Saturday, March 19, 2011

Angel Food Cake: Rice Flour vs Wheat Flour

My nephew, Logan, is turning one at the end of the month (!!!!). For his birthday party, his mama has requested Angel Food Cake, as it will be easy for his little tummy to handle, and because the party is at lunchtime and a lighter cake will be more digestible for all. There will be one gluten-free partyer in attendance, and I was considering trying to make a GF angel food cake. "You don't have to," my sis-in-law told me, but, "My friends were asking if you were making a dessert. You have a bit of a following." Well well well, flattery will get you everywhere! If that's the case, I must outperform everyone's expectation, of course! Having never made angel food cake of any kind before, I borrowed a couple of pans and started with the basic angel cake recipe from the Joy of Cooking.

The recipe calls for a dozen egg whites (holy moly!) and I didn't want to use two dozen in my test run, so I made one recipe of eggs whipped to satisfyingly frothy peaks, then divided it and made two small cakes, one with cake wheat flour and one with brown rice flour. GF baking can be quite a chore: wheat flour cannot simply be substituted with one other kind of flour: no other grain gives that light taste, that softness and strength for which we depend on wheat flour. GF recipes inevitably call for 1/3 c rice flour, 1/8 c chickpea flour, 1 T xantham gum, 1/12 c fairy dust, 2 T unicorn horn, etc. Hoping to avoid this, I talked myself into thinking that, just this once, for angel food, rice flour would do the trick. "There's only one cup of flour in the whole recipe," I reasoned. "It's not like it depends on the flour for structure: it uses the egg whites." Alas, we found the rice flour cake to be somewhat gritty, especially when compared with the fluffy wheat flour version.

I have two other recipes to try, one with millet flour, tapioca flour, white rice flour, and sweet rice flour, and one with potato starch, cornstarch, and guar gum (really?). I could also try the pre-mixed gluten free cake flour you can buy in the store.

But last night after making all that angel food cake I looked at what I had left: 12 egg yolks that would not keep very long out of their shells. Hm, what do I love that uses egg yolks? So I made a double-recipe of rich chocolate pudding from Cook's Illustrated's holiday edition. And ya know, those gluten free party-goers might just be satiated with some chocolate pudding, GF angel food cake be damned. The question is, can I swallow my pride and abandon the quest for the GF cake that feels and tastes EXACTLY RIGHT? No one asked me to do this, but for some reason I feel that I cannot show up to this party with less. I need them all to gush, "I can't believe you made this, you're so Martha!" "Oh no, it was nothing. Didn't take a minute," I will assure them, blushing modestly. Oh Affirmation, I crave you!


  1. I love me some Angel Food Cake

  2. Is unicorn horn in the King Arthur catalog, or do you have to use unseemlier sources?