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My Grandmother Stella’s angel food cakes are legendary in my family. Though my dad’s mother passed away when I was young, many of my fondest memories of her are set in the kitchen. I remember her amazing technique for shaping biscuits: she would pinch off bits of dough and pat them into perfectly symmetrical rounds using her hands. Her pies and baked goods were phenomenal— especially her light, airy angel food cakes.

Angel food cake pairs well with fresh fruit (especially berries and peaches) and is nowhere near as heavy as richer cakes. Though this is a fairly simple cake to make, don’t try to skip the sifting and idle time. Also, this cake can be notoriously fickle. I remember Grandmother’s stories about a cake “falling” if the barometric pressure was not right or if someone walked too close to the oven while it was rising. Don’t let that scare you away, though. The results are divine.

11 extra large eggs
1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar

Carefully separate eggs, measuring 1 ½ cups egg whites. Refrigerate yolks for scrambled eggs or other use. Place 1 ½ cups egg whites in a large mixing bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a separate bowl, sift confectioners sugar and flour together three times.

Add cream of tartar, vanilla, almond extract, and salt to the egg whites. Using an electric mixer, beat on high. Gradually add sugar, beating until the sugar is completely dissolved and stiff peaks form. The mix is complete when a beater can be removed from the mixer and inverted while the mixture holds its peak.

Using a rubber spatula, gradually fold in the flour mixture, ¼ cup at a time. When the batter is completely mixed, gently transfer into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Cut through the batter with a knife to remove air pockets.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until cake is golden and spongy when touched. Remove from oven and invert the tube pan. Cool completely before removing the cake from the pan.

(Yields: 10 servings; Ready In: 60 minutes)