Whaaaat is happening to my angel food cakes?
July 12, 2020 6:33 PM   Subscribe

First two angel food cakes turned out wonderfully. Last three attempts have turned into pretty gross sugared egg goop - egg whites didn't whip all the way up and turned back into liquid. Why?

Following a recipe using 1.25 c. egg whites, 1.25 tsp cream of tartar, 1 cup sugar, 1tsp vanilla extract, .25 tsp almond extract (plus flour mixture that I'm not even getting to add before the disaster happens.)

The egg whites seem to be whipping up pretty well with the cream of tarter and extracts added. Then I start trying to incorporate the sugar, a little at a time as specified, and the whole thing becomes liquid again with a little froth left on top.

My last theory was that the sugar I added was somehow suspect, but I changed to another brand of sugar and the same thing happened.

Any ideas what I'm doing wrong? I love angel food cake! Not that I'm not shopping at Whole Foods, it's harder to get, and I miss it!
posted by amtho to Food & Drink (8 answers total)
Are you whipping the egg whites too vigorously? It's possible to over-whip them, and that's when they turn gloopy and watery. Try reducing the speed of the mixer and mixing them more gently. As you slowly add the sugar a bit at a time, the mixture should turn glossy.
posted by gemmy at 6:38 PM on July 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

How humid is it where you are? High humidity can sabotage any fluffy egg white recipe. I know at least for meringues and pavlovas it can be the difference between success and failure. I'm not sure for angel food.
posted by mephisjo at 6:39 PM on July 12, 2020 [15 favorites]

It's never actually happened to me, but supposedly getting even the tiniest bit of oil into your egg whites can make them fail to whip up properly-- a lot of cookbooks suggest wiping mixing bowl and beaters with lemon juice + paper towl before you start the recipe for this very reason. Could that have been the problem?
posted by Bardolph at 6:42 PM on July 12, 2020

Response by poster: It's not due to oil, since they do start to whip up.

Overwhipping could be it. I'll try being gentler next time. I'll also check the humidity.
posted by amtho at 7:05 PM on July 12, 2020

+1 to humidity. Sugar is hygroscopic -- it will absorb moisture from the air -- and that can definitely wreck whipped egg whites. If it's humid where you are, I'd recommend waiting until the air is drier.
posted by ourobouros at 7:41 PM on July 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Actually, I have a dehumidifier set up in the kitchen (we haven't been using air conditioning yet, and the last place I lived was a high-rise that would get incredibly humid from people showering all at the same time, and I'm allergic to mold, so it seemed like a good investment). So, I can try running that.
posted by amtho at 8:26 PM on July 12, 2020

If the water is in the sugar, you could try putting it in the oven at 100F on a baking tray, spread thinly, for an hour or two to dry it. Not all ovens go that low, so check first, and let the oven get to temperature before adding the sugar so that you don't accidentally broil it and caramelise or even burn it.

(Source: never done this, but oddly 3D printing plastic has the same problem and this is a recommended solution.)
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 10:30 PM on July 12, 2020

The suggestion to bake the moisture off is an interesting one. Here's a recipe for oven-toasted sugar (and another small-batch stovetop version) that are specifically recommended for angel food cake -- not so much for the drying, but for the slight caramelization flavor. Sounds tasty!
posted by ourobouros at 6:37 AM on July 14, 2020

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