Monday, August 24, 2009

Chocolate Angel Food Cake Fail

The overwhelming theme of my baking projects this week is failure. Justin and I stopped in at the Stanislaus County Library on Thursday and came home with a huge stack of cookbooks: Moosewood New Classics, Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads and Buttercup Bakes at Home. So far we've tackled a recipe from each of them, but the most tantalizing of the books, by far, was the last one. "More than 75 new recipes from Manhattan's premier bake shop," it sang to me from the front cover. "Tempting homemade sweets," it purred. Even as it dragged me down, I could not resist its siren song.

To be honest, that nectarine tart debacle kind of shook my confidence. I'm not a professional baker by any means, but I like to think I kind of know what I'm doing in the kitchen. I was tentative, but optimistic, when I picked out the Chocolate Angel Food Cake recipe from Buttercup Bakes at Home. Angel food cake is a little challenging, but as long as you sift the ingredients enough and get the egg whites sufficiently stiff, you're good, right? At least, this is what I thought going into it. Below is the recipe, which tasted amazing, but with which I have one very, very large disagreement. See if you can spot it based on the pictures.


Chocolate Angel Food Cake from Buttercup Bakes at Home

3/4 cup cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I tend to go for Scharrfen Berger)
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
13 or 14 large egg whites (~2 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set out an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and cocoa powder with 3/4 cup of sugar. Sift these together three separate times. Set aside.

Place the egg whites in a standing mixer bowl and, using the whisk attachment, turn mixer to lowest speed. After 1 minute, add the cream of tartar, vanilla, and salt. After another minute of beating, turn the mixer to medium speed and gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula when all the sugar has been added. Resume beating until the whites are stiff but moist, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Sift the flour-sugar mixture a fourth time over the egg white mixture and gently fold until all the dry ingredients are mixed in.

Fill the pan immediately and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Test for doneness at 30 minutes; if tester comes out clean with no traces of batter, it is done. The cake should be lightly browned and spring back when pressed gently with finger. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove the pan and cool completely on a wire rack (place the pan upside down on an empty bottle for easier removal).


The aftermath?

Ungreased tube pan? Ungreased?! Maybe if you have some special I-can-get-sticky-things-out-of-ungreased-cake-pans skill, something that I am not, apparently, blessed with. And the book's advice didn't help that much: "place the pan upside down on an empty bottle for easier removal." Seriously? I didn't really see the point of this exercise, beyond that an upside down cake inside a pan on top of a coke bottle is kind of amusing. You know, in a terribly defeating sort of way.

So I guess I'll pose a question to you all: how do you guys get sticky things out of pans, if not by greasing and flouring them? Obviously I'm in need of help. This was a very promising recipe - the broken chunks were definitely tasty - but it's just not workable, for me, as is.


NikiTheo said...

You have to get one of those angel food cake pans that has a bottom that separates from the sides and has three prongs along the sides. That way when you flip it over (believe me, you NEED to flip it over, immediately!!), you don't have to worry about a coke bottle, you can just set it n the prongs. You can't grease the pan b/c then the cake won't fluff up, it'll just slide right back down the sides of the cake pan.
Trust me, it'll work if you follow the directions exactly! I made a chiffon cake when i was in school and was a bit unsure about it all too, but it came out and it was awesome! I think I'll make this cake this weekend actually!

Dana said...

Oh my God, that would help SO MUCH. Thank you! I need to get one of those.

Alex Solla said...

If you can find one that has the teflon coatings on the side, that helps too. Enough texture to help it puff, but enough slippage that as it cools it slides right out of the pan. Inverting it immediately helps too because if it cools in the pan, condensation will mix with the sugars and that makes it all messy and sticky! Not to worry. You'll nail this recipe on your next run through.

Good luck!!!

F. Fiori said...

On an emergency cake-pan expedition last Christmas, I ended up buying a silicone tube pan at Sur la Table. This might be a good tool for this sort of thing, since you could squish it around to get the cake out instead of scraping. It's also a very cheerful red color. (Oh, and hi. I'm Laura. I think you went to high school with my fiance or something. I found your blog through a friend of his, and I'm really enjoying reading it!)

Dana said...

Thank you for the tips, Alex and Laura! It does sort of sound like I need a new pan, though this one I have is nonstick, as far as I can tell. I think I need to tip it immediately, too - don't know if I did that this time around.

Who's your fiance, Laura? I didn't know any of my guy friends from high school were engaged!

F. Fiori said...

Ok, I checked with the fiance on the particulars and this is his response:
"I am Reno Fernandez! Yes, I know Justin Souza from Thomas Downey High School and Modesto Junior College in Modesto, California, and I know both Justin and Dana Koster (Souza?) from the University of California at Berkeley. Eat This House!"
We just got engaged a couple of weeks ago.

Dana said...

Congrats, Laura and Reno!