Angel food cake was one of the first recipes that I taught myself to bake. I was around twelve years old when I first separated a dozen eggs and followed the recipe in one of my mother’s cookbooks. I marveled at the egg whites as they were transformed into a light and airy meringue and baked into a delicious angel food cake.
That was decades ago. Now I find myself with my own daughter who is twelve years old. We love to spend time in the kitchen baking and cooking together. I also find myself as a chicken keeper with a supply of fresh eggs to use in our baking recipes.
It’s the chicken keeper in me that shies away from making traditional angel food cake. My reason is simple: I can’t bear the thought of having a dozen egg yolks that are purposely cast aside from a recipe. I make an exception when it comes to meringue cookies. It’s no great feat to find a way to use the three egg yolks left behind. Twelve egg yolks left from an angel food cake are quite another thing.
Luckily, I don’’t have to. Earlier this year, my Mom shared my Great grandmother’s handwritten recipe for daffodil cake with me. Instead of twelve eggs, it called for only six. My great grandparents were farmers and chicken keepers. Apparently they didn’t want to cast aside twelve egg yolks either.
Instead, they baked Daffodil Cake. As soon as I read the recipe, I understood why. The technique was altogether simple and brilliant. This cake would allow me to celebrate the best of both the egg white and egg yolk in one delicious cake.
My daughter and I gathered in our farmhouse kitchen this spring to make our first daffodil cake. I watched the look on her face as she whipped the egg whites into a beautifully made meringue. We worked together until the cake preparation was complete. She slid the cake into the oven, set the timer and we wondered aloud how the finished cake would look and taste.
I am happy to report that we loved both the taste and appearance of the daffodil cake. The color of the egg yolk mixture was a strikingly beautiful yellow. The texture was light and airy and the flavor was everything I love about an angel food cake and more.
The egg yolks added a delicious richness to the cake without compromising the lightness of the meringue. It wasn’t a fancy cake. Instead, it was the cake of a farmer, the dessert of a chicken keeper. This cake celebrated the beauty of fresh eggs. Each bite reminded me that I was proud to be a chicken keeper and collect fresh eggs from our coop every day.
More than that, the whole experience created a memory that I will hold close for a lifetime. Standing in our farmhouse kitchen with my daughter baking a cake from a recipe in her Great great grandmother‘s handwriting was a moment that connected the generations of my family past and present. Having a delicious cake to share around our family table was merely a bonus.
- 6 large eggs
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ¾ cup (144 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup (60 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons warm water
- ½ cup (96 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup (60 grams) all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Position the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
- Separate all six eggs, placing the egg whites in a large bowl that has been wiped clean with a paper towel moistened with white vinegar. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Add the salt to the egg whites and beat at medium-high speed using a hand mixer or stand mixer until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat at high speed, adding the ¾ cup sugar a few Tablespoons at a time until the mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. Set the meringue aside as you prepare the egg yolk mixture.
- Add the warm water to the egg yolks and mix on medium speed using a whisk or mixer. Add ½ cup sugar, vanilla extract, baking powder, and flour. Mix until the batter is completely smooth.
- Using a spatula, gently move a portion of the meringue away from the side of its mixing bowl.
- Add the vanilla and ½ cup flour to the space created by moving the meringue. This step prevents the weight of the flour from deflating the airy meringue. Using the spatula, gently fold the meringue until the flour and vanilla extract are fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
- Transfer two thirds of the meringue mixture to an ungreased angel food cake pan, spreading lightly if necessary to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the egg yolk mixture to the pan. There is no need to spread the yolk mixture or completely cover the meringue. Add the remaining meringue to the pan. Using a skewer or toothpick, lightly swirl the two batters by moving in a random pattern around the pan.
- Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. When fully baked, a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out with crumbs attached. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cake to cool.
- Once cool, run a sharp knife or small metal offset spatula around the outside of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert the cool cake onto a plate. Slice the cake into slices and serve plain or dressed with fresh berries and whipped cream.
- The light, airy texture of this cake depends on a properly beaten meringue. A mile high meringue is easily achievable with one easy step. Simply wipe your mixing bowl and beaters with a paper towel moistened with white vinegar before beating the egg whites. This will ensure that your bowl and beaters are free of any traces of fat. Fat residue jeopardizes your ability to whip the egg whites into a meringue with stiff, glossy peaks.
- To prevent batter from falling into the center tube as you are transferring the batter to the pan, place an overturned cupcake wrapper over the tube. Fill the pan, remove the wrapper, and bake as directed without letting any of the batter go to waste.
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