Friday, November 4, 2016

Light And Luscious Cake

Pumpkin Angel Food Cake

For years I have had a standing lunch date on Wednesdays with cousins who are among my favorite people on earth. We skip nearly as many Wednesdays as we meet because of schedule conflicts. These are busy people! But when we have Wednesdays without other obligations, we will spend an hour over a Chick Fil A lunch catching up on family news.

This week when I met them, I had a treat for Jack. I had baked this angel food cake just for him. Many years ago, Jack had a major heart attack. When he came home from the hospital, he came with the instructions from the doctor to "follow a low-fat diet." Jack is one of four people in this country who has followed those instructions to the letter for years and years. (You know I totally made up the "one of four people" thing. There might be seven or eight.) He has been committed to this in a way most people are not.

Most other people (a) try hard and start backsliding after a few months, (b) do it halfheartedly, or (c) never try because they don't want to give up food they like. But I've watched Jack and Audrey change how they shop, how they cook, and how they eat. And it was a good decision. Jack is 82 now. It's been about 25 years since that frightening heart attack.

But a "legal" treat for him has always been angel food cake. So when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it for him. Because they are family, I cut out a slice before I took the cake to him. I wanted to make sure it really did taste as good as the pictures looked. And I needed to make photos for this post. Let me say this is a first for me—delivering a cake with a slice missing!

Some things you need to know about angel food cake...
  • Mix your cake mix in a large glass or metal bowl—not plastic. (Don't forget you can use the bowl from your stand mixer. It's big.) Plastic will retain a film of grease or oil from your last recipe no matter how well you wash it. I just used my hand mixer to mix up the angel food cake mix.
  • Use an ungreased cake pan because the cake rises by "crawling" up the sides of the pan. 
  • I like to use an angel food tube cake pan—the kind that has a removable bottom. You'll need to use a knife to go around the sides of the pan and around the tube to be able to turn it out. Then run the knife between the cake and the bottom of the pan. My pan is ancient, but you can still buy a tube pan with the removable bottom. They cost anywhere from $12-20 and should be fairly easy to find.
  • You can bake angel food cake in other pans  Read the cake mix box. It gives baking times for other pan shapes. I've made the Mock Macaroon Cake (angel food + pineapple + coconut) in a 9x13-inch baking dish and baked it for 25-30 minutes.
  • Fold in 1/4 of cake batter into the pumpkin first. That lightens the heavy pumpkin, making it easier to fold in the remaining batter.
  • Use a serrated knife, cutting with a sawing motion, to cut angel food cake. A regular knife will just smash it.

Final thoughts? This cake was delicious. I got an excited email from Audrey late the night I took the cake to them. She said, "I wasn't expecting to like it. But it is REALLY REALLY good!" It's a beautiful color. And it gives you a light dessert option for a season that focuses on rich, heavy foods. Remember, we aim for balance.


1 box angel food cake mix
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, vanilla and spices. Mix thoroughly.  In another large mixing bowl (glass or metal) mix the angel food cake according to directions on box.

Carefully fold in 1/4 of the cake batter into pumpkin. (This lightens the heavy pumpkin, making it easier to blend.) Then gently fold in the rest of the batter. Pour into ungreased 10-inch angel food cake pan.

Place in oven on lowest rack possible (Remove the other rack.) Bake for 38-45 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and springs back when touched. Immediately invert cake pan on a wire rack or place upside down on top of a glass soda bottle.

Cool for 1-2 hours, until completely cool. Run knife around sides of cake pan and around the center tube, then turn out. If you have a pan with a removable bottom, run knife between cake and pan bottom. Remove to a serving plate.

In my typical fashion, I made this when I was in a hurry and didn't read the recipe thoroughly until I wrote it up here. Then realized I didn't exactly follow the directions. I did fold some cake batter into the pumpkin (which I had mixed with spices in a small bowl) and then folded the pumpkin into the big bowl of batter. Thinking about it now, I think it would be easier to do it properly. But it still worked when I did it backwards.


  1. I'M not a fan of angel food cake but this sounds like it would be good with the spices and pumpkin adding some zing.

    1. We thought it was really good. You can taste the spices. And the pumpkin gives it a gorgeous color.

  2. You should interview him for a blog post about how he had the wherewithal to make changes and stick with them! He is obviously one in a million!

    1. I will have to ask Jack. I just know that he decided to do it and never looked back. Lots and lots of turkey sandwiches at restaurants, no mayo. No chips, no french fries, no burgers, and on and on. His secret might be his wife who monitors what he eats faithfully. She said this week it is just how they live now.

  3. Maybe I'm also one of the four? We always thought we ate "clean" and healthy but after my heart attack in 2010, we made changes. Recently, we're making even more changes. After awhile it does become part of your lifestyle. When I cook for others (my grandchilren), I relax my usual choices (but I don't eat the results)! I tried an angel food cake for my granddaughter about a year ago. It's her favorite cake. However, mine never rose and ended up just like a flatbread. I threw most of it away. Not sure if it was an altitude problem or if I did something wrong. I always use glass or metal for mixing bowls. I knew not to let any oil residue on the baking pan. Yours looks heavenly and delicious.

    1. Good for you! I know that folks like you and Jack are rare. Even when the doctors tell you it's a way to extend your life expectancy.

      I know nothing about high altitude baking since we live about 600 ft above sea level. But I do know there are adjustments to be made. You might check with your university extension service. (There should be a local or regional office.) I worked as a home economist with the Extension Service here for years and this would be a typical question for us. I've already thrown the cake mix box away, but sometimes there are high altitude directions somewhere on the package.

  4. You're a good cousin to give him something that will not compromise his eating goals. Sounds delicious!

    1. It was really good. So glad they didn't mind getting a cake with a big slice missing. I wanted to taste it--without making two cakes!

  5. Rosie and I made it together Monday afternoon, and it is easy and delicious. Another winner!

    1. Oh, so glad you liked it! We are angel food cake fans anyway. This jazzed up version was a good variation. Bet Rosie is a pretty good cook by now.

    2. She is learning! Next project - pumpkin doughnuts - have the ingredients - waiting for the pan to arrive!

    3. LK nearly did those by herself. If we had used a hand mixer instead of a big spoon (my bad) she could have done it all. Even piped the batter into the pan. Her big sister thought they were great. That's high praise.
      Let me know how yours turn out.


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