Angel Food Cake


Pillowy soft angel food cake is easy to make with the right ingredients and a few tricks.

Southern Living Angel Food Cake cut to serve with sliced strawberries and whipped cream

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Active Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 35 mins
1 (10-in.) cake

This homemade angel food cake will star at your next soiree. Angel food cake is fluffy, airy, and stands tall and proud on a dessert display. It also blends beautifully into a menu's theme, since it can be topped with all sorts of things, from fresh strawberries to chocolate syrup.

Here, learn how to make airy and heavenly angel food cake. It's not a difficult cake to make—it just requires some precise steps that will pay off in a dreamy dessert.

Ingredients for Angel Food Cake

The ingredient list for angel food cake is fairly short, but each one plays an important role:

  • Egg whites: This cake has no baking soda or baking powder. All the leavening comes from whipped egg whites. It's very important that no egg yolk gets into the whites, or the cake may not rice correctly. Fresh eggs, separated as soon as they come out of the fridge are best. Cold eggs separate more cleanly, and fresh eggs aerate better and expand more than older eggs or pasteurized eggs. (Use all those leftover yolks for a homemade lemon curd.) After they're separated, however, you should let the eggs come to room temperature before starting the rest of the recipe.
  • Cream of tartar: Most experienced home cooks will have this in their baking drawer, as it's used for recipes like meringue and pavlova. Cream of tartar is a powder acts as an acid and stabilizes the whipped egg whites so they stay firm and rise better. In a pinch, you could use vinegar or lemon juice, but they aren't quite as powerful as cream of tartar.
  • Salt: This helps balance the sweetness of the sugar and extracts. It's also an essential ingredient in most baking recipes.
  • Granulated sugar: Classic granulated sugar is OK in this recipe. We'll show you in the directions below how to blend it with the whipped egg whites to get all the sugar to dissolve.
  • Cake flour: This flour is lighter and has less protein, so it results in a fluffier, more airy angel food cake. Heavier flours, like all-purpose flour, will not work in this recipe. The cake will not rise enough and will be dense.
  • Vanilla and almond extracts: Add flavor to your angel food cake with these two extracts. If you don't have almond, you can skip it. We just like the slightly fruity and nutty flavor is lends to the final cake.
  • Water: You'll need just a bit for the whipped egg whites.
Southern Living Angel Food Cake ingredients

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

The Right Pan for Angel Food Cake

This is one cake where the right pan makes a big difference. Angel food cake, which does not use any baking powder or baking soda for leavening, needs the high, tall sides of a tube pan to help the cake climb as it bakes. Once baked, these straight sides more easily release the cake, too.

That means you don't want a non-stick tube pan, and you don't want to use any cooking spray. The cake can't climb a pan if the sides are too slick.

Angel food cake pans also have small legs at the top of the pan to help elevate the pan while it's flipped over and cooling. Other pans don't have this little feature, which might keep the cake from coming out of the pan easily.

Can I use a Bundt pan for angel food cake?

No, you can't use a Bundt pan for angel food cake. Bundt pans may have high, tall sides like a tube pan, but the nooks and crannies of the pan will not easily release the cake after it's baked.

How To Make Homemade Angel Food Cake

Making an angel food cake is not a long and difficult process, but it does require careful attention. It's imperative, for example, you get the egg whites whipped well. Without that, the cake likely won't turn out. Here, a brief overview of how to make an angel food cake. Full directions are below:

  • Prepare the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F. This is slightly lower than most other cakes so that the angel food cake won't overbake while it rises. Do not spray the tube pan with cooking spray.
  • Whip the egg whites: Add the 12 egg whites to a mixing bowl that fits an electric stand or is large enough to use with a hand mixer. Begin whipping the egg whites to add air. When the egg whites are foamy, add the water, cream of tartar, and salt. Beat until soft peaks form in the egg whites.
  • Add the flour and extracts: Once you're at soft peak stage, sprinkle the cake flour bit by bit (about 1/4 cup) into the egg whites, and fold gently. Finally, fold in the extracts. Do not overmix, or the egg whites might deflate.
  • Add batter to pan: To the ungreased tub pan, add the angel food cake batter. Spread the batter so it's evenly distributed and the top of the batter is flat. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.
whipping egg whites in a red stand mixer

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Soft Peaks vs. Stiff Peaks

Soft peaks don't hold their shape well, and they eventually sag back into the whipped egg whites mixture. Stiff peaks, on the other hand, stand tall. The tip of the egg whites won't sag or drip.

How Do You Know When Angel Food Cake Is Finished?

An angel food cake is finished baking when the cake is golden brown and it springs back when touched. If the cake stays pressed when you touch it, it isn't finished baking and needs a few more minutes.

Angel Food Cake Toppings

Wondering what to serve with your homemade angel food cake? Consider these toppings:

  • Fresh berries
  • Whipped cream
  • Lemon curd
  • Powdered sugar
  • Honey
  • Banana and berries
  • Chocolate ganache
Angel Food Cake
Photographer: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Ana Kelly Prop Stylist: Kay Clarke

Strawberries for Angel Food Cake

Macerated strawberries are particularly good on angel food cake. Macerated strawberries have sat in sugar for a bit to release their natural juices. That results in a juicy, syrupy strawberry topping that is delicious on cake and yogurt. The angel food cake will sop up the syrup, which is why it's particularly great for this dessert.

How To Store Angel Food Cake

Angel food cake can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container. Because the cake does not have a frosting or glaze, room temperature storage is safe for several days, but you want to keep it protected from air so the delicate cake doesn't dry out rapidly.

Can You Freeze Angel Food Cake?

Yes, you can freeze angel food cake easily. But you'll want to freeze it soon after it's baked. Because the cake does not have any fat or oil, it can become dry and crumbly quickly. If you wait too long to freeze it, it'll harden and be a gritty mess when you thaw it.

Wrap each slice in plastic wrap, and then aluminum foil. Be sure to label it with the date and the name of the food so you'll know what you're grabbing when you reach into the freezer.

Thaw it at room temperature for about 30 minutes before you eat it.

Top Tips for the Best Angel Food Cake Possible

  • For a light and tender angel food cake, you'll need bleached cake flour (our Test Kitchen recommends Swans Down brand). Heavier flours just won't work, and the cake won't rise.
  • Separate the eggs carefully to prevent any yolks from getting into the batter. Separate each egg over a small bowl so that if any yolk gets into the white you can put that egg aside for another use. If you crack the eggs into a bowl with the other whites, you could ruin the whole batch if any small bit of yolk gets in the mix.
  • Don't overmix the egg whites. Once you reach the soft peak stage, add the flour and extracts. If you get too stiff, the cake won't be able to rise or expand during baking.
  • Once the cake has been baked, let the cake cool upside down in the pan. This trick will help the cake pull away from the sides of the pan and remove cleanly without tearing.
Southern Living Angel Food Cake whole on a cake plate ready to serve with a bowl of sliced strawberries nearby

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox


  • 12 large egg whites, at room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon water

  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • Pinch of table salt

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 cup (about 3 3/4 oz.) bleached cake flour (such as Swans Down), sifted

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract


  1. Prepare:

    Preheat oven to 325°F. Gather your ingredients, making sure the egg whites are at room temperature.

  2. Beat egg whites:

    Beat egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on high speed until foamy, about 1 minute.

    Southern Living Angel Food Cake whipping the egg whites until foamy

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Add water, cream of tartar, and salt; beat until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.

    Southern Living Angel Food Cake whipping until soft peaks form

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Add sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

    Southern Living Angel Food Cake whipping the egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Sprinkle and gently fold flour into egg white mixture 1/4 cup at a time.

    Southern Living Angel Food Cake folding in the flour

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Fold in vanilla and almond extracts.

    Southern Living Angel Food Cake folding in the vanilla

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

  3. Add batter to pan, and bake:

    Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, spreading evenly with a spatula.

    Southern Living Angel Food Cake batter in the pan before baking

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Bake in preheated oven until cake springs back when lightly touched, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, and turn pan upside down. Let cake cool, upside down in pan, 40 minutes. Remove cake from pan.

    Southern Living Angel Food Cake on cooling rack after baking

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Angel Food Cake Variations

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

Prepare recipe as directed. Stir together 1 1/4 cups (about 5 oz.) powdered sugar (sifted), 2 Tbsp. pineapple juice, and 1 tsp. lemon zest in a bowl until smooth. Spoon glaze over cake.

Lemon Angel Food Cake

Prepare recipe as directed, substituting 1/2 tsp. lemon extract for almond extract.

Chocolate Angel Food Cake

Prepare recipe as directed, adding 1/4 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa to cake flour before folding into egg white mixture in Step 1. Do not glaze.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What makes angel food cake so good?

    Angel food cake is a fluffy and airy sponge cake. It's made without butter or oil, so it's also white and light, and it uses the magic of whipped egg whites to rise instead of other leaveners, like baking powder or baking soda. The final result is a cake that is light and bouncy.

  • What do you eat with angel food cake?

    Angel food cake toppings are nearly limitless. Berries and fruit are a good option, as are chocolate syrup or honey. If this is for a luncheon or party, consider serving with a cup of coffee or hot tea to offset the sweetness of the cake and toppings.

  • Can angel food cake be baked in a regular pan?

    No, angel food cake needs to be baked in a tall tube pan so that the cake can "climb" the walls of the pan as it bakes. Without the tall walls, the cake will not bake tall and will be dense.

  • Why is angel food cake cooled upside down?

    Cooling an angel food cake upside down helps to keep the cake from collapsing while it cools. It also helps the cake pull away from the pan naturally so it's easy to get out of the pan.

  • What is the best way to get an angel food cake out of the pan?

    Flip an angel food cake upside down after it's baked so that the cake naturally pulls away from the pan's sides as it cools. After about 40 minutes, if the cake isn't out of the pan, you may need to loosen it a little. Use a cake tester to loosen the sides—they’re thin and flexible. You can also use a thin metal spatula or butter knife if you don't have a cake tester.

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