When you like food that is bad for you as much as I do, sometimes you need a little something that tastes like it's bad for you, but is really pretty healthy comparatively. An angel food cake is an excellent example. While it may have its fair share of sugar, it's actually 100% fat free, which means I can have seconds without any guilt, and trust me, you will want seconds.
I used to hate angel food cake because every time I had it, it was a dry store-bought version. The first time I had homemade angel food cake, it changed my life. This was angel food cake? It couldn't be! This had flavor! What a difference it makes being homemade. Ever since my first time having homemade angel food cake (thanks AJ!), I have made it in culinary school and at home with great results.
It really helps having a stand mixer. This recipe is so easy and whips up (literally) in no time. I used the egg whites (plus some extra) that were leftover from all the egg yolks I used in my ice cream this weekend, so there was very little waste. You can also buy cartons of egg whites if you don't want to throw away a million yolks and don't plan on making ice cream or Hollandaise any time soon.
I also usually use cake flour as the recipe specifies, but had run out recently so I substituted all-purpose flour. My cake turned out well, so keep that in mind if you want to try this cake but don't have the correct flour. It will still work, but the crumb just won't be as fine as if you used the cake flour.
For topping, in the past I've drizzled melted chocolate over the cake (which is a huge hit), and this time decided to macerate some strawberries in sugar and serve that alongside. You can make a berry coulis if you'd like (basically just pureed and strained berries), or offer some lemon curd. There are so many options depending on your preference. Even serving it alone works just great! This cake is so fluffy, moist, and sweet, with just that light lemony tang, that it really doesn't need anything at all!
*Update 11/30/14* I updated all the photos in this post to new ones!
Lemon Angel Food Cake
Makes a 10-inch Cake
(Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style)
2 cups sifted sugar, divided
1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 cups egg whites, at room temperature (10 to 12 eggs)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine 1/2 cup of sugar with the flour and sift together. Set aside.