Every Fourth of July my Grandma and I make an angel food cake (from a box) with 7-Minute Icing (from scratch). Fourth of July is probably the only hot holiday in Minnesota, so we take full advantage of the “summer heat” by preparing a suitable light dessert. Independence Day also happens to be my birthday, and aside from the usual “Born on the 4th of July!” comments that I get, a lot of people want to know why I want to make my own birthday cake. I think it’s less about the work (after all, I am using a cake mix) and more about the time I get to spend with my Grandma. We’ve been baking this cake since I was in high school, and it’s one of my favorite summer rituals.
Here I am a high schooler, with my traditional bday cake and my beautiful grandma Louise!
I won’t bore you with how to make a box angel food cake – the Betty Crocker package instructions are quite accurate! – but I will share a few tips we’ve learned along the way, as well as a recipe for making 7-minute icing.
The first thing you want to do when you take the cake out of the oven is to turn it upside down right away. They sell angel food cake pan “stands,” but a bottle of Tabasco hot sauce works just as well.
When the cake is fully cooled, use a knife or flat spatula to loosen the sides and remove it from the pan.
Gently remove any crumbs from the cake, as they can be a nuisance when frosting. Allow the cake to cool completely.
To make the frosting, create a double boiler out of a medium saucepan and a medium mixing bowl. Fill the saucepan with water until the level is just below the bottom of the mixing bowl (do not let the bowl sit in water). REMOVE the mixing bowl from the saucepan before you heat the water. Turn the burner on high until the water boils, then reduce to a simmer.
Meanwhile, whisk together 2 egg whites, 1/3 c. water, 1 c. plus 2 T. sugar, 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the mixing bowl. Once combined, place bowl over simmering water and beat mixture on low speed for about 1 minute.
Gradually increase the speed of your mixer to high, until the frosting forms stiff peaks (about 5 minutes). Be sure to periodically lift the side of the mixing bowl slightly to allow some steam to escape. You don’t want to end up like my great-aunt and have 7-Minute Icing all over your kitchen walls!
Remove mixture from heat and beat for 2 minutes more. Gently fold in 1 T. vanilla.
Frost the cake immediately. For best results, begin frosting the cake from the top (use more than you think you’ll need)…
…then spread the extra frosting over the sides. Use a flat spatula or knife to smooth the top and sides.
For Independence Day, we decorated our cake with blueberries and fresh strawberries from my uncle Jamie’s garden.
Happy (belated) Independence Day from Chef Louise and Sous-Chef Sarah!