15 pulses until it looks very fine.
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.
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
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.
Why does my cake sometimes fall out of the pan while cooling? There is no oil in the pan…
What type/brand of tube pan are you using?
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!
Hi Renee! Here are some recipes using egg yolks: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/tag/egg-yolks/
You could make a key lime pie and freeze it and/or throw a few extra egg yolks into quiche.
Butterscotch pudding is also one of my favorites!
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!
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.
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!!!!
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.
Hi Christine! Bakers Sugar has a very fine grain, so that’s acceptable to use. I recommend fresh egg whites for best results.
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!
Hi Jennifer! Yep, you can use superfine sugar. See recipe note. 🙂