The Reason You Should Always Cool Angel Food Cake Upside Down

When it comes to angel food cake, the devil's in the details. The basic recipe is pretty simple; Our Light and Fluffy Angel Food Cake Recipe, for example, calls for just a handful of ingredients: cake flour, salt, sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla. How hard can that be? It's not actually difficult to make angel food cake, but the directions do need to be followed carefully, as there are mistakes that will mar the ethereal perfection of your dessert.

Cooking for Engineers points out one common mistake that can consign your angel food cake to kitchen hell, and that's introducing any fat into the recipe. If you didn't cleanly separate the egg yolks from the whites, for example, the whites won't beat up as stiff as you need them to be, resulting in a "soupy mess" rather than a divine angel food cake batter. Similarly, greasing the pan before you pour the batter in puts fat where you don't want it (anywhere near an angel food cake before it's baked) and the cake won't ascend to the heavenly heights you aspire to. But once that cake is baked, there's still another potential transgression that could imperil your angel food cake.

Why do you have to cool angel food cake upside down?

Chemistry in the Kitchen explains that the rise in angel food cake is created by what happens to the egg whites as the cake bakes. Once the egg whites (stabilized by cream of tartar) have been beaten, cake flour (which doesn't contain much gluten) is carefully folded in to preserve the air that's been incorporated. The air expands as the cake heats up in the oven, and the protein in the egg whites coagulate around the pockets of air and form the foam structure of the cake.

That foam structure is delicate, though, partly because angel food cake doesn't contain very much flour, according to Chemistry in the Kitchen, but also because it's the cooling process that sets the cake's airy structure. What could happen if you don't invert the cake pan while your angel food cake cools? According to Cooking for Engineers, the cake could collapse under its own weight, which is most definitely not the heavenly reward you're aiming for. 

Turning your freshly baked angel food cake upside down while it cools ensures it will stay light and fluffy, with the heavenly, airy texture you desire.