There really is a cake that is known to be the food of Angels. It also just so happens to be my father’s all time favorite cake. I have loved it as far back as I can remember- accompanied by fresh strawberries and whip cream. Angel food was the cake of choice every year on our birthdays which fell four days apart in May.
This is dad at thirty-six and me at six. This particular angel food cake had some strawberry shizzle on it.
One of the last solid foods I fed my dad before he passed away last month was angel food cake. I told him that he had better eat the food of the angels before he goes to meet them. We talked openly like this about his pending passage with humor.
After the Angel food cake it was pretty much ginger ale and jello until the bitter end. It’s true what they say about cancer-
It is a horrible and humiliating disease.
There really is an art to grieving.
To grieve the loss of anything- a parent, a love, a child, an era, a home, a job, a pet- is a creative act that takes attention, patience and courage. How do we know how to grieve if we have never lost before? It seems to me that our culture favors the fast food model of mourning, get over it quick and get back to work.
Im not a big fan of slam-the-door-closure like this. I think I prefer the more old-fashion words like mourning, lamenting and grief; which allow more space for the ‘dark nights of the soul’. They describe the true nature of family gatherings and memorial services which are never easy or neat.
Grief is messy and painful. No one ever described it as being easy.
I think if we allow it, grief can also be a tonic of sorts: a healing elixir, made of tears that lubricate the heart.
Death stirs up conflicted feelings in the hearts of the ones left in the wake. Some shaky and tender; some angry; some numb-almost all confused and unsettled. All of it is grief. And grief is the proof of our love, a manifestation of how deeply we have allowed another to touch us.
My grief feels like emptiness right now. I continue to talk to my dad and I miss him terribly. Im trying not to fill this emptiness by running off to the gym and to work (all the time), but to try and feel it and to be still. I’m making progress, but still at quite a distance from perfect. My soul signature is to be in motion, not in stillness.
Maybe angel food cake is fed to the angels because it is so light and airy and has virtually no calories, so the angels can continue their flight after eating. Maybe it is called what it is because of it’s resemblance to the pure white ethereal clouds of heaven? Or perhaps because Angel Food Cake is the exact opposite of Devil’s Food Cake- which is dark and heavy and full of chocolate and butter.
True to form, I happen to love both. But today I offer symbolically the lightness, the hope and the love-filled angel food cake of my dad. So that others may be relieved of the pain of whatever losses you have suffered, with open hearts and minds and be blessed with a moment of stillness.
1 cup cake flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups egg whites (from about 12 large eggs)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons lemon juice plus 2 1/2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Death is the prime condition of life. I am so grateful for the great love of my dad, and the unbelievable last weeks that I was able to spend with him. The cake is the same. The experience is different.
ANGEL FOOD CAKE
(hint: below is the long. the short is that angel food cake is quite simple and quite similar in short form..aka the box form)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper to fit the bottom of a 10-inch tube pan. Fit the paper into the bottom of the pan and set aside. (Important: do not grease pan!)
Place 2 large sheets of waxed paper over a work surface.
Working over 1 large piece of waxed paper, sift the cake flour together with 1/4 cup of the sugar. Sift the mixture 4 more times, working back and forth between the 2 sheets of waxed paper. Set aside. Sift the remaining 1 cup of granulated sugar onto another sheet of waxed paper and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. Add the salt, cream of tartar, 2 tteaspoons lemon juice, water, vanilla and almond extracts and increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the whites are nearly stiff. Lower the speed to medium-low and beat in the 1 cup of sifted sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the mixture forms stiff peaks yet is not dry.
Remove the bowl from the electric mixer and sift about 1/4 of the flour mixture onto the top of the beaten egg whites. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold together. Repeat this motion 3 more times with the remaining flour mixture, each time folding very gently together. Gently transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and run a knife through the mixture to eliminate any large air bubbles. Smooth the top if necessary.
Bake the cake until the top is lightly golden and the cake springs back when touched lightly, about 45 to 50 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan onto its legs (alternately, if the tube pan has no legs, simply hang the pan upside down over the neck of a sturdy bottle) and let sit until completely cooled.
When ready to serve, run the tip of a knife around the inner and outer edges of the cake pan to loosen it from the sides. Unmold the cake and set aside. In a small bowl combine the confectioners’ sugar, remaining lemon juice, and lemon zest and stir until smooth. Adjust the consistency, if necessary – the glaze should be thick enough to cling to the sides of the cake yet still fluid. If the glaze is too thin, add a bit more confectioners’ sugar. If too thick, add more citrus juice. Spread the glaze over the top of the cake, allowing some to drip down the sides. Let the glaze set before serving the cake. Serve with macerated berries, if desired.
Recipe courtesy Emeril L