Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Heavenly Angel Food Cake

Today is Rachel Long's Birthday. We invited she and Eric Bell to the Farm for a Birthday Dinner. His Birthday was yesterday. As is custom in our family, the Birthday Guest (and in this case Guests) get to decide the meal. Eric said he wanted to make a special dessert he remembered from his Grandma. That requires an Angel Food Cake.

So he and I have been making an Angel Food Cake this afternoon. Such desserts present a number of challenges and they were surely from Kitchens of Wizards of Considerable Skill. You can't buy the old Angel Food Cakes which were standard fare of those Cooks just a few decades ago. Today's store bought mixes, eggs which don't hold volume, and store bought cakes just don't cut it.

In this case, we used Grandma Crawford's (Ethel May Kirkpatrick Crawford) Recipe, which is above. I got this from her in about 1966. I can tell because I wrote "Mrs. Crawford", which was before Richard and I got married in 1966. I loved to cook and I was busy collecting recipes then.

As I think about Eric and my little experiment today, I smile. Somehow, I think his Grandma (whom I have never met) and Melanie's Grandma would be pleased.

The volume of the Cake is everything. Egg Whites are the base for volume and they must be treated very very carefully. Some little tricks of the trade to enhance volume would include:

  • Use Farm Eggs from Free Range Chickens (like Grandma Crawford raised).
  • Use Eggs that are not too fresh, but rather a few days old.
  • Make sure all equipment is clean, as oil, specks of food will reduce volume.
  • Use cold or cool Eggs as the yolk will more likely stay intact.
  • When you separate the Egg whites from the yolks, do not allow any Egg yolk (even specks) into Egg whites.
  • Let Egg whites stand to room temperature and then begin to beat.
  • Follow Grandma's instructions (above) for adding ingredients.
  • Use Cake Flour, not regular flour.
  • Triple sift flour before measuring, and later the flour and sugar mixture. We do not have a Triple Sifter. In fact, I have not seen one recently. We use a strainer with wire mess instead.
  • Fold in flour and sugar very carefully. Use a spatula and a "cutting motion". Do not over-stir.
  • Do not oil or grease Angel Food Cake pan. This allows the Cake to "crawl up" the pan as it rises.
  • When removing Cake from oven, invert Cake to cool.

I chuckle when I think about all of these details. The Old Timers knew such things and they followed them to a "T". When they were making these sophisticated culinary treasures for their families and friends, they were also busy gardening, canning, freezing, tending their kids, feeding their families, making quilts for those they knew, reading the Capper's Weekly, and keeping up with their extended family, friends and community. We think we are busy.

Getting back to the Cake of the Day, I hadn't made an Angel Food Cake in years, until we moved to this little Farm. You can't have a Farm without making Angel Food Cakes. I have to admit that this cake had the highest volume of any I have made this past year. I attribute this to the triple sifting of the flour prior to measurement and the flour and sugar. Before this, I thought I could sneak by.

As the Cake was cooling from its prestigious inverted spot on 3 cups, the beautiful cake fell from the pan. Eric watch it and heard it go thunk. This was a 1st for me. I have never had that happen before. I am wondering if the cake was not quite done...

My family is very forgiving about such things. They stand beside me as I continue my experimenting. They are ready and able for the next time I am ready for a test. This cake is actually just perfect for Eric's recipe as it calls for breaking the cake apart and putting it with Chocolate Pudding and Whipped Cream. Melanie and Eric are making the Chocolate Pudding from scratch as I write this Blog entry.

Yummy... The Slow Food Movement is alive and well on Butterfly Hill Farm. (Resources: 1, 2, 3)Happy Birthday Rachel and Eric!

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