Daffodil Cake

Whimsey rules with confections. Marzipan is particularly prone to blithe abuse, finding itself fashioned into all sorts of flowers, fruits, animals, even people or parts thereof. Cakes also endure such treatment, particularly occasional cakes, but even “every day cakes” are fun, and daffodil cake is as light-hearted as it is light.

Of course daffodil cake doesn’t have daffodils in it no more than a hummingbird cake has hummingbirds or Girl Scout cookies are made out of girl scouts (daffodils happen to be poisonous) but it’s (partially) yellow and springy. This is an old recipe, appearing in Fannie Farmer and Betty Crocker books during the 1940s, a sure sign that it was probably being made and passed around at church bazaars and served on spring weekends long before then.

Daffodil cake is a combination sponge and angel food cakes, which are both made with a meringue without oil or butter, but the yellow parts of a daffodil cake contain egg yolks—as does a sponge cake—and the white parts do not—as does an angel food. (Chiffon cakes, which appeared on tables at about the same time, are a meringue cake with oil.) You will not find an honest mix for any meringue cake in the grocery store; you’re going to have to make it from scratch, and it’s best to make on a clear, cool day because we all know that you can’t make a good meringue when it’s raining, don’t we?

12 large egg whites
1 cup sifted cake flour or sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar (total)
2 teaspoons vanilla
11/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon lemon or orange extract
Finely grated lemon peel

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set a rack to the lowest position. In a very large mixing bowl allow egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Sift together flour and 3/4 cup sugar 3 times and set aside. Add vanilla, cream of tartar and salt to egg whites. Beat with electric mixer on medium to high speed until soft peaks form; gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Sift one-fourth of the flour mixture over egg white mixture and fold in gently. Repeat with remaining flour mixture, using one-fourth of flour mixture each time. Transfer half of batter to another bowl. In a small mixing bowl beat egg yolks on high speed for 6 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Add lemon extract, mix and gently fold yolk mixture into half of egg whites. Alternately spoon yellow batter and white batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan and swirl with a spoon to marble. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert cake in pan and cool completely before loosening cake to remove from pan. Flip cake onto a plate and sprinkle top with finely shredded lemon peel and powdered sugar; serve chilled.

Angel Food Cake

You’ll always find angel food cake but never angel’s food; conversely, you’ll always find devil’s food cake, but never devil food. This sponge cake owes its fluffy texture to a tremendous amount of egg whites and no butter. This use of egg whites is similar to that for a souffle; the bubbles expand in the oven heat, and like a souffle, an angel food cake does take time and precision. You can find mixes for this cake in the store, but they cannot compare to scratch. It’s a delicate, impressive recipe, a perfect platform for summer fruit in season, particularly stone fruit and berries. It also makes beautiful toast. Learn how to make it.

Preheat oven to 350. Separate a dozen eggs while cold, using caution to ensure no yolks make it into the whites. Bring whites to room temperature and stir in a tablespoon of water. Sift a cup of cake flour with a half cup sugar until it’s very light. (Yes, you can use plain flour.) You want to sift several times; some recipes say as many as five. Beat the egg whites in a large, very clean, dry bowl. Start on a low speed. When the eggs are foamy, sprinkle in a teaspoon of cream of tartar. This acid helps stabilize the egg whites when they are whipped. Since most of the volume and structure of the cake comes from these egg whites, you’re not going to want to take the risk of substituting this ingredient. As the texture of the bubbles begins to even out, add a teaspoon or two of pure vanilla extract, and incorporate another cup of sugar bit by bit, about a tablespoon at a time. Keep beating at a medium speed until the sugar is dissolved and the whites form stiff peaks. Then carefully FOLD in the flour while sifting it over the egg whites. Use a spatula, and turn the bowl; the key is not to deflate the bubbles. Make sure the flour is evenly combined throughout the whites, but don’t over-mix.

Gently pour the batter into a 10-in. ungreased tube pan; the cake has to cling to the sides as it rises, forming a bit of a crust. Bake for 30 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN BEFORE THAT TIME. When done, the cake should spring back when touched. Remove from oven and invert the pan until over a rack while it cools, otherwise it might deflate. You’ll find specially-made tube pans with legs for this cake. When cool remove by running a thin knife around the sides of the pan. You can buy a comb to slice this cake, otherwise use a serrated knife dipped in warm water before each cut.