When life gives you egg whites, make angel food cake. When life gives you a whole lot of egg whites, top the angel food cake with meringue.
Yesterday, I planned to make vanilla custard but hadn’t really thought about what to do with all the remaining egg whites. I briefly contemplated making an egg white frittata, but I quickly came to my senses, and, thanks to Alton Brown, came up with the far better idea of making my first ever angel food cake. However, since I don’t own a tube pan, I scaled down the recipe to make these cute little mini angel food cupcakes instead.
I didn’t think I liked angel food cake. Turns out it’s the massed produced grocery store variety I don’t like. You know the ones, the mini cakes prominently displayed next to the strawberries that taste like overly-sweet hunks of styrofoam. These, on the other hand, are surprisingly (to me anyway) light and airy, and not to sweet. Absolutely heavenly, I dare say.
To use up even more egg whites, I topped these delicate little cupcakes with Italian meringue tinted to a pale pink with finely ground dehydrated strawberries. (Trader Joe’s also carries blueberries, raspberries, mango, and mandarin oranges.) Not only did the strawberry powder add the beautiful hue, it also gave the meringue a pleasant strawberry flavor. Finally, I used my mini kitchen torch to lightly toast the meringue for an extra bit of dramatic flair.
Angel Food Cupcakes with Strawberry Meringue
Yields approximately 16 cupcakes
For the Angel Food cupcakes
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (approx. 7 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cake flour, sifted
6 egg whites from large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon orange, almond, or vanilla extract (I used 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond)
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the Strawberry Meringue
2 egg whites from large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dehydrated strawberries, or more to achieve desired taste and color of meringue, finely ground into powder (I bought mine at Trader Joes’s)
For the cupcakes:
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liner in each cup of a muffin tin. Set aside.
In a food processor, pulse sugar and salt until super fine, about 2 minutes. (I like to pulse the salt because I use kosher salt and it never goes through my sieve when sifting. You may add it in the next step instead if you don’t want to add it in with the sugar.) In a mixing bowl, sift together half of the sugar, the cake flour and the salt.
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, add the egg whites, water, your desired extract, and cream of tartar and whisk on low speed until well combined, about 2 minutes. Increase mixer speed to medium and slowly add remaining sugar to mixture, until medium peaks form. Sift just enough of the flour mixture in to evenly cover the top of the egg white mixture and fold flour gently into egg white mixture with a spatula. Continue this process until all of the flour mixture has been incorporated.
Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each cup almost to the top. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes until golden and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. (Since my cupcakes were small, they were done in about 14 minutes.) Cool completely before removing paper liners and frosting.
For the meringue:
Place the egg whites and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside.
In a small high-sided sauce pan, whisk the water and sugar together. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and continue cooking until the syrup reaches 234°F on a candy thermometer, about 5-8 minutes.
While the sugar syrup is cooking up to the correct temperature, whip the egg whites on low speed until they form foamy peaks. When the syrup has reached the correct temperature, pour the hot syrup in a slow and steady stream into the egg whites, turning the speed to medium-high as you do so. Pour the syrup as close to the side of the bowl as possible to avoid the syrup hitting the whisk, which will cause the hot syrup to splatter all over. Continue to whip until the egg whites form stiff, glossy peaks.
Beat in the salt and the dehydrated strawberry powder until the meringue is an even, consistent shade of pink. Add more powder, if needed, to achieve the right taste and color.
With a piping bag, pipe in swirls of meringue frosting. Toast the tops of the meringue with a kitchen torch. Make sure to keep the torch moving and do not hold the flame in one spot for too long.
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