One of my favorite desserts that my mother would make growing up was what she called “strawberry shortcake”. Now it wasn’t what most people know strawberry shortcakes as: tender flaky biscuits surrounding a big dollop of whipped cream and macerated strawberries. No no no. Strawberry Shortcake to my mother meant a store bought angel food cake, whipped cream from a can, and fresh sliced strawberries. Don’t get me wrong, I loved this dessert as a child! We didn’t have it very often so it was such a treat whenever my mother would make it.
The best thing about this dessert that she would make is that it gave me such fond memories of sitting at the table enjoying the dessert as a family which was a fairly rare occasion. And still to this day, I love that classic dessert and that’s why I wanted to recreate it on the blog. So, here is my version of my mother’s strawberry shortcake: Strawberry Angel Food Cupcakes.
What is Angel Food Cake?
Angel food cake is an ultra light and airy sponge cake that is made almost entirely out of egg whites and sugar. There is no butter, egg yolks, or leavening agents and it uses the tiniest amount of flour (½ cup total). It produces the most interesting cake I have ever had because again, it is SO light and airy but is sooooo satisfying— I don’t even miss the butter! Now angel food cake is actually very simple to make so long as you follow the instructions. There are two important things to do when making this cake:
Make sure you separate your eggs properly. You only need egg whites in this recipe and if ANY— I mean even the smallest amount— of yolk gets into the egg whites, they will not whip up properly and you’ll have to start over. I recommend having one large bowl and two small bowls to separate the eggs with. I crack the egg and use my hands to separate the white from the yolk, letting the whites fall into one of small bowls. I then drop the yolks into the other small bowl (you can save these for other recipes!). I then transfer the egg whites into the big bowl one at a time. This is a great way to do this because IF some yolk gets in the small bowl with the egg whites, that only one egg (as opposed to 4, 5, or 6) that can’t be used. Again, NO YOLKS!
Cool the cupcakes upside down. Doing this will ensure that your angel food cupcakes don’t deflate while they cool. I do this by removing the cupcakes from the oven and, while wearing oven mitts, invert the cupcakes directly in the muffin tin and let them cool like that. That way you won’t need any special equipment and your cupcakes will stay fluffy.
The next component to these cupcakes is of course fresh whipped cream. I believe that there are few things better in life than fresh whipped cream. There, I said it. I could eat this stuff by the spoonful no doubt. And the best part? It is SO easy to make. You combine some heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl and whisk until you get stiff peaks. That’s all! Trust me you guys, fresh whipped cream is a MUST for this recipe (or any recipe that calls for whipped cream really). If you absolutely insist, you can use store bought whipped cream in the can and these cupcakes will still taste delicious, I just think they won’t be AS delicious. That’s my personal opinion and that’s all I say.
Next up is the Macerate Strawberries. What are those you may be wondering? Simply put, they are strawberries that are tossed in sugar and left to sit while they release their natural juices. It’s quite amazing actually. You start out with grainy sugary covered strawberries and 15 minutes later you have strawberries that are slightly softened, all the sugar is dissolved, and you have a wonderful pile of strawberry liquids at the bottom of the bowl! I love macerating strawberries because it adds just a little extra sweetness to the dessert and pairs perfectly with the whipped cream and angel food cupcakes.
All in all this is a very simple recipe and takes about 1 hour from start to finish if you use your time wisely. It produces a cupcake that is light, airy, perfectly sweet, and oh-so strawberry-y! And hey, if strawberries aren’t your thing or you don’t have any on hand, top these cupcakes with any fresh fruit you do have or just eat them plain with whipped cream! You really can make these with any topping which is another reason that I love this recipe.
If you try this recipe or any other from the blog, please share your comments, feedback, and/or photos with me (on instagram @acommonkitchen) because I would love to hear from you! Happy baking everyone!
Strawberry Angel Food Cupcakes
For the Angel Food Cupcakes
½ Cup Cake Flour (I use King Arthurs)
½ Tablespoon Water, room temperature
7 Large Egg Whites, room temperature
¾ Cup White Granulated Sugar, separated
¾ Teaspoon Cream of Tartar
¼ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Vanilla Bean, split in half and seeds scraped out
¼ Teaspoon Almond Extract
For the Vanilla Whipped Cream
1 ½ Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
¼ Cup Powdered Sugar, sifted first
½ Vanilla Bean, split in half and seeds scraped out
For the Macerated Strawberries
1 Pound Strawberries (get them locally if you can!)
2 Tablespoons White Granulated Sugar
½ Lemon, juice only
Pinch of Kosher Salt
Make the Angel Food Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Line a muffin tin with “jumbo” or “extra-large” cupcake liners.
In a bowl, sift together the cake flour and ¼ cup of the sugar. Whisk the mixture together to make sure it is fully combined.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites, water, cream of tartar, and salt and whisk on low speed until the egg whites are a little frothy. Increase the speed to medium high and add in the remaining ½ cup sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Once all of the sugar is added, add in the vanilla bean seeds and almond extract and continue whisking until the meringue forms stiff glossy peaks— do NOT over whip the egg whites. *See Note
Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and gently fold in of the flour + sugar mixture in three editions using a rubber spatula, taking great care not to deflate the mixture. Once the last third of of the flour mixture is added, fold everything together until just combined— do not over mix or the egg whites will deflate.
Gently scoop the batter using two spoons into the muffin tins, filling them almost all the way to the top. Use the back of a spoon or an offset spatula to flatten out the tops.
Place the muffin tin in the preheated oven and bake the cupcakes for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown on the tops and springy when you touch the tops.
Once the cupcakes are done, remove the pan from the oven and use oven mitts to invert the cupcakes in the tins so that they can cool upside down (this will keep them fluffy).
Make the Whipped Cream
In a bowl using a handheld electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add all of the ingredients and whip on medium high until you have stiff (but not over whipped) peaks.
Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large round piping tip. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the Macerate Strawberries
Wash and dry the strawberries. Cut the strawberries into quarters and place them into a bowl.
Add in the sugar, lemon juice, and kosher salt and mix until evenly combined. Set aside for 15 minutes or until the sugar is fully dissolved and the strawberries have produced a good amount to juice.
Once the cupcakes are completely cooled down, place them right-side up.
Pipe a ‘blob’ of whipped cream on top of the cupcakes. Use the back of a spoon or an offset spatula to create a ‘crater’ in the center.
Spoon in some strawberries in the center of the cupcakes.
Be careful to not over whip the egg whites. If they look curdled and turn from glossy to matte, you will have to start over. I check my eggs very frequently when making meringue just to ensure I don’t over whip. You will know the meringue is ready when it is glossy and if you scoop some out with the whisk it will hold a perfect peak and won’t droop down.