Pillow-soft fluffs of Angel Food Cupcakes topped with cloud-like milk chocolate meringue buttercream.
It’s very rare that I ever have leftover egg whites. With all of the Swiss meringue buttercream I make every week, it is usually leftover egg yolks that I’m scrambling to get rid of. But every now and then, after I’ve made a big batch of pastry cream or have been craving ice cream, I find myself with an abundance of egg whites. As I stood in front of the refrigerator, tummy growling, I just knew this batch of whites were destined for Angel Food Cake – or cupcakes, as was the case that fateful day (yesterday)…
The best way to describe these cupcakes are literal clouds – springy, fluffy, squishy, pillowy goodness. Even the milk chocolate frosting is light and heavenly! They are so satisfying to bite into – not just because of the delicious flavours, but for the inimitable texture. Neither box mix nor commercially made Angel Food could ever yield that kind of fluffiness. Clouds this adorable could only be completed with a sprinkling of pastel jimmies and sugar hearts. So stinkin’ cute, right?!?!
To be honest, I’ve never actually made Angel Food Cake from scratch before. Again, I typically have an excess of yolks stashed in my fridge, and I hate adding to it unless a craving really strikes. Also, I don't have a tube pan. Did you know you are supposed to not only leave the inside of a tube pan ungreased when making chiffon or Angel Food cakes, but you are also supposed to cool them upside-down? Terrifying.
Instead, I baked up these fluffy nuggets in extra-large cupcake liners. Unlike most other cupcakes, you are going to want to fill the liners nearly to the top! Trust me. And if you don't and are scared they might explode onto your oven floor, you can sit next to your oven and keep a discerning eye on them (like I did). Since there is so much whipped air in the batter, the cakes won't be fully set until they cool. That being said, they will shrink down just a touch as they cool.
What I didn't know about Angel Food Cupcakes is that they are pretty much a French meringue but with less sugar and just a tiny bit of flour. Who knew that small portion of cake flour would take whipped egg whites from crispy, chewy baked meringues to fluffy, pillowy little cakes?!?! Since these cupcakes are like 87% meringue, let us review a few things to remember about working with whipped egg whites...
1. Make sure there are no traces of fat or grease. We are all about reaching the maximum potential when it comes to whipped egg whites. What that means is volume, volume, VOLUME! Fat and grease can inhibit us from reaching that potential. I'm talking fat from any drips of egg yolk or grease in the mixing bowl (and accompanying attachments). Slight traces of fat/grease will probably not kill your meringue on the spot, but try to stay clear of fats as best as possible.
2. Increase the speed gradually. From foam to peak, increase the speed very gradually as you go. For a better illustration of what this might look like at ever stage, check out this visual.
3. Add the sugar gradually. By slowly adding in the sugar a tablespoon at a time, it will dissolve easier and not collapse the delicate whites. Increase the speed and overall amount of sugar in tandem.
4. Fold! Fold! After all that work of adding air and volume to our whites, it would be a shame to crush and collapse them by mixing improperly. But don't stress! Folding is not as scary as it might seem. Use a large rubber spatula to scoop down to the bottom of the bowl, and turn the contents on the bottom up to the top. Use one hand to fold and the other to spin the bowl 90 degrees between each turn. Be delicate and deliberate at the same time.
5. Cream of tartar as a stabilizer. You might notice ingredients such as cream of tartar, lemon juice, and vinegar in meringue recipes. All of these ingredients act as stabilizers. They won't necessarily increase the volume of your egg whites, but they will help keep them from collapsing too quickly.
6. Temperature of eggs. Eggs are easiest to separate when they are cold. However, room temperature egg whites have the ability to whip up with more volume.
Angel Food Cupcakes
makes about 10 to 12 extra large cupcakes
6 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream tartar
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with extra large liners and set aside.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or use an electric hand mixer). Sprinkle in the cream of tartar. Start by mixing on low speed until the egg whites begin to form bubbles.
As the egg whites begin to foam and become more opaque, gradually turn up the speed and start slowly adding in the sugar, a tablespoon or two at a time. Continue adding in the sugar, followed by the salt. Over the course of about a minute or so, all of the sugar/salt should have been added and the speed will have increased to medium-high.
Continue whipping the egg whites until medium-stiff peaks. They whites should still be pillowy but not dry or clumpy. Unlike a true meringue (with twice the sugar), they will not be particularly glossy.
Add in the lemon and vanilla. Whip again until just combined.
Stop the mixture. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the flour in two to three batches. You can be a bit more deliberate and heavy-handed with the first batch of flour as you temper the two ingredients together, but then use a lighter touch as you go. Be thorough, but do your best not to deflate the batter.
Use two spoons to plop the batter into the cupcakes liners. Fill the liners nearly to the top. With the back of a spoon or small offset spatula, smooth out the tops of each cupcake.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 to 23 minutes. When done, the tops should be browned and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Remove from the oven and let cupcakes cool in their pans for about 5 minutes before moving them to a wire rack.
Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting
3 large egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons mascarpone, softened
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1 to 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Whisk by hand to combine. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and bring to a simmer.
Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler. Whisking intermittently, warm the egg mixture until it reached 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Once hot, carefully replace the mixer bowl back on the stand. Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl returns to room temperature (about 8 minutes).
Turn the mixer down to low and add in the butter and mascarpone, a couple tablespoons at a time. Stop the mixer and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment.
Add in the vanilla, melted chocolate, and cocoa. Mix on medium-high until the buttercream is smooth, fluffy, and cloud-like.
If the buttercream looks like it has cuddled, the butter was probably too cold. Just keep mixing.
If the buttercream looks soupy, you probably added the butter in too soon and before the meringue returned all the way back to room temperature. Chill the mixture (inside the bowl) in the fridge for 15 minute and try whipping again until smooth.