This type of cake is made with a
large quantity of egg whites and no shortening or leavening. Angel Food
cake is thought to be a takeoff of the Sponge Cake, Cornstarch Cake, Silver
Cake, and/or Snow-drift Cake. There are several theories on who
originated this cake. Also called ice cream cake (a Pennsylvania Dutch wedding cake). It is felt
that the abundance of cake molds in southeastern Pennsylvania, one of the
major producer of cake molds, indicates that the angel food cake originated
there in the early 1800s.
Rotary Egg Beaters - The
rotary egg beater eliminated the long and laborious hand beating of eggs and
batters. The rotary egg beater was purchased in sufficient numbers
to make a substantial impact on American cooking. In the Sears' 1897
catalogue a "Dover" egg beater sold for 9¢.
1865 - The first patents for rotary egg
beaters began showing up around 1865.
1870 - Turner Williams of Providence,
Rhode Island invented and patented, US Patent #103811, the hand-cranked egg
beater with two intermeshed, counter-rotating whisks. It was an improvement
on earlier rotary egg beaters that had only one whisk.
Some historians think that the first angel food cakes were probably baked by African-American slaves from the South
because making this cake required a strong beating arm and lots of labor to
whip the air into the whites. Angel food cakes are also a traditional African-American favorite for post-funeral feasting.
1871 - Mrs. Porter's New Southern Cookery Book, and Companion
for Frugal and Economical by M. E. Porter, has a recipe for Snow-drift Cake:
Three cupsful of flour, two cupsful of sugar,
one-half a cupful of butter, one cupful of sweet milk, the whites of
five eggs beaten to a stiff froth, one teaspoonful of cream of tartar,
one-half a teaspoonful of soda; sift the flour, and do not pack it when
1881 - Mrs.
Abby Fisher, the first Black American woman and a former slave from Mobile,
Alabama, recorded her recipes in a cookbook called
What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles,
Preserves, Etc. Abby Fisher lived and worked in San Francisco as
a cook and caterer in the late 1870s. She has a recipe for Silver Cake,
which sounds like an Angel Cake:
Silver cake - The whites of one dozen eggs
beaten very light, one pound of butter, one pound of powdered sugar; rub
the butter and sugar together until creamed very light, then add the
beaten whites of the eggs, and beat all together until very light; two
teaspoonfuls of the best yeast powder sifted with one pound of flour,
then add the flour to the eggs, sugar and butter, also add one-half
teacupful of sweet milk; mix quickly, and beat till very light; flavor
with two teaspoonfuls of the extract of almond or peach, put in when you
beat the cake the last time. Put to bake in any shape pan you like, but
grease the pan well before you put the cake batter in it. Have the stove
moderately hot, so as the cake will bake gradually, and arrange the
damper of stove so as send heat to the bottom of the cake first. This
instruction of baking applies to all cakes except tea cakes.
- Angel Cake was one of the favorite dessert of Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of
Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893), nineteenth President of the United States.
Cookbook authors, Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks, wrote the following on
the history of Angel Cake in their cookbook, The Presidents' Cookbook -
Practical Recipes from George Washington to the Present:
character of gentle, sweet-tempered Lucy Hayes, it seems fitting that
Angel Cake should be one of her favorite desserts. The origins of Angel
Cake, sometimes called angel-food cake, are mysterious, all the more so
since they seem to derive from the mysterious East. The story goes,
according to a cookbook published in 1883, that a family who lived along
the Atlantic Coast moved to a quiet place along the Hudson River and
opened a boarding house. A friends presented one of the ladies of the
family, who was remarkable skilled as a cake-baker, a valuable "receipt"
that had come to her from a friend in India. Sometime later, the family
left their picturesque boarding house along the Hudson and returned to
their original coastal home. There, the cake-baker of the family opened
a bakery of sorts, specializing in various cakes, including the
mysterious cake from the East. This special cake was produced under
unusual circumstances: only one was baked at a time, behind closed doors
and in the greatest secrecy. But like most secrets of the kitchen, it
eventually was found out, improved upon, and perfected.
- The original Boston Cooking School Cook Book, by Mrs.D.A. Lincoln
had a recipe for Angel Cake. There was also recipes for Cornstarch Cake and
Snow Cake which are similar.
Cake - One cup of flour, measured after one sifting, and then
mixed with one teaspoonful of cream of tartar and sifted four times.
Beat the whites of eleven eggs, with a wire beater or perforated spoon,
until stiff and flaky. Add one cup and a half of fine granulated sugar,
and beat again; add one teaspoon of vanilla or almond, then mix in flour
quickly and lightly. Line the bottom and funnel of a cake pan with paper
not greased, pour in the mixture, and bake about forty minutes. When
done, loosen the cake around the edge, and turn out at once. Some
persons have been more successful with this cake by mixing the sugar
with the flour and cream of tartar, and adding all at once to the beaten
In Fannie Merritt
Farmer's 1896 updated version of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book,
she uses the same recipe and calls the cake "Angel Food Cake."
Boston Cooking School Cook Book: A Reprint of
the 1884 Classic, by Mrs. D. A. Lincoln, Dover Publications, Inc., New York,
Canada Science and
Technology Museum, an internet web site.
The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, by Fannie
Merritt Farmer, 7th Edition, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1943.
The Original Fannie Farmer 1896 Cook Book, The
Boston Cooking School, A facsimile of the first edition originally published
in 1896, Ottenheimer Publishers, Inc., 1996.
Mrs. Porter's New Southern Cookery
Book, and Companion for Frugal and Economical, by M. E. Porter, Porter
(Paperback - December 2001 - Reprint)
Presidents' Cookbook - Practical Recipes from George Washington to the
Present, by Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks, Funk and Wagnalls,
What Mrs. Fisher
Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc., by Mrs.
Abbey Fisher, Applewood Books, 1995 Reprint.