09 April 2007
Memories, Reinterpretted in Miniature
Remember when I said last week that I had the idea of angel food cake sort of stuck in my head? Well, I wasn't kidding. See, growing up, angel food cake was always synonymous with the Fourth of July: every year, we would pile into the car and drive to a friend's house, where besides the barbeque and the fireworks, the star of the evening was an angel food cake made by this friend's mother, Mary. Even late into her eighties, Mary didn't disappoint, her stooped frame whipping those egg whites to produce a fluffy tower of a cake crowned with peaks of shiny meringue frosting and usually with little paper American flags stuck in the top. Heck, I don't think we would have drivern those two hours if that cake wasn't part of the deal.
For various reasons, that tradition ended when I was about 13, and with it went any occaision to eat angel food cake. In fact, until I made it the other day, we had been on an over ten year hiatus. But then angel food cake got stuck in my head and, like a version of the Macarena, it just won't go away.
This time, the version is chocolate, baked in tiny baby cake form, topped with kumquats cut in the shape of flowers. I've been munching on kumquats since they first appeared in January, eating them out of hand and making compotes with cranberries that were tangy compliments to my morning oatmeal. When I spied a cake with kumquat flowers, I was just waiting for an excuse to make them, and they ended up as sweet citrusy toppings to my little cakes, making them perfect moist morsels for popping anytime.
Chocolate Angel Food Cakelets with Kumquat Flowers
Make sure not to overbake the cakelets, or they will dry out, you want the insides to stay nice and moist. The flowers would make lovely toppings for all sorts of desserts, but this citrus-chocolate pairing is a classic.
for the angel food cakelets:
1 3/4 cups superfine sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cake flour, sifted
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup hot water
10 egg whites, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1. Preheat the oven to 350, have cupcake tins ready.
2. Sift together 3/4 cup of the sugar, the salt, and flour into a bowl. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa and the hot water, stir until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. In a clean bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they begin to hold soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, while beating, until the whites hold stiff peaks. Fold the cocoa mixture into the egg whites, then gently fold the flour mixture into the whites in two additions.
3. Fill the cupcakes 2/3 of the way full and bake 14-16 minutes, until the tops are cracked and dry and springy to the touch. Run a knife around the edges, cool on a wire rack. Top each cake with one kumquat.
for the kumquat flowers:
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbl honey
1 tsp ground star anise or cloves
Starting at rounded end, cut cross into each kumquat to within 1/4 inch of stem end. Bring wine, sugar, honey, and star anise to boil in heavy large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add kumquats; simmer until just tender, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer kumquats to a plate until cool enough to handle. Gently remove seeds from kumquats. Meanwhil, continue simmering kumquat syrup until reduced to about 3/4 cup. Return kumquat flowers to syrup to coat, store in syrup until ready to use.