Many people resort to store-bought angel food cake since it can be a bit intimidating to make. Today I am here to tell you that this is not always the case! This recipe uses simple ingredients and is easy to follow. It is also gluten-free and lower in sugar than other angel food cakes. The result: a fluffy, light and flavourful treat. I hope you enjoy this easy gluten-free angel food cake recipe!
What is angel food cake?
Angel food cake is an American dessert that has been around since the 1800’s. It is unique in that it does not require butter, yet has a spongy, delicate texture. It’s infamous fluffiness comes from whipping egg whites, sugar and an acid into a meringue-like batter, then combining it with a flour mixture before baking.
It is known for having a hole in its centre from the tube pan that it is traditionally baked in. And it is often served with whipped cream, powdered sugar and berries. It is a popular summer treat, but can be enjoyed year-round or on holidays like Easter (topped with melted chocolate and eggs), Christmas (with cream and cranberries) or Passover (as it is an unleavened dessert).
One of the reasons that is it a bit complicated to make is that the the ingredients and process are different from your standard vanilla cake. But don’t worry – I am here to help answer all of your questions so that you can recreate this classic angel food cake recipe.
Is angel food cake gluten-free?
Store-bought angel food cake is NOT gluten-free unless otherwise specified. It often contains cake flour made from wheat. Cake mixes, such as the Betty Crocker angel food cake mix also contains wheat flour, as do most other boxed mixes. So, unless you can find a brand that produces a gluten-free version, you may be stuck making your own. Luckily for you, I have you covered.
Is cream of tartar necessary for angel food cake?
Cream of tartar, or potassium bitartrate, is a powdered acid that is most commonly used in baking, but is also a byproduct of the wine-making process. The purpose of cream of tartar in angel food cake is to help stabilize and add volume (“peaks”) to the egg whites. This is crucial in getting the height and texture characteristic of a sponge cake.
Cream of tartar is available at most grocery stores, however, not everyone has it on hand. For this reason, I used lemon juice in this recipe instead. Lemon juice provides the same acidic properties as cream of tartar and can be used as a suitable substitute. So yes, you can make angel food cake without cream of tartar.
Other cream of tartar substitutes include vinegar, baking powder, buttermilk and yogurt (1). I have not tested any of these for this recipe, and I would not recommend using vinegar as a substitution here. But if you have tried any of these other substitutes successfully, please do let me know!
How do you separate eggs?
This gluten-free sponge cake requires 12 egg whites. The egg whites should come from whole eggs rather than using a carton of liquid egg whites. These pre-packaged egg whites contain preservatives that may impact the volume and texture of the cake. But don’t let this deter you – separating egg whites is easy when using the 3-bowl method.
As the method title states, you will need 3 bowls – 1 small and 2 medium-sized. Crack the first egg into the first bowl (small). Use a clean hand to gently scoop out the yolk and place it in the second bowl (medium). Pour the egg white into the third bowl (medium) and repeat this until all the eggs are separated.
When using the 3-bowl method, you must make sure that you do not get any yolk in the egg whites. The yolk has a high concentration of fat, which will interfere with the fluffy meringue properties of the cake.
When you are done this step you will use the egg whites in the recipe, but don’t throw away those leftover yolks. You can use them to make hollandaise sauce, custard, or, what I often do, is buy a small carton of egg whites and mix them with the yolks to make scrambled eggs and omelettes.
Do you have to make angel food cake in a tube pan?
The first time that I made angel food cake I googled this exact question. I didn’t have a tube pan and thought that the hole in the middle of the cake was for visual aesthetic rather than function. Long story short – I was wrong. Using a tube pan is important if you plan on using the batter for cake instead of cupcakes (more on angel food cupcakes below).
Since this cake is so light and does not use a leavening agent like yeast, baking powder or baking soda, it requires the hollow tube in the centre of the tube pan to “climb” up. This is also why we use a non-greased pan when making angel food cake recipes. If we grease the pan, the cake will not climb as high and will result in a more dense finished product.
If you don’t have a tube pan but are set on making angel food cake in any shape or form, that is no problem. Instead you can make angel food cupcakes! Pour the batter into non-greased cupcake pans, and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Be sure to check on them periodically while in the oven, as the baking time may vary.
How do you make angel food cake from scratch?
What you’ll need:
- Egg whites
- Gluten-free all purpose flour
- Lemon juice
- Vanilla extract
- Almond extract
For the Whipped Cream Topping:
- Whipping cream
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract
Angel Food Cake
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar (NOTE – this is not all the sugar), salt and cornstarch. Set the bowl aside for later.
With a stand or handheld mixer beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy/frothy, about 1-2 minutes. I do not recommend trying to do this by hand, as it will take much longer and will likely give you a hand cramp along the way. Add the lemon juice and beat for another minute. Add the vanilla and almond extract and beat on high for another minute.
Very slowly, add the rest of the sugar to the egg mixture and continue to beat until soft peaks form, about 4-5 minutes. At this point, if you tilt the bowl upside down, the mixture should remain in place.
Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture one spoonful at a time, so that you don’t flatten the eggs.
Scrape the batter into a non-greased standard 10-inch angel food cake pan (aka tube pan). I use a Wilton 10-inch Angel Food Cake pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is a golden brown colour.
Cool the cake in the cake pan on a wire rack for 2-3 hours. Then run a knife around the outside of the cake to ensure it comes out intact. Most tube pans have a removable bottom. If you are having difficulty getting the cake out of the pan you can carefully push the bottom out after you have scraped the edges. However, you MUST allow for the cake to cool before removing it from the pan. If you don’t it may deflate.
Whipped Cream Topping
Add cream, sugar and vanilla extract into a stand mixer or bowl with a hand mixer. Beat consistently on medium/high for 1 minute or until peaks form.
Smooth over cooled cake and top with berries or other favourite angel food toppings.
This classic is perfect for picnics, BBQ’s, birthdays and just about any holiday. Enjoy!
You can store leftover cake for up to 2 days at room temperature or for up to a week in the refrigerator. It also freezes well for up to 3 months. Make sure that it is wrapped and stored well to avoid freezer burn.
As always, if you have any questions, comments or substitutions that you have tried, please comment and rate this post. I appreciate any feedback and would love to hear how you enjoyed your Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake!
Are you looking for more dessert ideas? Find more recipes here!
Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake
Angel Food Cake
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup gluten-free all purpose flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 12 large egg whites
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp almond extract
Whipped Cream Topping
- 1½ cups whipping cream
- 2 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Angel Food Cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar (NOTE – not all the sugar), salt and cornstarch. Set aside for later.
- With a stand or handheld mixer beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy/frothy, about 1-2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and beat for another minute. Add the vanilla and almond extract and beat on high for another minute.
- Very slowly, add the other ¾ cup of sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form, about 4-5 minutes. At this point, if you tilt the bowl upside down, the mixture should remain in the bowl.
- Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture one spoonful at a time, so that you don’t flatten the eggs.
- Pour the batter into a standard 10-inch angel food cake pan (a non-greased tube pan). Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown in colour.
- Cool the cake in the cake pan on a wire rack for 2-3 hours. Then run a knife around the outside of the cake to ensure it comes out intact.
Whipped Cream Topping
- Add cream, sugar and vanilla extract into a stand mixer or bowl with a hand mixer. Beat consistently on medium/high for 1 minute or until peaks form.
- Smooth over cooled cake and top with berries or other favourite toppings.