June 21, 2015
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.
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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