In her memoir, Cakewalk, Kate Moses writes about growing up in a house surrounded by cakes, cookies, candy, sugar, sugar, sugar. She found solace in the kitchen as her parents disastrous marriage crumbles and as she stumbles awkwardly, heartbreakingly through a tumultuous adolescence. “As my childhood unfolded, sweetness of the less tangible variety was harder to come by,” she writes. “It was one thing to be surrounded by cataracts of sugar, day in, day out; it was quite another to think you had a right to enjoy it, or anything else. I looked for sweetness wherever I could find it.”
Moses, who is the author of critically acclaimed Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath and the popular anthology Mother’s Who Think, is not only a beautiful writer, but a beautiful baker and each chapter in the memoir ends with a confection that seems to involve so much more than just the ingredients listed in the recipe. She whipped together this light and airy angel food cake while attempting to make sense of her stoicsm after breaking up with a longtime high school boyfriend. “I’d get off the phone [with my distraught ex] and turn up the mixer for the angel food cake I was making, my conscience as light as a hummingbird, light as my airy cake, despite my inscrutable heart.”
Angel Food Cake
From Cakewalk (Dial Press)
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’s sugar
1 cup sifted cake flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour in a pinch)
1 1/2 cups egg whites, at room temperature (about 12 large egg whites)
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
Move the oven rack to the lowest setting, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Make sure to bring the egg whites to room temperature about an hour before baking.
Combine the sifted confectioners’ sugar and flour and sift three times. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whip attachment, beat the egg whites on low until foamy, then add the cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla and increase the speed to medium. Whip just until soft peaks form, then, beating on medium speed, gradually add the granulated sugar a tablespoon at a time, beating until the whites form soft peaks but are not stiff.
Sift one quarter of the flour mixture over the whites and fold in lightly by hand using a rubber spatula, and repeat with the remaining flour in quarteres. Turn the batter gently into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.
Bake about 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean and the top springs back when touched lightly. Invert the cake onto the neck of a wine bottle and allow to cool completely, 2 or 3 hours, before moving from the pan.
To finish the cake, simply sift confectioners’ sugar over the top, or it can be frosted or glazed as you please. See Cakewalk for suggestions and more delectable recipes including Coconut Layer Cake, German Pancakes, Fudge Brownies that she later baked for M.F.K. Fisher.