When I was in middle school and high school I spent a lot of time with one of my best friends, Lisa. Her neighbor Marianne was a sweet woman who, at the time, didn't have a family of her own, so she adopted Lisa's. They had dinners, holidays and birthdays together. So, naturally, I saw a lot of her, too. She was a good cook and seemed to enjoy hosting dinners, and she was never shy about saying she enjoyed her own food. She just was a bit more lady-like about it.
"Greta done good," she'd say, and we'd all laugh, knowing she was talking about herself. I don't know where the name Greta came from or how the ritual got started, but it was genius. It made it OK for her to be the first one to say her casserole was superb.
Over the years, I adopted her saying for myself. Not that I'm shy about my cooking in front of my family, but I love the memory of sitting around Marianne's dining table and hearing her laugh after she'd praise Greta's work.
Go make this cake. It's simple but a little labor intensive separating 10 egg whites, but once you taste it, you'll take no shame in telling everyone how great your cake is. And should you feel the slightest twinge of guilt, just say, "Greta done good."
This cake recipe was published in the April issue of Bon Appetit as a Lime Angel Food Cake with Lime Glaze and Pistachios. I wanted to bring strawberries into my dessert, so I swapped lime zest for lemon, skipped the glaze and topped mine with whipped cream and macerated strawberries. Whether you go for lime and nuts or lemon and berries, this recipe is a winner.
Lemon Angel Food Cake
1 cup cake flour (I used Softasilk)
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 large egg whites, room temperature*
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Equipment: 10-inch diameter angel food cake pan with 4 inch sides.**
- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Sift flour, 1/2 cup superfine sugar, and salt into medium bowl; repeat sifting 3 times. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites, lemon peel, and vanilla on medium speed in large bowl until frothy (mixture may turn neon green but color will change when remaining ingredients are added). Add cream of tartar; increase speed to high and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Sprinkle 1/3 of flour mixture over whites and gently fold in until incorporated. Fold in remaining flour mixture in 2 more additions just until incorporated. Transfer to ungreased 10-inch angel food cake pan with 4-inch-high sides and removable bottom (do not use nonstick pan); smooth top.
- Bake cake until pale golden and tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 38 minutes. Immediately invert cake onto work surface if pan has feet, or invert center tube of pan onto neck of bottle or metal funnel and cool cake completely.
- Using long thin knife, cut around cake sides and center tube to loosen. Lift out center tube with cake still attached; run knife between cake and bottom of pan to loosen. Invert cake onto rack, then turn cake over, rounded side up. Set rack with cake atop rimmed baking sheet.
- Slice one pound strawberries vertically and gently toss with about three to four tablespoons of sugar. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving. Refrigerate for longer holding.
- Pour 1/2 cup whipping cream into the chilled bowl of a stand mixer. Add one teaspoon of vanilla and one tablespoon of superfine sugar. Mix on high until soft peaks form. Taste and more sugar if needed for desired sweetness.
* When separating egg whites, do yourself a favor and set up a station like this: one bowl or container for the yolks. One custard or measuring cup for whites. The mixing bowl and another bowl for egg shells. Crack one egg at a time, pouring it directly into your hand. Let the whites run off into the custard cup. Toss the yolk into the yolk bowl. Pour the egg white into the large mixing bowl. Repeat until complete. By cracking the eggs into a small cup instead of the large bowl, you won't ruin the entire batch if you break a yolk!
** It's important NOT to use a non-stick pan. You won't be able to cool it upside down otherwise. I found my inexpensive aluminum pan at Goodwill for $2.99.