Let Him Eat Cake

From my journal: August 7, 2008 East Twickenham, England

“Went to St. Margaret’s tonight to toast to Robert’s birthday although it’s officially tomorrow…bought him a Harley tee. Asked if there’s anything special he wanted for dinner. He said an angel food cake – yikes!!”

Living as ex-pats at the time, I panicked at Robert’s request for two reasons. First, items we have stocked in U.S. grocery stores differ more often than not from ones in other countries. I had never looked for cake mix at Waitrose or Tesco the local markets we shopped in. The second problem was that I did not have an angel food cake pan thingy!  Our flat came equipped with basic plateware, silverware and a few pans.  I’d have to see if there was one I could use.

On the up side, I still had a day to figure it out.  The round trip into town would only take me an hour. Tesco opened at 7 a.m. and Waitrose at 8 a.m. so if I did find the cake mix, I’d still have plenty of time. If neither had what I was looking for, I’d have to make a cake from scratch…which for me would be a challenge, a major one.  Baking is not my forte! 

Joy of Cooking Angel Cake Info & Recipe

Of the few cookbooks I brought with me from the states, The Joy of Cooking was the one I used most. I found “angel cakes” on page 705.  After perusing the page I couldn’t believe what I was reading! Nine paragraphs of info on these cakes then the recipe with two more paragraphs of instructions!  Did you know just one angel cake requires 11 egg whites? What would I do with the egg yolks if I had to make it by hand? 

So I trotted off to the stores the day of Robert’s birthday.  Nothing at Tesco and the same result at Waitrose.  So I bought 2 dozen eggs (just in case) and a lemon. There was another ingredient I didn’t have – the cream of tartar – but the recipe only called for 1 teaspoon. How important could it be?

Earlier that day, I found a pan in the cupboard but it didn’t have a hole in the middle.  Getting creative I placed a glass in the middle and poured the cake batter into the improvised pan.  The instructions said it was mandatory to have the eggs at room temperature before folding them in, but that was no problem. The first week in the UK I learned that eggs are not kept in the refrigerated section of their stores.  It only took me five sweeps of an entire shop until I finally cried uncle and asked for help in tracking them down.  They were kept next to the bread section.

Next, I checked the preheated oven to make sure I had the right temperature.  Luckily I had a cheat sheet of Fahrenheit to Celsius conversions.  350 degrees Fahrenheit was about 180 degrees Celsius.  The cake needed to bake about 40 minutes, then cool upside down resting on two cans, before unmolding it. 

Flat Angel Cake

Soon, the kitchen smelled heavenly with the sweet smell of sugar. I was beaming and so proud of my effort!  When the timer went off, I opened the oven door carefully only to find that the cake had not risen much at all.  ☹

Looking at the clock, I knew I had about five hours before Robert would be home, so I started from scratch all over again.  But before I mixed up the batter, I scampered back into town to a cooking store and bought a proper tube pan!  I also went to Tesco to buy a jar of cream of tartar. 

My second attempt was more successful – yay!  It rose to the proper height and was all goldeny brown on top.  The only issue was a dent that became evident once it was unmolded. 

Second Try!

By the time Robert landed at our front door that Friday evening, I had sprinkled powered sugar all over cake so the dent wasn’t noticable. He smiled when he saw it and after dinner, I cut a piece of cake for him and stuck a candle in it.  He then closed his eyes and made a wish….there are so many things he could’ve wished for…I was just hoping it wasn’t for an angel food cake for his next birthday.


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