Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Still Amazing Angel Food Cake

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We’ve made this cake before. Many times. But I thought I’d make it again for a dual birthday celebration we had a few weeks ago. This cake was for the Pie’s grandmother, who recently turned NINETY. The next cake on our list I made for Papa John, her son, who turned SEVENTY at the same time. The Pie’s grandmother is a celiac and she’s also lactose-intolerant, so making her a special treat for her birthday was going to be a challenge I looked forward to.

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And why not actually go through the old traditional way where¬†you make an angel food cake the same day as a devil’s food cake, so that you can use up all the yolks? So the devil’s food cake will be in my next post – stay tuned!

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Begin with your egg whites. Separate 12 eggs, saving the yolks for the chocolate cake coming up (you can freeze them), and bring them to room temperature. Normally I do this by leaving the bowl in a patch of sun on my counter but if you’re in a hurry, you can set the bowl in warm water and that’ll do the trick too. Don’t try to use pasteurized egg whites from a carton: they will not whip at all. I’ve tried.

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Plop your 12 egg whites in the bowl of your electric mixer with 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar and 2 teaspoons vanilla (or however much a generous dollop is. I never measure vanilla).

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Beat that with the whisk attachment until it’s nice and thick and foamy, and then slowly tip in 1 cup granulated sugar while you beat it some more. It’s the sugar that makes the meringue here stiff and solid, so don’t skimp on it!

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The meringue should be stiff enough to support the weight of the beater if you took it off the armature and set it on top.

Once that’s ready you can set it aside for the moment and whisk together your “flour.” In this case, our tried-and-true combination for gluten-free gorgeousness is 1 1/3 cups icing sugar, 1/2 cup tapioca flour/starch, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/4 cup rice flour, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 1/4 teaspoon (a pinch) fine salt.

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Fold that flour mixture into the meringue mixture very carefully. You have to be gentle enough that you don’t smush the bubbles in the egg white, but thorough enough that you’re not leaving pockets of flour in the batter.

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Good enough.

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Smooth the batter into an UNGREASED angel food pan (can’t stress that enough, never grease your angel food pan or it will fall out on you).

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Pop that in the oven for 35 minutes, until the top is golden-brown and dry to the touch. If you see cracks, that’s good.

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Fantastic. Now take it out of the oven and invert it over a bottle or if it has feet, stand it on the feet. This keeps the cake from collapsing under its own weight as it cools. Once it cools it’s a lot more firm. The gluten-free version is always way squishier than the gluten-y one so this is very important.

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Here’s my issue: my angel food pan is actually NON-STICK. So as I was inverting it, the bottom segment shifted away from the sides and I bobbled the whole thing, dropping it with a clatter. KABOOM.

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At precisely that moment and not ten feet away, the Pie had just put his elbow down on LongJohn’s plate, spectacularly spattering his lunch all over the floor and wall. Windows too. That’s the kind of day we were having.

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So I made another one. Which meant that we had not just 12, but 24 egg yolks. And a busted cake. “I guess that means we’re having trifle for dessert tonight,” said the Pie as he scrubbed hummus off the wall.

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So that’s what we did. But that’s neither here nor there. I made the other cake. And it turned out even better than the previous one.

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You can see that the pan is trying its best to screw me over by separating. Jerk.

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Once the cake has cooled you can decant it from the pan and decorate it as you see fit. I usually whip up some cream and slather it all over with some fresh berries, but the Pie’s grandmother is also lactose intolerant, so I decided to try whipping coconut cream instead.

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Coconut cream is a bit harder to find in Ottawa than regular coconut milk, but I eventually tracked some down in the local health food store. I was told by the cashier that the trick in getting it good and whippy is to make sure the cream, beaters, and bowl are all extremely cold. So the 2 cans coconut cream went into the fridge overnight and the beaters and the bowl went into the freezer.

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I tipped the cream into the ice cold mixer bowl together with a few tablespoons icing sugar and a dobble or two of vanilla bean paste and gave it a whirl with the whisk attachment.

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It takes a while, and it doesn’t get as stiff as whipped dairy cream, but it sure tastes good.

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Slather that all over the cake. It’s a bit slippery so make sure to keep it in the fridge until you’re serving. Does anyone know if there’s some kind of stiffening agent you could add to make it stay put?

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Pop some berries on top and in the hole in the middle and we are good to go!

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