Easy Recipe for Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake. Follow this simple recipe for the best angel food cake you’ve ever made. Perfect served with berries and whipped cream.
If you’ve baked angel food cake before, this recipe asks you to forget almost everything you know about the process. And if you’ve never baked an angel food cake, you’re in luck. This version is ridiculously easy–and you don’t need to forget any prior techniques!
Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake 101
Let’s start at the beginning: what’s an angel food cake? To an eater, it’s a sweet, billowy cake that’s a perfect canvas for ripe berries and whipped cream.
To a baker, it’s a cross between a chiffon cake and a meringue. Unlike my gluten-free chiffon cake, there’s nary a drop of fat in the recipe.
But it’s the meringue that’s really important. Without a perfectly whipped meringue, this cake simply doesn’t work. (If whipping egg whites isn’t your thing, I’d suggest making a gluten-free white cake. The texture is totally different but both cakes are yummy!)
Traditional angel food cake recipes require you to whip together egg whites with half the sugar called for in a recipe. Then, scoop by scoop, you add the remaining sugar and flour. Praying to the angels that the whipped egg whites don’t deflate.
This technique makes sense, it’s rooted in a classic French meringue. It also makes sense when you remember that angel food cake was created at a time when stand mixers weren’t as common or as powerful as they are today. If you needed to whip the whites by hand, adding the sugar in stages makes sense. But it’s no longer necessary.
Enter the new angel of angel food cake: Stella Parks.
In her book, Bravetart, she writes:
“Problem is, angel food requires more sugar than a French meringue can handle, so the rest has to be sifted into the flour and folded in at the end. The sheer volume of dry ingredients makes that last step tricky, as over-mixing will deflate the fragile meringue (hence, many bakers are intimidated by angel food).
That approach, however difficult, was once a baker’s best bet, and the easiest method if whipping by hand. But with the horsepower of a modern stand mixer, it’s needlessly fussy, so I don’t fret over angel food. I throw the cold egg whites in a bowl, add my sugar all at once, and beat it. Just beat it.”
She just…beats together cold egg whites and sugar. When I read that, it gave me pause. Everything I’d learned about whipping egg whites with sugar had taught me that adding that much sugar to egg whites would mean the whites would never whip up light and fluffy.
I combined the sugar, cold(!) egg whites, and some cream of tartar. Turned on the mixer and stood there with delight as they whipped into shiny soft peaks.
So simple! So easy!
Adding the Gluten-Free Flour
After the egg whites whip to a soft peak stage, when they look shiny and glossy but nowhere near stiff, it’s time to add the gluten-free flour. During testing, I used Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour. If you use a different flour blend, the cake might turn out differently from mine. For the best results, I strongly recommend using this blend.
For the first few tests, I attempted to fold the flour into the whipped egg whites with a rubber spatula. This lead to some of the flour sinking to the bottom of the mixing bowl—causing the batter to deflated and bake with streaks of unhydrated flour throughout.
The solution to the problem was simple. I added the flour, in four additions, with the stand mixer running. As soon as the last bit of flour is incorporated, you’re done. It’s time for the pan.
Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake: The Pan
The pan is an integral part of the success of angel food cake. Here’s the lowdown: you need a 10-inch uncoated tube pan.
As the cake bakes, it needs to cling to the sides of the pan. If it can’t stick to the pan, the cake will sink and turn out heavy.
If you need to buy an angel food pan, look for one with legs. The cake is cooled upside down. If your pan has feet, you simply flip it over. If the pan doesn’t have legs, you need to find something, like a bottle or stack of cans, to rest the pan on while it cools. While this isn’t hard, it’s a bit of a pain.
Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake: The Old Rules (That you should follow!)
Don’t Use a Nonstick Pan
To achieve its full height, angel food cake needs to clings to the side of the pan as it bakes and cools. Use an uncoated pan. Nonstick pans just won’t work.
De-grease the Bowl and Whisk
Egg whites require a grease/fat-free environment to whip up to full height. Remove any greasy film from your bowl and whisk attachment prior to whipping the eggs.
Keep Egg Yolks Out the Mix
When separating the egg whites from the yolks, it’s a good idea to separate the egg white into an individual bowl. Then pour the white into the mixing bowl. This way if a little bit of egg yolk gets into the white, you can easily remove it. (To remove a little yolk, use half an eggshell. The edge of the shell cuts through egg whites.)
Cool Upside Down
Angel food cakes, like chiffon cakes, require an unusual step: you cool them upside down. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, flip it over.
Many angel food cake pans have little legs on them, making it easy to flip the pan over and cool it on the legs. If your pan doesn’t have feet, carefully invert the pan onto the neck of a bottle or a stack of cans.
Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake: The New Rules
Use Cold Eggs
Don’t worry about bringing the egg whites to room temperature. Cold egg whites work just fine.
Use a Timer
The egg whites and sugar are whipped in three stages. For the best results, use a timer for each stage. Because, for step two, six full minutes of mixing is longer than you think and a timer keeps you honest.
Use a Standmixer
This recipe requires a stand mixer. (I’m working on a version that can be made with a handheld mixer. )
Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake Troubleshooting
Why did my angel food cake fall out of the pan?
There are some common causes for this.
- The cake was underbaked. This is the most common problem. If the cake is underbaked, even just a little, the moisture remaining in the cake makes it heavy and the weight pulls it out of the pan. Bake the cake until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees F. At this point, the cake will look golden brown.
- The pan was coated. Angel food cake needs to cling to the pan when cooling. If the pan was coated with a nonstick coating or if it was sprayed with oil before baking, it will slip from the pan.
- The Kitchen was cold. If your kitchen is 68 degrees for below, the cake can contact and fall from the pan before it sets. Stella Parks suggests this solution for cold kitchens: open the oven door and place the inverted cake on the stovetop, where drafts of warm air will stabilize its temperature.
Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake: Supplies
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Bravetart by Stella Parks (Note: this is NOT a gluten-free cookbook but it does contain gluten-free alternatives for many recipes.)
Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake
Easy Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake. Light and Tender.
- 1 cup gluten-free baking flour (5 ounces; 142 grams)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (11 ounces; 312 grams)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 12 large egg whites (about 14 ounces; 113 grams)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Adjust oven rack to the middle position and remove the top rack. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Sift gluten-free flour and set aside. Stir together granulated sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add egg whites and vanilla extract. Whisk on low to combine, about 1 minute.
- Increase speed to medium-high (6-8 on a KitchenAid) and whip 6 minutes.
Increase speed to high (10 on a KitchenAid) and whip until the meringue is shiny, white, and thick. This takes between 2-4 minutes. The tines of the whisk should leave a pattern in the meringue. Stop the mixer and remove the whisk attachment from the bowl. The meringue clinging to the whisk should form a very soft peak. You want it to fall in a thick ribbon off the whisk. Replace the whisk and turn the mixer back on to high speed.
Add the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, and mix until incorporated. Allow each addition of flour to incorporate before adding the next.
- Spoon batter into an ungreased 10-inch aluminum tube pan.
- Bake until the cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 50 minutes. (The internal temperature of the cake should be 206°F.)
Remove pan from oven and immediately invert onto the legs of the pan. If the pan does not have legs, invert onto the neck of a wine bottle. Cool for at least 2 hours. If the kitchen is cold, place the pan on top of the oven to cool and prop the oven door open.
- Slide an offset spatula around the sides of the cake to loosen. Remove the insert, and slide a spatula under the bottom of the cake.
Gently lift the cake off the insert and place onto a serving dish. To serve, cut with a serrated knife. Store leftovers wrapped tightly in plastic for up to 1 week at room temperature.