Spring has finally sprung in The Big Smoke so I thought I would run some lovely signs of spring first. I’m always surprised at how elated I am when I see the first buds on the trees and then somehow, it seems that from one minute to the next BOOM, we have blooms. It’s like spring explodes into nature; trees go from no leaves to full leaves, bulbs spring up, lilacs bloom and everything is glad to be alive. Finally.
We had my family Easter dinner in mid-April because my brother and family always have other plans on Easter Weekend. I don’t mind having these holiday dinners at a different time, things are generally cheaper, it’s fun to have the festivities again (we had an Easter Egg Hunt) and it gives a good excuse to get together regardless of missing the holiday. Win-win.
We made a couple of BBQ’d Herbes of Provence chickens which always turn out exceptionally well, even though we remove every bit of skin it’s super moist and flavourful (I can’t believe I haven’t done a post about this flavourfull chicken, but here is a photo of the bird on the BBQ). And of course, this wonderful dish pairs so well with Susur Lee’s Singapore Slaw (aka 19 Ingredient Slaw) that I made it again. We also had some lovely roasted sweet potatoes.
And of course, the dessert: Strawberry Shortcake made with a lovely Angel Food Cake. My very first scratch Angel Food Cake. I always hesitated to make this cake because my MIL warned me about how difficult and finicky it was. So as she did, I used a mix. Strange but true. I hadn’t thought about an Angel Food Cake in a lot of years (she’s been gone for more than 15 years) but I wanted a light cake with little to no fat and this fit the bill. Now to find a recipe which doesn’t use 14 or 16 egg whites! I found this recipe created by Anna Olson for a light chiffon cake using 8 egg whites. Perfect.
Now you know me by now that I generally don’t have a lot of dessert eaters, so when I chose a dessert (whether it be slightly better for you than ordinary) I always make it smaller. Who needs left overs? So I figured out the volume of the 10″ tube pan Anna used and cut it in half to fit my 8″ spring form pan! Clever? I must warn you, that the tube pan is used to help bake this light, airy meringue-like cake through the centre; my small spring form was just the right size and it baked relatively evenly. I would not recommend going larger as your edges will dry out and your insides will be runny. Anyway, food for thought!
I got a nice crumb on the cake, the bottom of the spring form had a harder time releasing due to the little dimples in it, so next time, I will line it with a piece of ungreased parchment, that should do the trick. Oh, and it’s really important not to jump around the oven like a mad dance, or even open the oven door during the first 20 minutes of baking. Also note that although this pan is smaller, it did take a bit longer to bake through, probably because there wasn’t the chimney effect heating the centre through. And having said that, I’d do it again in an instant, it’s a lovely light-feeling dessert.
You’re probably wondering “what the heck is stabilized whipped cream?” Well, maybe only some of you. I was looking for a way to make this cake up a few hours in advance and not have the whipped cream fall flat and runny on me. It’s really rather easy, 1 tsp of gelatin in about 3 tbsp cold water, nuked until gelatin melts complete, cooled down but not set and drizzled into the whipped cream with (1 tbsp icing sugar and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract) as you’re whipping. So easy and it sets the whipped cream ever so slightly so it won’t go all sloppy and meltie. You can’t taste the difference.
Serves 4-6 from an 20 cm or 8″ spring form pan
- 1/2 cup cake and pastry flour (less protein than bread flour)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 236 mL (1/2 pint) whipping cream, stabilized as above
- Strawberries, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 163° C or 325° F.
- Sift the flour and granulated sugar twice and set aside.
- Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until foamy, then gradually add the icing sugar, whipping until the whites hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted. Stir in the vanilla.
- Sift in the flour and sugar mixture to the whipped whites in 2 additions and using a whisk to fold in the flour evenly and easily. Scrape the batter into a 8-inch ungreased spring form pan, spread it to level and bake the cake for 40-45 minutes, until it springs back when gently pressed (try not to open the oven before 25 minutes).
- Cool upside down (this is apparently important so the cake doesn’t deflate and fall). Wait until it is thoroughly cook (I’m not kidding) to remove from pan (you must cut it out with a clean knife). To slice the cake in half, use an unserated blade and cut with short delft strokes until full severed.
- Serve the cake with whipped cream and berries, if you wish. The cake will keep, well wrapped (not refrigerated – it will dry it out) for up to 3 days.