Monday, October 25, 2010

The chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake: or 'The Lost Weekend'

        Friday, October 22: It has been a long summer, and so long since I have been here, or even baked a cake at all. I am thrilled to be back, and delighted to see that an angel food cake is on the agenda. Although I have never made one, I merrily go ahead with little consternation at the many complaints I have heard about it --
So, what is the problem, aside from separating 16 eggs, which may make me a bit nervous, but is it truly a deterrent?
The little mis en place was easy to lay out. I was extremely careful. I wanted to remember every detail, hard enough for me when I am used to baking weekly. Even sifted half the Caster sugar onto parchment; mixed Wondra with salt and sugar; hand-wiped out the mixing bowl with vinegar and then water, along with anything that would be in the area. It was like surgery.
     It has been humid in Texas, and I turned off the air conditioning since I had heard about drafts being problematic. I couldn't locate a properly sized bottle in-house so went to Google where an ingenious chef said, just use a colander and the NordicWare feet will fit over it and it will be suspended high, with the air coming through the colander to the cake. Aha. Good idea. Let's see, what else. The egg whites had been separated cold, but are now coming to room temp. I left them about an hour.
    The horror-oven has preheated to 350'; there is a rack on lower third with a tile. I have had problems with this oven, undoubtedly me and the oven. When I put a thermometer in there it is always 15' lower than the stove temp' indicator. But I left it alone this time. 
    Okay, now just follow directions. Whip egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar.

foamy ready for cream of tartar

soft peaks add sugar incrementsstipeaks add vanilla.    
folded in flour
 Fold in flour in increments of 1/4 c. I used flat skimmer with holes. Lastly, fold in cold finely-ground chocolate. I forgot it because it was in fridge.

 I had lightly frosted inner sides of the pan with some of the batter per Rose's suggestion. Carefully placed batter in pan, smoothed with spatula. Poked some places with knife. Placed in oven and timed for 35 min.

When I returned to the kitchen, the cake looked beautiful, slightly domed, beautiful color. I stuck it with a skewer that seemed to come out dry. Quickly, my husband managed to take the unwieldy, hot object from the stove, and had placed it upside-down onto the waiting colander. At that moment, a huge surge took place and the cake turned on it's side and slid out halfway into the colander receptacle. It was quite impertinent as it cocked it's head and just lay there. I was horrified. How could this happen to me when I had done it all with such precision. Well, it had.

The cake seemed moist and rubbery. I just kept looking at it in a fury, and then just pitched it as a deserter, certainly a desserter. Later, my husband came upon me writing. He asked what I was doing, and I handed him a note upon which was written:

2 dozen eggs, 2 bags of Caster sugar. He just shook his head. The whipping cream for the frosting is still in fridge.

     Saturday, October 23: I knew I had done everything correctly yesterday, and don't know what I can do about the oven. I went to the Forum back as far as 2008, where I found Bill, Patrincia and others having a problem. I must say it was somewhat gratifying to see that even our Patrincia had lost one of these, even though it was selfish to feel that way. Julie and others had suggestions about heat, steam, humidity, oven placement. My brain was spinning. Then I went to Rose's demo of the angel food cake in New York. This is where I learned about lightly frosting the inside of the pan. Also, I saw hers sitting atop a Pellegrino bottle, jauntily tipped to the side ... and it sat there for a full hour plus. She even prepared one in front of us. She did, however, relate that she had lost one the day before. She explained it is important to wait until the doming ceases and the cake flattens out before pulling it. Aha!

     Armed with the new information, I began to scour the surgery once again with vinegar followed by water. I made a star by the ground chocolate entry in my book. I am a lot more easy with it now, and almost know the recipe by heart. I have raised the temperature this time to 355' and I left it in for 35'. It is beautiful! It domes like a pro. I stick it with a skewer, and it seems done. My husband comes to execute the deed. Boom. It plops on its side. I walk away.
     I watch Rose's demo again. I am in a state of confusion and despondency. What could it be? Folding too long and not thoroughly? Or -- the bloody oven too high/too low; too long/too short? My husband said he smelled some electrical fumes outside on the landing of the condo. I smelled them also. I must say, I really hoped the stove was about to blow up so I could have one that I could count on. I did remove the top rack and the tile that usually sits on it since people say excessive heat at the top is not good for the angel food cake.
     So . . . He couldn't believe it. "Pleeeze get more eggs?" I couldn't believe it either. But, dadgummit [or worse], how could I let this cake get the better of me. It, itself, must be willing to help me. Don't they say the third time is the charm?

     Sunday, 24 October: Do I need to tell you that  the third time is not the charm? I even used the famous JB Prince balloon to fold. You have never feasted your eyes upon such a beauty as the one in my hateful oven today, Sunday. It was so perfectly gorgeous in medium brown, luscious and tender looking; domed to about 3 inches, and then flattened out as it was supposed to do. It tested well. But - just as I was taking it out I noted verrry slight separating from the sides, yet with it's brand-new Pellegrino bottle awaiting in the wings, my husband set it askew and it stayed.  Oh, I have accomplished a miracle. I ran for the camera, only to hear my husband shouting: "It's falling!" I didn't get to see that, not that I am masochistic, but I sure did see the rest. And I will rest my case.
        I would venture to say that I will not attempt this cake again -- even though I know how delicate, and delicious with chocolatey bits tastes the beaten meringue batter. Not until, however, I can make it with Rose, whom I believe would be the only one who could teach me. [maybe Woody].
End of Lost Weekend -- lol.


  1. Was it humid? Because humidity is a killer for angel food cakes. It seems to literally melt them. Did you at least turn it into a trifle?

  2. I typed up a long comment, but I don't know if it went through or not. Rather than retype it, I just wanted to tell you that I feel your pain (as you mentioned while referring to my fallen chocolate tweed cake on Rose's blog).

    I'm happy to report I have only had that problem with the chocolate version - and I used a Belgian variety that didn't have the cocoa% listed on the packaging. Anyway, I had a few soupy lemon meringue pies when I was a young bride, and after more than 20 years and kitchen success that far exceeded my dreams, I still have reservations about trying again. And quite frankly, I have no desire to make one.

    (aka Patrincia from

  3. Thanks, Patricia, for always being there. I did use E.Guittard 100% cocoa mass. Maybe one day I will try it w/o chocolate, but it won't be soon.

    Yes, Vicki, my husband says it was very humid with clouds coming in from the Gulf, as opposed to a week ago. Thanks for your help.

  4. oh no, i am sorry for all your fallen cakes! i do admire your tenacity; i would have given up after the first fallen cake. better luck with the next cake!

  5. Oh thanks for your commiseration! It sure does spur me on to WLLLC.

  6. I'm so sorry to hear of your kitchen mishap! I admire your will to try again and again! Don't give up! I'm sure you'll be done. I'm no expert, but the next time, try baking it a little longer than the stated time? :D

  7. I've often thought one of the Chinese Spider Skimmers would work great. I saw a completely stainless steel one at Ross and could kick myself for not buying it.

  8. thanks for support, faithy and Vicki. Yes, you know I will zap into my ocd and do it again. Maybe in California next week just for fun to see how the humidity, and in my friend's Wolf. I am baking WLLLC for sure. I know I can get a spider there at Ross - stainless would be better than the old brass-like ones. Thanks.

  9. Wow! I'm sorry it didn't out well, but I'm impressed that you tried it three times. It's been really humid in Texas the last week so maybe it would turn out better on a drier day.

  10. Whew! I hope so. I will try it when the weather changes. Thanks.

  11. I turn mine unto a funnel... maybe if it's not so far off the table it will stay put??? I got nothing... Like most say, I admire your go do attitude, I would have given up after the first disaster.

    Thank god, I'm not a fan of angel food cake.

  12. you are smart! funnel does sound like a great idea!