This recipe for light-as-air angel food cupcakes is a wonderful choice if you’re looking for a delightful summer dessert. Topped with fluffy whipped cream and fresh berries, these cupcakes are both refreshing and beautiful.
If we’re talking dessert (and we usually are), we know summer is home to many seasonal favorites. This is the time for key lime pie, peach cobbler, cherry pie, strawberry shortcake, and the list goes on. (Here’s our full summer recipes section.)
Angel food cake is another popular summertime choice. Topped with whipped cream and served with fresh fruit or embellished with chocolate ganache and sprinkles, angel food cake is truly the epitome of light summer sweets. So, can we turn our angel food cake into cupcakes without compromising the taste and texture? The answer, we discovered, is yes.
Angel Food Cupcakes Details
- Texture: These angel food cupcakes are cloudlike puffy and fluffy. We’re almost certain you could skip the pool floats this summer because you’ll float away after 1 bite. Ha!
- Flavor: You’ll enjoy a delicately sweet flavor with a lovely hint of vanilla. If our taste buds are anything alike, we’re confident these will be the tastiest angel food cupcakes you try.
- Ease: These cupcakes are completely made from scratch with just 7 ingredients. But we can’t achieve this perfection for free. We need to get our sugar superfine, sift and aerate dry ingredients, whip the egg whites, and in general, handle our batter with care. Because there’s a couple finicky steps, we call this an intermediate baking recipe.
Recipe Testing Angel Food Cupcakes: What Works & What Doesn’t
Prepared without any fat like butter, oil, or egg yolks, angel food cupcakes rely on specific ingredients and careful mixing methods.
- Superfine sugar. 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.
- Use real cake flour. All-purpose flour produces a dense angel food cake– it will end up tasting like white bread. In a pinch, you can use this cake flour substitute but the results are more favorable if you use actual cake flour.
- Aeration time. There’s another essential step while you’ve got the food processor out. It’s 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 are important!
- Whipping 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 1/2 cup of superfine sugar, 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 might remember that if you’ve ever tried French Macarons.)
- No chemical leaveners needed. 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. (Just like chocolate soufflé.) 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.
- What does the cream of tartar do? It holds the air bubbles in place, ensuring that angel food cake’s batter maintains its fluff ball volume when baked. If you leave out the cream of tartar, the egg whites will deflate.And the water? It breaks up the sugar, so the cupcakes aren’t as sticky. Note: We don’t find water necessary in a larger angel food cake.
- Give the batter a break. As mentioned above, we don’t want to overwork the cake batter. We’ll put that into practice when we add the dry ingredients. (Don’t get nervous. I’m literally asking you to do less work.)
- Sifting is key. 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 cupcakes.
- Spoon the batter. The batter is foamy (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.
Here’s a photo of the whipped egg white mixture:
Now sift in the dry ingredients in stages, gently folding together after each addition to make a foamy batter:
Angel Food Cupcake Quick Tips
We know that was a lot to take in under Recipe Testing just above. Here is a cheat sheet.
- use superfine sugar and real cake flour
- pulse the dry ingredients to aerate
- whip egg whites until fluffy
- 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.
We use and recommend homemade whipped cream as the frosting. You don’t want anything to weigh down or take away from these light cupcakes. Something just as light – or even lighter – keeps the spotlight on the angel food cupcakes themselves.
- Blender/Food Processor. You need a food processor or blender to make this recipe possible. My team and I always use and recommend this ninja blender.
- Fine Mesh Strainer. Remember that the sifting step is imperative. We use and love this fine mesh sieve. You can use a hand crank sifter if you have one, but we prefer using a mesh one.
- Egg separator. The more diverse your baking becomes, the more you’ll find yourself separating eggs (Pavlova, French Macarons, Banana Cream Pie, and Swiss Meringue Buttercream for example.) Eggs are a truly magical ingredient in baking because they can do so many things when whole and even more when separated. Anyway, this is our favorite separator.
This recipe for light-as-air angel food cupcakes is a wonderful choice if you’re looking for a delightful summer dessert. Prepared without any fat like butter, oil, or egg yolks, angel food cupcakes rely on specific ingredients and careful mixing methods. For best success, follow this recipe closely.
- 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.
- Spread or pipe homemade whipped cream 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 Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): KitchenAid Stand Mixer | 5-qt Tilt-Head Glass Mixing Bowl | Ninja Master Prep | Sieve | Egg Yolk Separator | Cupcake Liners | Cupcake Pan | Wilton 8B Star Icing Tip | Icing Spatula | Blue Cake Stand
- Egg Whites: 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. For the leftover egg yolks, here are all of my recipes that use egg yolks.
- Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!