On the evening before his fifteenth birthday, the youngest son of a goose requested that she bake him an Angel Food Cake. Mother Goose swallowed hard, choked, rolled her eyes and honked as if to say, “Yes, dear, Mother will bake you that cake.” Though I have never baked an Angel Food Cake from scratch in all of my days, I am always hopeful that old dogs can learn new tricks. And as dawn was breaking over the Saturday horizon, Mother Goose was gathering her ingredients and her recipe and her baking equipment.
I am a haphazard cake baker, I do the best I can and leave the rest to the “universe” or to fate or in this case, to angels.
Angel Food Cake is unusual in that it is mostly made of egg whites, those slippery yet fragile, messy yet vital, clear but sometimes foggy elements of the common chicken egg. By the way, I prefer chicken eggs to goose eggs for this particular cake recipe. Please separate your eggs carefully, avoiding egg shell and yolk pollution which would spoil the purity of your egg whites. Allow them to come to room temperature.
At this point, Mother Goose must interject a bit of humorous family history. When the children were quite young and prone to stomach flu, it was our family tradition to supply them with an aluminum mixing bowl in which to deposit their vomit — convenient and easy to clean, the bowls with egg whites now bring back those memories to the heart of Mother Goose…
Back to our recipe…
Whilst those egg whites are getting comfortable, combine your powdered sugar and your flour, sifting together at least three times until they are completely together in this and of one mind. Unity of the powdered ingredients is very important. Set this aside until Mother Goose directs you.
Add vanilla and cream of tartar to your egg whites and begin to beat them in your Mix Master until first they are foamy and then beginning to form soft peaks and when indeed they are forming hard peaks like Mount Everest (or in my case Mount Saint Helens), slowly add the granulated sugar while the whipping continues. A question to my dear readers: what exactly is cream of tartar and why is it so very important to egg whites?
When the peaks of egg whites are standing tall and firm, then you must VERY gently fold the powdery ingredients into them. Using a rubber scraper and many prayers, carefully and with much caution fold and turn, fold and turn until the powder has completely been ingested by the mountains of white. There must be no evidence of any powder. None.
And now, holding your breath, you will scarcely lift the beautiful mass of cake cloud batter up and into that special cake pan — you know the one in the back of your cupboard that you never ever use — it has a tube through the middle and the inner part comes away from the outer part and your little kids love to play with it — even more than they like to play with your iPad.
Your oven has been heated to 350 degrees per the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. You have followed the step by step instructions faithfully and prayerfully. Nothing left to do but “pop it in the oven for baby and me!”
Breathe a heavy sigh of relief and set your timer for about an hour. Feel free to clean up your messy kitchen at this time. Or turn on an episode of Touched by an Angel, because you will need to remember pretty soon that God really does love you and He has not forgotten you.
Another thing you should do now is to find a bottle with a long skinny neck on it. First Mother Goose found a bottle of Kentucky bourbon which I tasted. I decided its neck was too thick, and its bark was worse than its bite. Grand Marnier would be a better choice this morning.
When the timer went off, Mother Goose was feeling happy and light-headed. She removed the cake from the oven. She inverted the cake upon the bottle of Grand Marnier.
She raised her wings to the heavens in grateful thanksgiving for the success of the Angel Food Cake for the teenage son. After five minutes of heartfelt praise time, Mother Goose opened her eyes.
Mother Goose gasped in horror — there was no way to stop the fall of the cake. It fell and when it fell, all the trumpets in heaven were silenced. All ears were tuned to the sound of the sad honking in the kitchen of Mother Goose. The drama had played out so differently than I had planned. The Angel Food Cake was lost and soiled and irretrievably condemned to the garbage can. No touch of an angel could repair this cake. Humpty Dumpty came to mind as he lay broken at the foot of his wall with all the king’s soldiers standing around scratching their heads.
But was Mother Goose down and out?
Well, just a little.
And then I remembered the words of my mother, “No sense crying over broken and flopped angel food cake.”
I got my son a really nice chocolate cake at the bakery. Happy Birthday, dear Joe!