Mon Jan 09 2012
"It seemed impossible. I wanted to make a zero-sugar, low-carb version of a cake that is made from almost nothing but sugar and carbs.
And it took just twenty-something attempts. But after many disappointing — and some downright disgusting — versions, I finally managed to bake an amazing and sweet angel food cake that rises beautifully and has the same delicate, almost spongy texture as traditional recipes.
My motivation was simple — Mom. A longtime vegan, she has lived without her (and my) favourite cake for decades. But she recently started eating egg whites again, which put angel food back on the table. Except she isn’t eating sugar and is trying to limit carbohydrates.
Angel food cake has three primary ingredients — egg whites, sugar and flour. Egg whites and sugar are whipped until they form a thick, airy batter, then flour is gently folded in. Could I make a cake with only one of the key ingredients?
From the start, structure was the challenge. Using egg whites and the natural sugar alternative known as stevia, I was able to bake up cakes with the proper taste. And they would rise beautifully in the oven. But as soon as they came out, they wilted into near puddles of cooked dough.
To get the structure I needed, I turned to two ingredients popular in gluten-free baking — guar gum and xanthan gum (available in health food stores). Most baked goods get their lift and structure by working the gluten (a type of protein) in wheat flour until it forms bonds that trap air. People who avoid gluten need to find a way around this, so they use other ingredients to replicate those bonds.
The cake still needed dry ingredients, and for that I turned to more egg whites. A blend of powdered egg whites and egg- or whey-based protein powder was a good start. A bit of almond flour completed the dry mix, giving the cake a bit of extra body.
This cake is easy to love because it is fast and simple to make, is delicious and is great for dieters. It makes a standard size angel food cake, but has just 133 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 23 grams of protein and 2.75 grams of carbohydrates per quarter of the cake. That’s right. Per quarter of the cake.
A couple things to keep in mind:
• Traditional angel food cake is made from a very delicate batter. This is why the flour is gently folded into the whipped egg whites by hand. The batter in this version is much sturdier and easily stands up to using the mixer to add the dry ingredients at the end.
• Whey or egg white protein powders are widely available in the grocer’s natural foods or protein bar sections. Look for a brand that doesn’t contain sugar.
• Powdered egg whites are exactly what they sound like. They are sold in the baking aisle.
• The recipe was written to be gluten-free. If you aren’t avoiding gluten, it also can be made substituting 1/4 cup (60 mL) cake flour for the 1/4 cup (60 mL) almond flour called for.
• Want to make a chocolate version? Substitute 1/4 cup (60 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder for the 1/8 cup (25 mL) powdered egg whites called for.
• If you purchase packaged liquid egg whites at the grocer, be sure they are appropriate for whipping. Some brands will not whip; the cartons usually are marked to indicate this."
Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake
12 egg whites, about 2 cups (500 mL) of liquid egg whites
1 tsp (5 mL) cream of tartar
1 tsp (5 mL) xanthan gum
1 tsp (5 mL) guar gum
1/4 tsp (1 mL) baking powder
8 packets stevia sweetener
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
1 tsp (5 mL) almond extract
1/4 cup (60 mL) vanilla egg OR whey-based protein powder (at health food stores)
1/4 cup (60 mL) almond flour
3 tbsp (45 mL) powdered egg whites (at health food stores)
Heat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Generously coat a large flute pan with cooking spray on the fluted centre and bottom only, but not on the outer sides of the pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites, cream of tartar, xanthan gum, guar gum, baking powder, stevia and both extracts.
Beat on low for 30 seconds, then increase mixer to high and beat until very stiff peaks form, about 4 minutes. The mixture will be airy, voluminous and quite thick.
Into a small bowl, sift together protein powder, almond flour and powdered egg whites. Sprinkle half of the dry ingredients over egg whites. Run mixer at medium for 5 seconds or just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Sprinkle remaining dry ingredients over egg whites and mix again just to incorporate.
Increase mixer speed to high and run for another 5 seconds.
Use a silicone spatula to scrape sides of bowl and gently fold mixture together once or twice. Transfer half of the mixture to the prepared pan, then use spatula to smooth top. Repeat with remaining mixture. Firmly tap pan on counter to help eliminate air bubbles.
Bake for 35 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and overturn the pan and cool upside down. When cool, to release the cake, run a paring knife along the outside of the pan.
Makes 8 servings.
Approximate nutrition per serving: 80 calories, 2 g fat, 14 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 1 g fibre