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Why Did My Angel Food Cake Fall?

May 16, 2015


I recently had an epic kitchen fail that included a totally ruined cake and a broken heirloom bottle. I tossed it all out because I didn’t want a bleeding stomach on top of all that. Here’s the story.

One night at house church we celebrated a member’s birthday with a simple cake. Our fellowship leader asked a great question. What was your favorite or most memorable birthday, as a child or an adult?

All of us are above 60 so we found that most of us had only one or two birthdays we remembered from our childhood. Birthday parties were not nearly as frequent as children celebrate them today when big, blow-out birthday parties are often thrown for each child, every year.*

I shared that I could only remember one actual birthday party when I was allowed to invite friends. The normal birthday in our family included 1) an opportunity to choose the supper or dinner menu; 2) Mom making our favorite cake; 3) one gift. (Don’t I sound old-timey?)

My favorite cake was angel food, decorated with a cooked 7-minute frosting and one year I remember specifically indicating I wanted the frosting to be pink.

I’m not so much into pink frosting on angel food cake anymore but I still enjoy the lighter, buoyant nature of the food of angels. Plus did you know there is no shortening or fat of any kind used in angel food cake?

But it wasn’t until I tried my own hand at making an angel food cake recently (rather than buying one of those ready-made ones) that I remembered the truth of why I was so fond of angel food cake as a child. My friend Janet, who also gave me an Artisan bread recipe (here), made an angel food cake for another house church birthday and I enjoyed it so much, I decided to try making one myself. It had been years!

I used a box mix (had to go to a second grocery store to even find one) but the frothy batter whipping up as I was making it was just plain exciting to watch. Licking the beaters was like indulging in cotton candy.

The taste of my childhood came rushing back. I was so excited by the taste of the batter, I felt like a little girl again. And a little silly to get so excited. Coming out of the oven, it looked great!


The box said bake 30-40 minutes and cautioned not to under-bake it. I didn’t want it to get hard and tough, so I took it out at 30, when it looked perfect.


Very explicit box directions. Enlarge to see.


Inverted cake, first try.


My flopped cake.

My excitement was deflated minutes later when, after turning the cake upside down to cool, it suddenly fell. Like a balloon losing its air, and just as disappointing as an escaped helium balloon. It not only collapsed, the ruckus caused me to knock over and break Mother’s old glass Welch’s Grape Juice “sprinkler” she used for dampening clothes before ironing them (yeah, that’s way back), upon which I had tried to perch the upside down cake. So I not only had a fallen angel food cake on the counter, but broken glass mixed in. (I have a small collection of old bottles, so I was not happy to break this special one.) What a mess.

I cleaned up the disaster and decided the only thing to do was throw out the cake, even though parts of it were still edible. I didn’t want to risk swallowing glass. That would have been dumb on top of dumb.


Inverted cake, 2nd try. Check to see whether bottle fits cake pan opening ahead of time.


A few weeks later I would try making the cake again and this time baked it the full 40 minutes. It needs to feel light in the pan, not wet and still slightly gooey inside. It’s a bit of a trick to run a knife around the edge of the pan to get the cake out smoothly.



Success! I enjoyed my angel food cake, shared it with a family with a couple of new babies in the house (twins), and also at an office potluck.


If you are feeling really adventurous, here’s a recipe for Angel Food Cake from scratch from Mary Emma Showalter’s Mennonite Community Cookbook, originally published in 1950.** This is one of the 600 cake recipes that were tested in creating her collection, with 100 recipes she personally beat by hand. For this one, which requires whipping egg whites, she must have used an old fashioned rotary egg beater. Whew. That would be a lot of beating. It also includes a variation for Cocoa Angel Food by substituting 3 tablespoons of cocoa for 3 of the tablespoons of flour. Maybe I’ll have to try that sometime …. (Nah, not likely!) Note: I used a boxed mix in the creation of the 2 cakes you see pictured here! I would love to hear from anyone who tries making this scratch recipe. 🙂 Note that this recipe says to bake one hour.

Angel Food Cake

1 cup cake flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups egg whites (11 to 12 eggs)
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

Sift flour and measure. Add ½ cup sugar and sift together 3 times. Beat egg whites with rotary beater until frothy. Add salt and cream of tartar to egg whites. Continue to beat until whites hold peaks.

Slowly add remaining sugar to beaten whites, folding in with a wire whisk. Add flavoring. Then sift flour and sugar mixture, a tablespoon or two at a time, over beaten whites. Fold in lightly with a down-up-over motion.

When well blended, pour into a large, ungreased tube pan (10 inch diameter). Cut through batter with a knife to remove air bubbles.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Remove from oven and invert pan to cool.

Recipe submitted (1949) by Mrs. Henry Eichelberger (Hydro, Okla.); Lola Brunk, (Delphos, Ohio); and Mrs. John Martin, (Waynesboro, Va.)


Do I really like the cake as much as all the goodies I pile on top?


What was your favorite cake as a child, or one you requested for birthday parties? What was your most memorable birthday as a child?


If you have small children, how do you deal with what seems like competition to have the biggest and best birthday party?


* TOO MANY BIRTHDAY PARTIES? One mom confided that they run to birthday parties ALL THE TIME, because almost every child in her kids’ classrooms invites every child (a good custom if you’re having a party), but that makes at least 20 parties a year! She gets a batch of gift certificates from our wonderful Green Valley Book Fair to have on hand so they’re not constantly needing to go buy stuff.

** BEST CHURCH POTLUCK EVER. You can win a free Mennonite Community Cookbook (new 65th anniversary edition) over at Mennobytes blog, by entering a photo of favorite potluck dish in the “Best Church Potluck Ever” and a short essay of 50 words of less of why you like church potlucks (if you do. Not everyone does!). Don’t worry about the best essay or the best photo–the drawing will be random, not judged! Deadline June 15, 2015.


Buy Mennonite Community Cookbook here or check out all the other great cookbooks from Herald Press.

  1. Licking the beaters is better than cotton candy. Was that a selfie? Ha!

  2. Athanasia permalink

    You most definitely need to bake the angel food cake until the cracks feel dry to the touch and sometimes the top may be even a little over done looking. I wonder why you had such a hard time finding a mix in the store. They carry several brands at the grocer I go to…also plain and with confetti sprinkles. I normally keep at least 4 in the pantry, especially over the summer. The plain ones are what we use for shortcakes , however we have family members who prefer the biscuit type shortcake, so I usually make both.

    I know my great grandmother and grandma used to make them from scratch…not my mother though. She doesn’t “do” baking. She is almost totally of the “throw things together willy nilly” school of cooking, which doesn’t lend well to baking, so my sister and I took over the baking at a pretty early age, with help from Grandma Leeni. Hanging on the kitchen wall at the old house as a decoration is a flat whisk that was used to whip egg whites, along with other now a day unused utensils. By my time the ladies of the family all were using electric mixers or a rotary beater. I cannot imagine beating egg whites until they are stiff and glossy by hand.

    Well, that’s all for now…your topics always inspire me to write , sometimes almost like a memoir. I think I may be writing more for myself than for what you/your readers find interesting.

    • The willy nilly school of cooking eh? I love that description, and I can understand how that doesn’t work so well in baking. Smart young sisters, you and your sis. I’m delighted if my topics inspire and prompt you to your own memories and reflections. And yes, I frankly can’t quite imagine beating egg whites by rotary! My KitchenAid seems to take long enough.

      Yes, I was surprised to not find angel food cake mix at Food Lion, a somewhat regional east coast and southern chain, although it began in Belgium (I saw the original tiny grocery). 🙂 Perhaps they do not get much demand. A local independent grocery, Red Front had a generic brand and a Duncan Hines. It is a mark of its popularity in your family that you try to keep 4 mixes on hand! Strawberry season here is late this year but I suspect I’ll have some in about 2 weeks. Can’t wait for fresh right out the door!

  3. Athanasia permalink

    I’m back…as usual, I forgot to answer your questions. My favorite birthday cake is the confetti angel food cake. Since my birthday is right in strawberry and raspberry season it is slices of cake, with fruit and vanilla ice cream, rather like your photo above.

    Birthday parties were usual family get togethers with aunts and uncles and cousins, grandparents. Several times we would be on vacation over my birthday, camping and travelling. My parents did their own cooking…we did not eat out. We would either go for ice cream or pick up a store bought cake and take it back to the campground.

    Birthday parties today seem to be getting out of hand, IMO. If the mother is happy doing all that work and outlay of expense, I guess she can, but I did not throw big parties and I cannot see my children doing that either. We still have family parties, whoever is available among the extended family is invited. Cake, ice cream, pie, cupcakes…what ever is the choice. We go to lots of relatives parties too, very similar. We’re all pretty frugal. The smash cake is something new to me…we always just gave the children a piece of cake, not a whole personal cake. Landmark ages may result in a larger party with food, games etc, like 16 or 18 or 50 or 90 etc.

    • I agree with you on birthday parties today getting out of hand, from what I hear. I decorated several cakes for my girls when they were small into teddy bears, kittie cats, a Smurf–and then asked myself, ok, do I really want to keep spending all that time on a cake that is eaten in minutes or whatever. I kept cakes simpler–but still decorated them as they got older with typical flowers and frosting from my little home decorating equipment. I could do those pretty quickly.

      I like your frugality. Sounds like our experiences on this are very similar.

  4. Margaret permalink

    I would never try to cook a real one because I would obsess about what to do with all those yolks. I like the box mixes. They’re very tasty, and I haven’t had any disasters making them (yet). I don’t turn mine over. I’m likely guilty of not reading all the directions unless I get stuck. I do make a wonderfully decadent carrot cake, and I also have a seriously messed up recipe for a chocolate brownie cake that could put you on the edge of diabetic shock.

    • Margaret, you make my mouth water for a decadent carrot cake! I made one last year but wouldn’t mind knowing your recipe. Are there any online already published that are similar to what you make?? And “seriously messed up” sounds seriously good. Like your humor here.

      • Margaret Weir permalink

        Melodie – I’ll send you the carrot cake recipe when I get home. I’m doing my grandma-sleepover, and won’t be home until tomorrow night. My seriously messed up chocolate cake is my own invention, and a bit tedious, not to mention, not buttoned down, but I’ll send you that one as well. Now, I just want to know why the good Lord gave me so much time getting addicted to baking, only to rain on my parade with high cholesterol. He must have something infinitely yummy in heaven that won’t plaster itself directly to my middle or clog up my arteries.

        I tried to leave this reply on your blog, but there was no submit button. Could be the internet.


        Date: Thu, 21 May 2015 11:16:03 +0000 To:

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