as a child, there were several things i could always count on when visiting my grandparents’ house: mashed potatoes for dinner, pecans tucked away in the freezer, and an angel food cake cooling on top of the fridge. angel food cake will always remind me of my grandma. the woman loooved her angel food cake, and instilled this very same adoration into me as well at a very young age. it also helps that it is significantly lower in calories than most cakes. (but this wouldn’t become a factor until i went through those lovely puberty years… woe were those years.)
my grandma has always been my hero… that is when david copperfield (the magician) wouldn’t suffice on my school reports. (i loved him, legitimately loved him. the man can FLY. i can’t tell you how many fights i have had with people over the years due to my insistence that he is the most glorious of all humans. i was once physically separated from a boy in middle school who suggested that he used wires. WIRES? that boy should get some help. he’s clearly delusional…) now, my grandma was a real go-getter. when her family needed money, she placed an ad for a boarder, found one, and set her up in the house… later on she informed her husband that their money problems were solved… and that they had a new housemate. when her husband died, she found herself a job and raised my mom and uncle on her own. my mom was only 11, so there was still a lot of raising to do. point is: she was pretty fabulous. and a posh dresser to boot.
it wasn’t until i was helping my mom clean out my grandma’s townhouse at the tender age of 11 that i discovered another shocking aspect of her life—in the form of a disturbingly sexy leopard print lingerie set. i don’t mean to be airing any dirty laundry here… i mean, it was totally clean… but there was a definite “…grandma!?” moment as i looked up at my mom, my eyes round in confusion. at this point in my life i still believed that i was the product of an immaculate conception and, at the furious insistence of my next-door neighbor and best friend, that people stopped having sex by the seemingly ancient age of 35. the mechanics of “old” people copulation was too fearsome for our young minds to comprehend. i think in response to my discovery my mom must have muttered a bit and looked away… perhaps there was an awkward cough or two. mom was always pretty mum about the whole birds-and-the-bees thing. thank god for public school and 6th grade math class or i’d probably still believe in the stork. (seeing as how at the age of 24 the topic never comes up.)
reflecting back on that tumultuous day in which i realized grandma still had a libido well into her 80s, i realize that i too am something of a wildcat. for instance, i was once the second choice for a threesome. i declined, but still, it was nice to be asked… second. i even was propositioned for a booty call recently… maybe. well, he texted around 3 am (while i was soundly sleeping) and said “hey, what are you doing?” so i am just going to go out on a limb here and assume. you might be thinking that these two points aren’t exactly wildcat material, but you know what, forget you! just give it to me, ok? i’m grasping at straws here.
my latest recipe pays homage to both my grandma and her leopard print nightie. i found the recipe in a recent cooking light magazine under the bold headline “naughty or nice,” which basically means it is right up my alley. in spirit of grandma’s wild side, i added some pizzaz to the original chocolate angel food cake recipe by throwing in some espresso powder. it really gives it a nice little kick. i’ve made this cake both ways—boring (espresso-free) and kick-ass (espressolicious)— and much prefer the latter. something about espresso and chocolate is just too glorious (not david copperfield glorious, but pretty close). so if you are feeling wild, like grandma… and me (come onnn, give it to meee)… i suggest you do it up. without further ado, i give you:
chocolate espresso angel food cake
what you’ll need: 1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 10), 1 cup cake flour, 2 cups sugar (divided), 1/2 cup baking cocoa, 1 1/2 tbsp espresso powder, 1 tsp cream of tartar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp salt
1. place egg whites in a large mixing bowl; let it stand at room temperature for 30 mins. (i always forget about this 30 minute wait period and it gets me every time. cries of anguish can be heard emanating out of my apartment. so at this point, you should crank up the stereo and do some shimmies around the kitchen. grandma would have wanted it that way.)
meanwhile, upon beginning the lengthy process of egg white separating, i discovered that there are several methods to this depending on how messy you like to get.
my lovely assistant is a “let it slide between your fingers” kind of gal, while i am more of a “let the eggshell do the dirty work” girl myself. also, new fun fact: according to my new alton brown cookbook , it is best to crack eggs on a flat surface as opposed to an edge, thereby avoiding shell pieces and bacteria from entering your egg. who knew?
2. sift together the flour, 1 cup of sugar, espresso powder, and the cocoa. repeat for good measure and then set aside.
3. add the cream of tartar, vanilla, and salt to the egg whites.
4. beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. gradually beat in remaining sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, on high until stiff glossy peaks form and the sugar is dissolved. it should look something like this:
5. gradually fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time. make sure you fold, rather than stir. my assistant got a delicate slap on the wrist around this point. yes, i abuse my helpers. eh, ya got something to say?
6. gently spoon into an ungreased 10 inch tube pan.
7. cut through the batter with a knife to remove air pockets.
8. bake on the lowest oven rack at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until lightly browned and the entire top appears dry. immediately invert pan. cool completely for about 1 hour. (more dancing and shimming ensues… or you turn on “center stage,” because it a timeless treasure of a movie.)
9. run knife around side and center tube of pan. remove cake to a serving plate.
what you’ll need: 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, 3 tbsp half & half cream
1. in a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and cream. stir until smooth.
2. drizzle over cake. i recommend pouring the glaze into a ziplock bag and then cutting a bit of the corner off. it makes it significantly easier to drizzle than say, if you used a spoon, like i used to do back in the day while i cursed the baking bloggers who exceled at the art of the drizzle.
once all steps are completed, you will have yourself an amazing cake. congratulate yourself with a hefty slice or eight. i won’t tell anyone…. especially seeing as how i find myself infused with uncontrollable urges to grab hunks with my bare hands when near this cake and left to my own devices. i’m sure grandma wouldn’t mind.