Angel Food Cake was on the on summer to-post list unlike the Lemonade. I crossed it off, and it felt surprisingly good. But not nearly as good as it felt to serve to my extended family after a 3-hour turned 8-hour road trip to the beach last weekend. Fourth of July traffic on the east coast is mighty nasty.
We stayed on Long Beach Island—the tiniest strip of land snuggled between a sound and the Atlantic. As we walked through the town my grandma grew up in, we saw lines painted 4+ feet high with the words “SANDY” etched below—nearly the same height as my 7-year-old cousin. He stood next to cars and houses acting as our measuring stick.
Besides the painted lines on the telephone poles and the sand dunes around the beach towering a little higher than before, you’d never know Hurricane Sandy flooded the island 8 months prior—something I still have trouble fathoming. I can’t help but believe we are built to be resilient little creatures—to survive and bounce back when life hurls it’s little surprises our way, because it most definitely will.
I seem to be stuck on this idea lately. Our surprise move has occupied my every thought the last couple of weeks. In the grand scheme of things, it’s the tiniest of bumps in the road, although it feels like a mountain at the moment. The other week while on our babymoon in Maine, walking down the rocky beach I mentioned, “We have to look back to know how far we’ve come.” All the rocks were starting to look the same. I couldn’t tell one apart from the other, and I was afraid we’d miss the stairs back to our hotel if we kept looking down, tip-toeing to our every step.
I’m learning that I need those shanty lines painted on a poles and long pauses to look back and measure the distance. It’s easy, almost natural, to look down and watch my every step, losing track of where I’m headed. It’s easy to let the storm hit, no matter how big or small, and never realize it’s over—that I made it through, probably stronger than before. In the last couple of years, I’ve often heard my dad reminding me to celebrate—a seemingly simple concept. But in order to celebrate, you have to know what you’re celebrating. And the only way to do that is to stop and look at the polls and measure the distance. It may be tiny, stupidly tiny, but today I’m celebrating crossing this cake off my summer to-post list. I’ll start packing tomorrow.
This is a light cake perfect for summer. Don’t let the meringue scare you. Make sure your bowl is completely clean and dry before adding egg whites and whip away. The frothy egg whites will turn into a glossy meringue in no time.
7/8 c. all-purpose unbleached flour*
2 tbsp. cornstarch or potato starch
dash of sea salt
12 large egg whites
1 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 c. pure cane sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon juice, fresh
Reposition baking rack in the lower third of oven. Preheat to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, starch, and salt until evenly combined. Set aside.
Using a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and begin mixing on medium until frothy, about 1 minute.
Add in cream of tartar and continue beating on medium until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.
Increase to high and slowly add in the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time allowing time to dissolve before the next addition. Meringue will begin to thicken.
Continue to beat until stiff peaks form. To check, pull up whisk attachment out of the meringue. A stiff peak should hold in place. Batter will look glossy.
Gently fold in extract, lemon juice, and flour with a spatula, making deep swooping motions through the batter.
Once evenly combined, distribute batter into an angel food cake pan with a removable bottom. Spraying the pan in this case is a no, no. Run a sharp knife through the batter and rap the pan on the counter several times to remove any air pockets.
Bake for about 30 minutes. Top will be golden.
Immediately invert onto a wine bottle and allow to cool completely for 1-2 hours.
To remove cake, use a thin, sharp knife to loosen the edges from the pan. Remove and loosen the top of the cake from the pan. Carefully invert.
Serve with macerated berries and whipped cream (or whatever your heart desires). Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
*Typically angel food cake calls for cake flour (lighter than regular flour), but I never keep it around. You can easily substitue the flour and the starch for one cup of cake flour in this recipe. Side note: to measure 7/8 cup of the regular flour, measure one cup of flour and remove 2 tablespoons.