Peaches and Cream Angel Food Tunnel Cake is Gluten Free. Yeah Baby!

This is the Peaches and Cream Angel Food Tunnel Cake I just made!

This is the Strawberry Angel Food Tunnel Cake my sister made for Dan and Kelly’s wedding celebration.  It was made from a boxed angel food cake mix.  It looks delicious. I heard it was amazing..except some of us…ahem, ahem…Scott, Missy, Marcia….couldn’t eat it because it contained gluten.

My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow and angel food cake is her favorite. She has committed herself to being gluten free.  For the first time ever in this house ( ‘this house‘ because I did try one years ago and said ‘ehhh, a lot of work and not as good as boxed’) we will have a gluten free angel food cake celebration.  The birthday girl just happens to be coming off a week of liquids because of intense mouth pain  and so the light silkiness of an angel food cake is just what the doctor mother ordered. Maybe I’ll make the same Strawberry Angel Tunnel Cake pictured above, maybe not. We’ll see what the girl can eat.

Let’s go over what makes this cake successful before we get into the fray. Egg whites, sugar and flour are the most important ingredients.

It doesn’t matter if the egg whites are cold or at room temperature. It is the speed used to inflate them that counts, and you don’t have to own a power machine because some people use a wire whisk – imagine that!  Always start the eggs at a low speed and mix until the big bubbles disappear around the edges and the whites barely begin to form what might look like meringue before adding anything else.  In this recipe ingredients are added a little at a time and, using an electric mixer, you never have to go above medium speed.  You’re not looking to spackle the walls with it!

Sugar can be granulated or superfine. I chose superfine because it incorporates more quickly.  Superfine is hard to find so I make mine by whirring it in the blender for a few seconds, just long enough to make the granules less visible.  Adding it slowly assures thorough blending.

Flour is a big deal too.  There are plenty of gluten free options out there and most everyone has their own preference.  I’ve tried most of them and, let’s be honest, I can’t adjust to having flour taste like hummus or cardboard.  With an angel food cake the goal is to have a light silky end product. I turn to Jules All Purpose Gluten Free Flour when I want a superior product.  Her flour is as close to what I grew up with as I’ve been able to find. It’s a big deal to make something where no one has to ask if it’s gluten free.  One flour I used to use tasted like I’d mixed sand into it. It was awful!  Sifting is important with angel food cakes.  Light and no lumps is required. If you don’t have a sifter – I don’t – just whisk it with a wire whisk several times and even whisk it as you add it into the mix.

Slow baking, bottom shelf, turning it upside down once it’s finished and allowing it to fully cool that way for a few hours are all important.

Here goes:

You’ll need about 1 dozen eggs to make almost 2 cups of egg whites only. I found you can freeze the yolks. I did it in baggies of 4 yolks so that I can make things like Hollandaise Sauce and Pasta Carbonara. Pound Cake takes more yolks than whites too.

Place oven rack in the bottom 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.

1 dozen large egg whites (what ever it takes to equal a little more than 1 3/4 cups)

1 cup Jules All Purpose Gluten Free Flour (my preferred choice)

1 1/2 cups superfine sugar, divided into two equal *3/4 cup parts

Sift the other 3/4 cup sugar with the flour.

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon table salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

The ticket for success with angel food cake is the way you mix it. More power doesn’t equal a taller or lighter cake. I learned that there are many methods to increasing volume and sturdiness of meringue. So follow this and trust me, I’ve done a lot of research…..of course we don’t know how it will taste yet, do we?

Place egg whites in large clean bowl.

Beat on the lowest setting of your mixer until  large bubbles around the edge disappear and soft tight bubbles begin to form a bit of mounded shape. Add in the cream of tartar.

Then add 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing at medium speed.

Mix this until the meringue is shiny and soft peaks are forming. Don’t mix till peaks are stiff.

At this point go ahead and add the lemon juice, vanilla and almond extracts.  Mix just until blended. You can put the mixer away at this point and use a firm spatula for the next phase of folding in the flour/sugar mixture.

Fold the flour/sugar mixture and salt into the batter, 3 Tablespoons at a time, until all is folded in and no lumpy flour pockets remain.

This process should take about 5 minutes.

Once this is done you’re ready to pour the mixture into the angel food cake pan that has a removable bottom.  Run a spatula through the batter once it’s in the pan, then tap the pan a few times on the counter to make sure there are no bubbles left in the batter.

Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes until it is golden on the top and springs back when pressed firmly.

Oh baby, this looks like the real deal!  We shall see!

Invert the cake over a glass bottle or turn upside down if the pan has prongs on it like mine does.  The goal is to leave it that way for several hours until it is completely cooled to prevent it from falling back into the pan and becoming dense….I mean it IS Angel Food.

Since this cake will probably be covered in whipped cream and currently has little crumbs all over it, take a food brush and dust it off. That way it will be prettier and ready for icing.We’re ready to decorate.  My mother always used fresh flowers rather than making decorations out of icing.  Make sure if you do this you choose flowers and herbs that are not sprayed with chemicals and are edible choices. Mint, lilies, pansies, lilacs, violets, carnations and lemon verbena are some obvious choices and so pretty.

To prepare this tunnel cake take about an inch off the top of the cake and set it aside.Next create a tunnel inside the cake, making sure the bottom stays intact, and remove the pieces. Set pieces aside to be folded back in later.To prepare the filling you will need 15 1/2oz. sweetened condensed milk, 1 cup heavy whipped cream, 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1/3 cup lemon juice and 10 oz. chopped peaches (or 10 oz. frozen sliced strawberries) and the cake pieces that were removed.  The birthday girl chose fresh chopped peaches instead of strawberries.  2 more cups of whipped cream are needed to frost the cake.

Mix condensed milk, extract and lemon juice. Fold in the 1 cup of whipped cream. Chill 10 minutes. Take 1 1/2 cups of this mixture and fold in the little cake pieces and the peaches or strawberries. Spoon this mixture into the tunnel.Replace top of cake and prepare for frosting by brushing the crumbs away.

Now is the time to frost the cake. Because I used peaches I decided to add some peachy food coloring to the remaining frosting.  I used a combination of red and yellow to achieve a pretty pastel color.  It’s easier to frost a cake that has had the crumbs dusted off.  The frosting (in this case cream) sticks to the surface better.On to the transformation.  I washed and dried mint leaves and day lilies, then decorated the base of the cake with them.  Gold sugar sparkles made it festive!It was amazing with a touch of fresh raspberry sauce!

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Mango and Watermelon Agua Fresca’s – Beautiful Colors and Flavors

So you know I’ve been pretty busy lately, right?  I mean all that cooking and blogging was to test out recipes for the wedding (which was absolutely beautiful and wonderful and of course I’m not prejudiced! Why would you think that?).  I tried things I’ve never tried before, improved things I’ve been making forever – the quiche, and learned about how to make things in advance and cook only to level where they could be perfected at the time of presentation.  But the one thing that stood out as a most delightful, simple and fun thing was the Agua Fresca.  Seen below: Mango to the left, Watermelon to the right.

Aren’t they beautiful?  Poured over ice with a twist of lime and perhaps a splash of tequila this is a great  inexpensive way to wow your family or guests.

Plus it’s a food group!  Fruit.

My friend who helped me master (dare I use that word so quickly?) the process tells me that nearly any fruit can work: strawberries, cantaloupe, papaya, kiwi, blueberries, you name it you can probably make Agua Fresca from it.  Traditionally in Mexico it’s made from some type of melon.

I didn’t pull out the camera for this. Not to worry. It’s easy. Seriously.  All you will need is ripe fruit, some kind of sweetener – be it honey, sugar or agave necter (native to MeHico). Drink it naked for all I care if you are a purist. It’s all good. By the way – a note on agave nectar- it dissolves more quickly than honey or sugar and is notably more intensely sweet. I think I’ll get my hands on some and try it.

Oh, and you need a method to puree and strain the fruit.  That can be a mechanical method or blender and then a fine sieve.  You  might want to strain it twice to get rid of the pulp.  Ripe fruit is important for getting maximum juice and flavor.

To prepare a quart jug of Watermelon Agua Fresca I used 1/4 of a watermelon.  Don’t worry about seeds, they can be ground right into it because they’ll be strained back out.  Puree the watermelon till it’s mostly water, maybe by using 1/4 of it at a time (no rind).  Once it’s that clear beautiful color pour it into a container add approx 1/4 cup sugar or a few tablespoons of honey or agave nectar. I can’t be more specific since some people like this sweeter, some not so sweet.  On top of that pour 4 cups of water.  Shake it up and taste and make more corrections if needed, such as more watermelon, more water, more sugar, etc..  Remember this isn’t supposed to be anything but ‘infused’ water, so it won’t have an intense flavor.  My friend, the Mexican cooking expert, says Agua Fresca is to people south of the border what iced tea is to those north of the border.  Iced Tea is lightly infused water, right?

For Mango Agua Fresca I used one very ripe mango and did exactly the same process.  Mango’s can be very sweet or a bit tart.  You’ll have to taste and adjust sweetener and water accordingly.  I must add that more of our guests liked the mango flavor over the watermelon.  I like both equally.  The colors are so lovely and it’s a great way to drink more water without the concern of caffeine we get from tea.

Both mango and watermelon freezes well.  Make batches of the puree in advance and keep frozen until you need it.

And it’s healthy. Awesome!!!

So there you have it.  Agua Fresca is ready in the jug to pour over some ice.  Add a twist of lime or lemon for an added refreshing zest. 

For special occasions it was suggested that placing a good quality tequila next to the Fresca’s allows guests to put a splash of tequila over their agua fresca for a festive touch. We did that.  Kelly (the bride) and I went shopping for a good tequila, but neither of us knew what a good tequila would be.  We live in Pennsylvania where we depend on state store employees to assist.  We received friendly service but they were as lost as we were.  So I called my expert friend and she said a Reposado or Anejo aged tequila would do, and that price would be somewhat of an indicator.  We opted for a reposado, mildly expensive, and our focus was on how cool the bottle is…as seen in above photo.  Girls are great decision makers! That bottle will never be thrown away. It’s part of the wedding!

I hope you enjoy trying this.  Honestly I don’t know why it’s been kept secret from this Irish/Scottish lassie for my whole life, but I’ll be making it all summer!