Gluten free angel food cake is made with nothing more than egg whites, gf flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt, in just the right combination. What could be simpler or more perfect for any celebration!
What makes this gluten free angel food cake special?
Impossibly light but never dry, angel food cake is made for warm weather weekends. Slice it thick, and serve it with seasonal berries and cream.
Cube it, and serve it as a parfait. And if you ask my kids, serve it for breakfast: it’s practically health food since it’s made almost entirely of miles of whipped egg whites.
A good angel food cake is light as air, and will never, ever leave you feeling heavy and regretful on a hot day—or any day.
How to make angel food cake
There’s a particular rhythm to making angel food cake. You can of course read through the recipe instructions or watch the video and learn the step-by-step.
Making the batter
But here’s the bird’s eye view of how to make the batter for this cake: It has two parts, sifting the flour blend and half the confectioners’ sugar together (4 times!), and whipping the egg whites with some water, some flavoring, and the other half of the sugar.
Then, you combine the two parts by hand by carefully folding the lovely, fluffy, sifted dry ingredients into the puffy, fluffy egg whites. Transfer the mixture to the tube pan, and run a flat edge through the batter to break any too-large air bubbles.
After the cake is baked
Angel food cake must be cooled in the pan, upside down. The easiest way to do that is if your tube pan has 3 or 4 little feet that extend just beyond the lip of the pan. They’re designed for this purpose.
If your pan doesn’t have feet, simply invert the pan over the neck of a long neck bottle. The neck goes into the hole in the center of the tube pan.
Once the cake has cooled, you’ll need to separate it from the sides and the neck of the pan. Run a knife or offset spatula between the pan and the cake. You’ll disturb the surface of the cake a bit, but that’s meant to happen.
Why do you have to sift the dry ingredients?
To make this cake a show-stopper, all you really have to commit to is to sift the dry ingredients 4 times. I hate sifting dry ingredients even once, but it’s essential here.
An angel food cake is so simple and has so few ingredients, and its light and fluffy texture is the whole point here. Sifting the flours removes any clumps, and aerates it so that it distributes almost effortlessly into the whipped egg whites.
Why do we need a tube pan?
The best tube pan comes in two nonstick parts that fit together loosely: one part is the sides, with a hole in the bottom. The other part is the center column and bottom of the pan.
Place them together, and you have a complete pan, with tall sides and a tall center. These tall, nonstick but ungreased sides provide the perfect structure to support the light and fluffy cake batter, as it bakes.
I’m afraid to say that I tend to think of tube pans are semi-disposable as they always give out and start to stick after about 10 uses. I just accept it as a fact of life and make sure I buy an inexpensive 2-piece nonstick tube pan (aff link).
How to make this cake without a tube pan
If you don’t have a tube pan, I don’t recommend using another similarly-shaped pan like a bundt pan (someone always asks). Instead, you can divide the batter between two high-sided nonstick loaf pans, and start checking for doneness after 20 minutes.
You’ll need to cool the cake upside down on top of a wire rack, which won’t elevate the cake as much as it should. You will have a harder time getting the cake out of the pan, but it shouldn’t be impossible.
You can also try making our recipe for gluten free pineapple angel food cake, which is a bit heavier, and made in a round cake pan. Not only that, but you don’t even have to sift the dry ingredients for that cake!
But even with the sifting, this recipe is so simple and never fails to impress. Let the celebrations begin!
No substitutions this time
This cake doesn’t have an ingredients and substitutions section, like almost every other recipe on the blog, though. It only calls for flour, confectioners’ sugar, and egg whites, and you simply can’t make it without egg whites.
There are recipes on the web for vegan angel food cake, I’m sure. But that’s just an entirely different recipe.
Gluten Free Angel Food Cake
1 cup (140 g) gluten free cake flour (115 grams all purpose gluten free flour + 25 grams cornstarch) (See Recipe Notes)
½ teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1½ cups (173 g) confectioner’s sugar (divided into two equal parts)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¾ cups (430 g) egg whites (whites of about 12 eggs), at room temperature
⅓ cup (2⅔ fluid ounce) warm water
1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon almond extract (can substitute 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
Berries and whipped cream, for serving (optional)
About the cake flour blend
To make cake flour, I used 115 grams of Better Batter + 25 grams cornstarch. You can make this cake with a full cup of Better Batter (cake flour just makes for a lighter cake), or a full cup of Cup4Cup (or my mock Cup4Cup) for cake flour-like results.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Set a 10-inch nonstick tube pan (preferably a two-piece tube pan that has a removable bottom) to the side. Don’t grease or otherwise prepare it.
Sift flour mixture 4 times. This is an essential step. Set a medium-size bowl and a piece of parchment paper side by side on a flat surface, along with a sifter. Sift the gluten free cake flour, xanthan gum, and ¾ cup (86 grams) of the confectioner’s sugar into the bowl. Remove the sifter, and sift the mixture again onto the parchment paper. Sift 2 more times for a total of 4 times between the bowl and the parchment. Add the salt, and whisk to combine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a large bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the egg whites, warm water, cream of tartar and almond (or vanilla) extract until begging to foam (about 30 seconds).
With the mixer on medium-high speed, add the remaining 3/4 cup (86 g) confectioner’s sugar in 3 or 4 batches, until soft peaks form (3 to 4 minutes).
Once all the sugar has been added, increase the speed to high and beat until peaks become stiff and glossy, about another 2 minutes. The beater will begin to leave a trail in the whites. Remove the mixing bowl from the mixer.
In 4 batches, add the sifted flour mixture to the meringue, gently folding it into the meringue with a silicone spatula after each addition. Work quickly but carefully, so as not to deflate the egg whites. The mixture should be fluffy but relatively stable.
Carefully transfer the cake batter to the ungreased tube pan. Run a butter knife or small offset spatula carefully through the batter in a careful circular motion to release any trapped pockets of air. Smooth the top with a silicone spatula. The pan will be nearly full.
Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven, and bake until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean, the top is lightly browned, and it springs back when pushed gently, about 35 minutes. Don’t overbake.
Invert the pan over a long-neck bottle if your pan doesn’t have legs to elevate it from the counter when inverted. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 1 hour.
Re-invert the cake so it’s right-side up. Coax the cake away from the sides and neck of the pan with a butter knife or offset spatula (ideally, plastic, so you don’t scratch the pan).
If your pan is in two parts, with removable sides, press upward on the cake bottom and remove it from the rest of the pan. Run a straight edge along the bottom of the cake to separate it from the bottom of the pan.
Place a wire rack on top of the cake, then invert both onto a wire rack. Remove the bottom of the cake pan. Allow the cake to finish cooling to cool to room temperature.
Slice the cooled cake with a large serrated knife. For a clean cut, move the knife in one direction only, rather than sawing back and forth. Plate each slice with the optional berries and whipped cream and serve.
Angel food cake freezes very well. You can wrap the whole, cooled cake tightly in freezer-safe wrap and freeze whole. You can also wrap individual slices tightly and freeze. Defrost at room temperature before serving.
Recipe originally published on this blog in 2012. I rephotographed and republished it twice to showcase the recipe and illustrate the method with a video and more photos.