My grandpa took a piece of this angel food cake, wrapped in waxed paper, in his lunch box every day he went to work. This means my grandma had to have a cake on hand every week. It's a good thing they raised their own chickens, because that's a lot of egg whites.
She usually left it unfrosted and when we were at her house she would pull the aluminum cake carrier down from on top of the fridge and we would all get a slice. Only once, do I remember the carrier open to show a frosted cake. She used a seven minute icing. So fluffy and swirly, I always thought it was one of the most beautiful things, and sooooo delicious.
Sometime after I was married, I asked her for the recipe. She pulled out her Betty Crocker cookbook and found the recipe and gave me a few hints to help it turn out just right.
Her first suggestion was to throw away the non-stick coated tube pan I had at home. She quickly found this extra pan hidden away on a shelf in her basement and gave it to me. Angelfood cakes need to climb to the top of the pan and if you don't give them a good surface to climb on, they will slide. Do NOT prep the pan in any way - no butter, no flour - the batter needs to be able to stick to the pan.
As for the eggs, they shouldn't be too fresh. I don't think this is much of an issue if you are using store bought eggs, but if you pick them up at the farmer's market or raise your own, be sure to use eggs that are from last week or older. Also, eggs that are cool separate easier, but eggs at room temperature will have more volume when whipped. What I usually do is separate all my eggs and then let the whites set in the mixing bowl, while I get together all of the other ingredients. Depending on how much time I have to make the cake I may let them set until they are closer to room temperature. It's also important to measure the eggs, especially if you have farm eggs that vary in size more than store eggs. The recipe takes 1 3/4 cups egg whites. On average that is 12 eggs, but when I made this cake it took 14 eggs. I freeze the yolks for another day. I either put them in a plastic container and freeze them in groups of 6 (lemon curd takes 6 yolks) or I put each yolk in it's own compartment in an ice cube tray. Once frozen they can go in a zip closure bag and be used as needed for things like egg noodles and puddings.
My grandmother didn't sift her cake flour for this recipe. I'm thinking if you are making one of these cakes every week, your flour isn't setting around long enough to get too lumpy. After some trial and error, I find it's best to shake my flour through a sieve before I make the cake.
Over the years I've heard people mention the importance of dropping the pan on the floor or tapping in on the counter once the batter is in the pan to remove any air bubbles. Grandma never mentioned this and I've never done it. I have never noticed any giant air bubbles in my cakes, so I have always skipped that step.
1 3/4 cup egg whites
1 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup cake flour (sifted)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and the salt, set aside.
Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites.
Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until frothy.
With the mixer on a medium speed, add the sugar 2 Tablespoons at time. Once all the sugar has been added, turn the mixer on high and whip until soft peaks form, but are still moist and glossy.
Add vanilla, and almond extract.
Dust about 1/4 of the flour mixture over the whites.
To fold you bring the blade of your spatula down through the middle of the bowl, once at the edge closest to you, pull along the bottom and up the side to turn the whites over on top of the flour, then turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat until the flour is incorporated. Then sprinkle with another 1/4 of the flour mixture and fold. Repeat until all the flour is added to the egg whites.
Scoop mixture in tube pan. Try not to get it on the upper part of the pan. If some gets on the top, just wipe it clean with a damp cloth. (you can see here where I swiped a bit away on this one)
Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Remove from oven and invert to cool.
Some pans have little legs on the side, but this pan has a tall center to balance on. Once the cake is cool, run a knife of offset spatula around the outside edge and also around the center tube.
Then run the knife under the cake and turn out onto a plate. You can use an angelfood cake cutter (because it looks cool) or even two forks (held back to back and used to split pieces) to cut the cake, but I find a serrated bread knife works best.
If you have the patience to frost it, here's a cheat version of 7 minute frosting. I should warn you though that if you frost it, it severely hampers your ability to sneak pieces of cake because it is a mess of gooey sticky goodness and having that on your fingers will surely be admission of guilt. You can see it here on some angelfood cupcakes.
cheaters 7 minute icing
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Combine egg whites,salt, sugar, and corn syrup on bowl and whisk together. Place bowl over pan of simmering water. Gently whisk until mixture reaches temperature of 130 degrees and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and beat with hand mixer until the icing is cooled, white, and fluffy. Beat in vanilla.