Piece of Cake

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This month for Sally’s Baking Challenge, Sally chose Angel Food Cake. I was pretty excited about this for the month of June because Angel Food Cake is my Dad’s favorite cake and Father’s Day is this month! I actually had plans to move last weekend (on Father’s Day weekend), so I was kind of pushing my luck on getting this done in time for Father’s Day dinner the next day, while also trying to keep my sanity in tact. But my Mom was a huge help in that she made sure to have all of the ingredients at the ready for me, and I was able to use her angel food cake pan since mine was in storage.

I also had extra help. Some of my extended family was in town that weekend and were staying with us as well. My cousin Kelsey offered to help me bake this cake so we could spend some quality time together. She had never made an Angel Food Cake from scratch, and we had fun using the food processor and sifter as instructed by Sally’s recipe. Also, we like to goof off…

(L-R, My mom, Cousin Kelsey, and Myself)

Now…I must preface the rest of this post by saying that when I “compete” in these baking challenges, I follow the recipes to a “T”. Usually when I’m using someone else’s recipe, I’ll make small changes based on what I know will work (or won’t work). However, in order to compete in Sally’s baking challenge, you have to leave a review on the recipe itself. So I figure, I might as well follow her instructions and not deviate so that I can “get in her head” as it were. Then, my review will be more accurate.

As you can probably guess, AFC (angel food cake) is a big deal in my family since it is my Dad’s favorite cake. I’ve made this kind of cake many times from a box mix, and a handful of times from scratch. My great grandmother has her own recipe even that we use. Needless to say, there was a fair amount of self-induced pressure on me to make sure that this cake went well.

From here on out is basically the long-winded version of the review I’ll be leaving for Sally. First, some of the methods of this recipe seem a little labor intensive, but after reviewing some other AFC recipes, they are all a little labor intensive at one stage or another. Sally directs us to use a food processor or blender to make the sugar and cake flour “more powdery and aerated”. We chose to use the blender. I would not recommend this. The blender only reaches a small section of all of the ingredients that are in the container at a time. We had to keep stopping and pushing the ingredients around. If we had used a food processor, the blade would have reached most of the ingredients at once, and this process would not have taken as long.

Either way, the batter came together looking like normal. The temperature of the oven and position of the oven rack were the same in all of the recipes, including Sally’s. Now here is where disaster strikes. I feel like I need evil villain music to play during this part. Sally’s instructions say:

“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.”

Sally’s Baking Addiction: Angel Food Cake

I’ll go ahead and reveal the ending to this story, and then back track. Per Sally’s instructions, I set the timer for 20 minutes. I then opened the oven, rotated the cake, and set the timer again for 25 minutes. After 45 minutes, I inserted two toothpicks, into two different parts of the cake. Both toothpicks came out clean. The top (or really the bottom) of the cake wasn’t quite as golden brown as I’m used to seeing, but i figured, “hey, I did exactly what she told me. Maybe she knows something I don’t.” I’m always willing to concede that experienced bakers have little hacks that can drastically improve a recipe.

Well…here is what happened. Let me explain the coke bottle. My mom’s AFC pan belonged to HER grandmother, making it from circa 1935. If you look closely at this picture, you can see that the little prongs on the sides of the pan have long since broken off. But the pan itself still works just fine. So we turn the pan upside down and place it on a coke bottle to cool. We’ve done it like this for 30 + years now, so please don’t think that that’s where we went wrong.

So after the cake came out of the oven, I turned it upside down on the coke bottle and walked away to go hangout with the family. After about 10 minutes, I heard a loud crash from the kitchen. The picture above is what I walked into. We examined the cake fragments only to find out that the cake was not baked all of the way through. There were parts where it was still very meringue-y. I was nothing short of devastated. However, exhaustion was the more prevalent feeling since I didn’t even start making this cake until about 8:00 PM that night (after having moved to a different city earlier that day)

I re-read the directions to my Mom so we could try to figure out where I went wrong. She about lost her mind when I read the part about rotating the pan halfway through. She said you never open the oven on a cake. You can look through the window of the oven for coloring of the cake, and you check it after the allotted amount of time has passed. Also, she said that you do not need to use the toothpick test since you can already see the middle of the cake. Ugh, these seem like really easy, no-brainer tips. I should have known to avoid these things, but now that I think about it, I’ve never felt the need to open the oven while a cake is baking.

These are really weird lessons to learn all because I followed a recipe. But they are still my mistakes. Ones that hopefully I will learn from and not make again. So not only did we not have a cake for Father’s Day, but I failed a baking challenge! Also, my cousin was so excited to bake a cake with my Mom and I, and it literally fell apart. Luckily, my mom and I had previously made a strawberry mousse dessert for Father’s day as a “lighter” option. We may have also thrown a pan of brownies together and put the strawberry mousse on top.

This coming weekend I am going to whip out my great grandmother’s recipe for AFC and compare the differences. I’ll be sure to post the results! Have any of you ever had these problems making an AFC? Have any of you had this problem with Sally’s AFC? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have a great weekend, everyone! -Jen

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