Angel’s Food

June 21, 2015

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When I was in Madison a couple of weeks ago, a pleasant gentleman came up to ask if I’d ever heard of a Rekul Pan-O-Cake. 

I hadn’t.  He handed me a Xerox of a Clementine Paddleford Food Flash from Gourmet in 1947. Here’s Ms. Paddleford.

"Angel foods, the real heavenly kind, snowy white, soft as down, tall and lithesome, are going places by mail, traveling in the Wearever aluminum pans in which they are baked.  These are big cakes, the thirteen-egg kind, nine inches in diameter, four inches high.  The price, $2.50 post paid. 

The pan is yours, or return it for a refill.  The next cakes costs but $1.25." 

To make a long story short, Jackson Luker discovered that his angel food cakes got better over time if he left them in the pan.  And so he started his mail order business.  By 1947 he was selling half a million cakes a year.  That's an awful lot of egg whites.

The company is no more, but I was curious.  I found a couple of the old Rekul pans on Ebay and immediately ordered them. They’re sturdy pans – and they really do make great cakes.   

The man in Madison?  He’s Jack Luker’s son – and he remembers growing up “washing the concrete-like dried crust out of the pans in order to bake more cakes." 

I’m with him there; these are great pans – but it’s hard to get the cakes out (you’re supposed to bang the cake on a board, really hard, to remove it from the pan) – and even harder to wash the pans. 

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The Best Angel Food Cake Recipe I Know

When my friend Marion Cunningham was working on The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook, she sent a recipe for Angel Food Cake to thirty-five bakers, asking them each to bake the cake, exactly as written, and bring it to a meeting. She called me afterward in great excitement; “You would not believe how different they were,” she marveled. “They all had holes in the middle, but other than that, each cake was unique.”  Appalled by this, she and the other bakers decided to perfect the recipe. This cake, created by Flo Braker, is angel food perfection. Follow these instructions and you will have a high, white cloud-like confection that truly does seem food fit for angels.

Five Steps to a Better Angel Food Cake

1. Cold eggs are easier to separate, so do it when the eggs are right out of the refrigerator. 

2.If even the tiniest amount of fat gets into the eggs they will refuse to whip.  So separate each egg  white into a separate bowl before adding it to the others, in case one of the yolks breaks. 

3. Leave your egg whites in the bowl, out of the refrigerator, for about an hour. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the optimum temperature is 60 degrees. The white are more viscous at this temperature, and the air bubbles are more stable.  (Room temperature is about 70 degrees; they will whip more quickly, but at this temperature they are easy to overbeat.)

4.To insure that there is no grease on the bowl or beater, wipe them with white vinegar and rinse in very hot water.  Dry well.

5. Make sure your oven is 350 degrees. If the oven’s too low, the sugar will absorb the liquid from the egg whites and turn syrupy.  If it’s too hot, the outside will set before the interior. 

6. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing it from the pan.

 

Angel Food Cake (from Baker’s Dozen Cookbook) 

12 large egg whites

1 1/2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

1 cup sifted cake flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla.

Allow the egg whites to sit in the bowl of a stand mixer for about an hour, to come to just above room temperature (70 degrees).

Sift the confectioner’s sugar, cake flour and salt together. 

Whip egg whites at low speed until they are foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and increase the speed to medium.  Keep whipping, gradually adding the cup of granulated sugar, until the whites thicken and form soft, droopy peaks.  Add vanilla.

Sprinkle a quarter cup of the flour mixture over the whites and fold it in, by hand, with a rubber spatula. Repeat with the next quarter, and the next, until all the flour has all been gently folded in. Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

Bake at 350 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden, the top springs back when you touch it, and a toothpick comes out clean. Invert the pan onto the neck of a bottle.  Leave for 3 hours so that the cake is completely cool. 

Run a knife around the sides of pan until you feel it release. Then push up the bottom of the pan. Loosen the cake bottom by tapping on a counter until it’s free and invert onto a plate, and then back onto a cake platter.

Slice with a serrated knife.

 

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15 Comments

  • Oh, wow!! That pan looks really good… It must be old but looks almost new…
    Pity it is so difficult to get the cake out!,

  • Makes you wonder what Lukor did with all the yolks. I’ve always meant to make angel food cake, but the number of eggs has been the barrier. Got to get over it; at least for a special occasion.

  • Tom Luker says:

    Ruth, so nice of you to post the note about me (Tom Luker) coming to your book-signing in Madison a full year ago! I was not aware your comments about getting to meet you. I occasionally Google Rekul Pan-O-Cake and did so today since we’re in the process of adding two more relatives as recipients of a pan. One is my late brother’s first wife in California and the other is his third daughter in Alabama. This makes a total of 5 children, 12 grandchildren, 1 sister-in-law and 1 niece to now being able to bake in a heavy aluminum pan of the 1940s, 50s & 60s! I usually like to check to see what they’re selling for on the internet. Fascinating!

    One reason why I came to you your book-signing (I bought “Delicious”) was that you were once in the same position as Clementine Paddleford at Gourmet magazine and the other was to show you what you so lovingly written & pictured in this posting.

    I wish I had the original 13-egg recipe from our cakes but I don’t have. My adopted father (Jack & Norma Luker adopted Tom & Dick Stinson in 1946 after our parents had died and the connection between us, my natural mother, Vivian Stinson was because of the angel food cake! On September 29, 1939 in Peoria, Illinois I was age 4 and attended the Illinois Bakers Convention with my father, Paul Stinson, who had an exhibit there as he was a leading salesman. of Ware Ever Aluminum cookware, from household to industrial. Jack Luker also had an exhibit of his angel cakes, as he was starting to sell outside of Urbana to grocery stores as a loss leader for the purpose of attracting customers over week ends. I tasted the cake, legend has it. My father died five months later due to old-fashioned pneumonia, just before penicillin came out.

    My mother moved to Villisca, Iowa to be close to my father’s parents and was my kindergarten teacher! And later principal of the elementary school. Jack Luker, became acquainted with my mother as he was selling cakes to a grocer in the small southwestern Iowa town. In December, 1945 my mother started on a painful path to death on November 1, 1946 but had the tremendous strength to be concerned about Tom and Dick’s future. She interviewed more than 25 families for adoption, including Boys Town in Omaha. She chose Jack and Norma and we moved to Urbana and changed our name to Luker one year later. There, the long story about my reason for meeting you last year!

    Jack and Norma eventually divorced when I was a junior in high school. She want the bakery to be just local but he wanted to continue to be called “America’s Angel Food Cake King”! I could go on and tell lots of stories about selling Pan-O-Cakes from Washington state to Macy’s and Gimbels in New York, but I’ve already gone on too long! It was wonderful meeting you last year and I’ve enjoyed your book!

  • Pamela says:

    I have several original pans, I am looking for the original recipe, does anyone have it? I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thank you very much,

    Pamela

  • Pamela says:

    I have several of these pans, I would dearly love the original recipe if anyone has it.

    Thank you so much,

    Pam

  • Terry carlson says:

    EASY AS PIE TO REMOVE
    SPARY WITH PAM THEN PUT FLOUR, I PUT LOT AND TAKE IT OUT SIDE, Get it rolling and shaking when it’s cover ,turn it over hit the PAN-O-CAKE pan on a hard surface few times ..add cake mix when done I flip it up side down on a wire rack when it cools I use a thin knife run in around the sides flip it on to my cake plate and take butter knife I tap on the pan few good times never had one stick break then sift powder sugar on it ..omg . I just found my grandma’s pan ,I’m 53 yrs old on the bottom say by agreement do not reuse lol , but grandma alway made me the best wine cake from this pan never knew until to day there was so much written on it lol .

  • Donna Frederick says:

    I have one of these pans and have baked many cakes in it over the years. I can remember growing up getting these pans with the cake in them. We lived in Springfield, Ohio area when I was growing up. I am 71 years old now and getting ready to make my granddaughter a birthday cake using this pan. Just happened to think about looking on the internet to see what I could find about the company. I spray with pam and flour pan and have no problem getting cake out.

  • Ruth Manint says:

    This is all very interesting. I am going through items in our household and I have my mother-in-law’s pan. Decided to check it out on the internet and have found all comments very interesting. She baked lots in it and I have to and plan to continue to do so. Thank you for this information.

  • Jan says:

    This is all great information. I was visiting my sister in Whitefish, MT last week and I found one of these pans in a thrift store ($15). I didn’t know anything about the company but loved the weight of the pan. I seem to gravitate to the kitchen areas of these stores and have unearthed several gems, including this pan! I appreciate being able to date the pan to around 1947 too. As a child of the 50’s, my mother made angel food cakes from scratch but for myself, I have only made the boxed version. If the best ever recipe is in this blog, I am going to give it a go!

  • Rae Williams says:

    I have my mothers rekul pan and absolutely LOVE it. On the bottom it says for the recipe send sase to Urbana ILL.

    My mother won the cake in a grocery store anniversary. After mother’s death I had to beg my brothers for this cake pan … it’s the only one I’ve ever used and only one I ever Will!!!

  • Bill thon says:

    Seems like a recipe will materialize eventually as you could send off for the recipe with a SASE

  • Tom Luker says:

    It’s been wonderful to read the recent comments, especially those asking for the original recipe, but it is missing — however, Ruth’s recipes above are great! If anyone would like to call me about their pans, please give me a call at 608-833-7526. Thanks — Tom Luker

  • Hobbs says:

    I just found one and was so happy to find this article and thread of comments!

  • Judi Shutt says:

    In the 1950’s my parents operated a Red & White Grocery Store in Ashland, IL. They sold Luker angel food cakes in the store. I remember how the pan had to be pounded on a board to remove the cake. I have used one of the pans for 58 years and never have any difficulty removing any type of cake from the pan.

  • Lawrence Theisen says:

    I got one of your pans from an auction not knowing what was in the box ,I got the who box for 2.00 I made a cake per the instructions on your web site , I must say it turned out different, but it was very delicious , wont go back to the box cake now and I do plan to keep thee pan, sorry neighbors . this baby is mime.

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