She was a freshman in college: a little overweight, introverted and shy. She was excited, but a little unsure of herself in this new situation. As an only child, she had never really shared a room with anyone else, let alone a perfect stranger. She wasn’t even sure she really liked people all that much (sometimes, she still feels that way – true confession). All she knew was that she was glad to be out of high school, away from all that pressure – pressure to be liked, pressure to be thin, pressure to have a boyfriend. A new place with new people might be just the thing.
Surprisingly, she made friends relatively quickly and easily – and the friends she met in those first weeks at school are still some of her best friends today (nearly 20 years later).
She was determined to buck the trend of the dreaded “freshman-15”. She would go to the dining hall with her new friends, but she would eat off the salad bar or order turkey sandwiches on whole-wheat bread – hold the cheese and mayo. The fat-free trend was in full swing (this was long before the idea of “good fat” vs. “bad fat” – all fat was bad, so you should avoid it altogether). Occasionally she would nuke a potato in the microwave in her dorm room and slather it with fat-free sour cream and butter-flavored spread.
For a treat, she would have Snackwell’s fat-free cookies or Twizzlers. Sometimes a store-bought angel food cake. Nevermind the fact that these foods were comprised mostly of chemicals and fillers, and that the sugar content was outrageous. They were fat-free, and that was the goal.
She actually managed to lose close to 30 pounds that year, due in no small part to the fact that she walked or biked to class every day at a school with the largest campus in the world. In the almost 20 years since then, she has gained and lost that same 30 pounds multiple times. But she has never gone back to that fat-free, chemical-laden diet.
She has learned the benefits of eating whole foods: real fats, pastured meats, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. She gets her exercise by chasing her children and working in her garden. She raises chickens for eggs and grinds her own wheat. She is a far cry from that scared college freshman with the fat-free obsession. She is me.
I still occasionally enjoy a fat-free treat. No store-bought, spongy, dry angel food cake for me now, though. Today it’s home-baked with freshly ground whole-wheat flour and egg whites straight from my own chickens. Laden with loads of lovely lemon zest, it’s a perfect summer treat. And what to do with all of those intensely yellow yolks that are left over when you separate the eggs? Why, make tangy lemon curd of course (which is absolutely not fat free)!
The thing about angel food cake is that it’s somewhat reminiscent of marshmallows. So, when you grill it the outside gets crispy and caramelized and the interior gets soft and warm. Drizzled with rich lemon curd, its a textural delight. We made our lemon curd with the leftover yolks, but you could use a high-quality prepared curd as well.
Angel Food Cake
prep time: 10 minutes
bake time: 30-40 minutes
- 1 cup finely ground white whole-wheat flour, sifted
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 11 large whites)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup sugar
- zest of two large lemons
- Preheat oven to 350 F and have ready a tube pan with a removable insert
- Sift flour, 3/4 cup sugar and salt together three times
- Place egg whites, lemon juice, cream of tartar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high until light a foamy.
- With the mixer on medium-high, slowly add 3/4 cup sugar in 1-2 tablespoon increments, taking 2-3 minutes.
- When all the sugar has been added, the egg-white mixture should hold soft, white, glossy peaks
- Remove the mixer bowl from the mixer and carefully fold in the flower mixture and the lemon zest. Begin by sifting a small amount of the flour mixture over the top of the egg-white mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold it in until it is almost incorporated. Sprinkle some of the zest over and fold that in. Continue this process until all of the flour and the zest have been folded in.
- Pour the batter into the pan and spread to level the top.
- Place in the center of a preheated oven and bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, 30-40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and invert the cake pan, allowing it to rest on the tube. If the tube doesn’t extend above the rim of the pan, place the tube opening on a slim bottle so that it is held above the counter. Allow cake to cool completely in the inverted position.
- To unmold, run a thin knife around the edge of the pan and push the insert out of the pan. Slid the knife between the base of the pan and the cake to release it and slide the cake off of the tube insert.
- Slice and enjoy.