Lemon & Poppy Seed Angel Food Cake

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This lemon & poppy seed angel food cake is incredibly light, super fluffy & surprisingly easy to make. So much better than box mix!

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lemon & poppy seed angel food cake

Angel food cake is easily one of my favourite types of cake (to make & eat!) & flavouring it with lemon & poppy seeds makes it even more delicious!

If you’re like me & you do a lot of baking & ice cream making, you’ll probably have a load of egg whites in your fridge that need using up. Well this cake is the perfect solution. It’s like eating a cloud!

All you need to do to make one of the fluffiest cakes around is whip up some egg whites with sugar, add in plenty of lemon (zest, juice & extract), a generous amount of poppy seeds & a small amount of flour, bake until light & golden brown then cool upside down. Pretty easy right?!

Looking for more baking recipes to try? We have recipes for a whole load of bakes. From homemade bread & sourdough, to cakes, brownies & cookies.

What You’ll Need

One of the best things about this lemon & poppy seed angel food cake is that you only need a handful of ingredients & a couple pieces of equipment to make it!

  • Angel Food Cake Tin – You’ll need a 10″ angel food cake tin/tube pan for this recipe. Make sure not to grease or line the tin, the cake batter needs to be able to stick to the sides as it bakes.
  • Stand Mixer – This recipe involves a lot of whisking, so a stand mixer is ideal. If you haven’t got one, an electric hand whisk will work as well.
  • Egg Whites – Egg whites from fresh, separated eggs work best. Make sure that they’re at room temperature before using. For this cake, you’ll need 360 grams of egg whites, which roughly equates to 12 eggs worth.
  • Sugar – We’re using caster sugar in our angel food cake. It’s important to measure this accurately! 2/3 of the sugar gets whisked with the egg whites & the other third is mixed in with the flour.
  • Lemon – Our angel food cake is flavoured with lemon zest, juice & lemon extract!
  • Poppy Seeds – Lemon & poppy seed is a classic combination! These seeds add a subtle nutty flavour to our cake, that cuts through the sweetness nicely.
  • Cream Of Tartar – This is used to stabilise the egg whites when we whisk them, making our angel cake even fluffier. You’ll only need a teaspoon.
  • Salt – Used to enhance our cake’s flavour. Table salt works best.
  • Flour – Plain flour works well for our cake batter but if you’ve got cake/sponge flour, this works even better.
  • Vanilla – A small amount of good quality vanilla extract flavours this cake nicely.
slice of lemon angel cake
angel food cake out of tin

How To Make Lemon & Poppy Seed Angel Food Cake

The full, printable recipe card for this angel cake can be found at the bottom of this post! Here’s a quick rundown of the recipe…

  1. Gather Ingredients
    Angel food cake comes together pretty quickly so it’s best to get all of your ingredients together first. This involves putting egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer, mixing lemon zest & sugar together and sifting plain flour with salt & sugar.
  2. Whisk Whites On Low Speed
    Now, we whisk the egg whites on a low speed for a minute or two, just until they’re frothy.
  3. Add In Cream Of Tartar & Lemon Juice
    Next we add cream of tartar & lemon juice into the egg whites.
  4. Whisk To Soft Peaks
    The egg white now get whisked on a medium speed, until they reach soft peaks. This will take 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add In Sugar
    Next, with the mixer still running on a medium speed, we add the lemon sugar into the egg whites, a tablespoon at a time.
  6. Whisk To Medium Peaks
    Once the sugar has been added, we turn the mixer speed up to medium-high & whisk until they form medium peaks (not stiff peaks!). It’s important not to over whisk the whites here, as the cake won’t rise as much in the oven.
  7. Fold In Flour & Poppy Seeds
    Next, we add in lemon extract, vanilla extract and half of the sifted flour & sugar into the egg whites & gently fold in with a rubber spatula until just combined. Then we add in the remaining flour and the poppy seeds & fold in again, until incorporated.
  8. Bake
    Once our cake batter is ready, we transfer it into a 10″ tube pan (leave it ungreased!) & spread it out into an even layer. Now we run a skewer (or small knife) through the centre of the batter to pop any air pockets then bake at 175°c/350°f for 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown & a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Make sure not to open your oven for at least 35 minutes before checking your cake!
  9. Cool
    As soon as our cake is baked, we take out of the oven, turn it upside down & leave to cool, either standing on the tin’s legs (if it has any) or by balancing the centre on a ramekin. The cake needs to be left to cool completely like this otherwise it will collapse!

Stages Of Whisking Egg Whites (For Angel Food Cake)

When making an angel food cake, it’s crucial to whisk the egg whites to the correct consistency/firmness at each stage, otherwise it won’t rise properly in the oven & could collapse. It’s also important that you use room temperature egg whites, as these whisk better, resulting in a fluffier cake!

Step 1 – Whisk Until Frothy
The first step is to whisk the whites on a low speed for a minute or two, until they are frothy. The purpose of doing this is to break the egg whites up, so that the other ingredients will incorporate properly.

Step 2 – Soft Peaks
Next, we turn the mixer up to a medium speed & whisk the whites until they form soft peaks. This will take 3-4 minutes. You’ll know when they are ready when you lift the whisk out & peak forms but almost instantly falls back onto itself.

Step 3 – Medium Peaks
Once the egg whites have reached soft peaks, we add in sugar a tbsp at a time. Then once the sugar has been mixed in, we whisk the whites on a medium-high speed until they reach medium peaks. This will roughly take 4-5 minutes. You’ll know when the white have reached medium peaks, when you lift the whisk out & the whites form a peak that holds its’ shape but the tip folds back over itself.

If you’re egg whites form stiff peaks (the peaks will hold their shape & stand straight up) then they have been over whisked! Your cake will still be good but won’t be quite as fluffy.

Tips & Tricks

Angel food cake may seem difficult to make but follow these tips & tricks and you’ll be making cakes that are SO much better than box mix in no time!

  • Use egg whites from fresh, separated eggs. These whisk better than carton egg whites. Make sure that there aren’t any traces of yolk in the whites, as they won’t whisk properly. It’s best to separate each egg over a small bowl & add them into the mixing bowl one at a time.
  • Make sure that your cake tin is clean & isn’t greased or lined.
  • Cool the cake upside down to prevent it collapsing.
  • Add lemon extract to the cake batter, for a stronger lemon flavour.
  • Sift the flour, to prevent any lumps in the batter.
  • Mix the flour with some of the sugar. This makes it easier to incorporate into the batter.
  • Be careful not to over mix the egg whites, as this will affect how the cake rises in the oven. The whites should be at medium peaks when you add the flour in.

Frequently Asked Questions

What tin do I need to bake angel food cake?

To make angel food cake, you’ll need a 10″ tube pan. It’s important that the tin isn’t greased or lined as the cake batter needs to be able to stick to the sides as it cooks.

Can carton egg whites be used to make angel food cake?

Although you can use carton egg whites to make angel food cake, it’s best to use whites from fresh separated eggs. If you do use carton egg whites, make sure to use ones that contain 100% egg.

What’s the best way to remove angel food cake from the tin?

The best way to remove angel food cake from the tin is by running a thin, flexible knife (like a filleting knife) around the edges of the cake then turning it out. Don’t worry if the edges aren’t super neat, that’s the nature of this cake!

How should angel food cake be stored?

Angel food cake should be stored in an airtight container & is best eaten within a couple of days. I’d recommend cutting portions from the cake just before serving, to prevent it drying out.

How can I tell when angel food cake is cooked?

You’ll be able to tell when your angel food cake is cooked because the top will be a deep golden brown & a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake will come out clean.

Can I put frosting on my angel food cake?

Angel food cake has a very light & delicate texture so won’t hold up to thick frostings. It’s best eaten on its’ own or with a very thin layer of whipped cream or icing.

What type of knife is best to slice angel food cake?

A sharp, serrated knife is the best type of knife to use to slice angel food cake. Make sure to cut the cake using a sawing motion, so that it doesn’t get squished.

Why do you cool angel food cake upside down?

Angel food cake is very light & delicate so needs to be cooled upside down, so that it holds its’ shape. If you let the cake cool facing upwards, it will collapse onto itself.

Baking Angel Food Cake In An Aga

With all of my recipes, I include cooking instructions for conventional ovens, fan ovens & also Agas. Here’s how to cook this recipe in an Aga…

Bake the angel food cake on a grid shelf placed onto the floor of the baking oven. Slide a cold plain shelf onto the top set of runners just before baking the cake, leaving it in for the duration of the cook.

Equipment Used

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Lemon & Poppy Seed Angel Food Cake

This lemon & poppy seed angel food cake is incredibly light, super fluffy & surprisingly easy to make. So much better than box mix!
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes
Course: Baking, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Servings: 10 People
Author: Ben Racey

Equipment

  • 10" Angel Food Cake Tin
  • Stand Mixer
  • Microplane/Grater
  • Metal Skewer
  • Thin Flexible Knife

Ingredients

  • 360 g Egg Whites (At Room Temperature)
  • 290 g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Lemons
  • 120 g Plain Flour (See Notes)
  • 1 tsp Cream Of Tartar
  • ½ tsp Table Salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Lemon Extract
  • 1 tbsp Poppy Seeds

Instructions

  • Preheat an oven to 175°c/155°c fan (350°f/310°f).

Ingredient Prep

  • Place the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer (with the whisk attached) & set aside.
    Make sure that the bowl is clean & dry before using!
  • Next, place 190 grams of the caster sugar into a separate mixing bowl then zest in the 2 lemons. Massage the zest into the sugar with your fingers then set to one side.
  • Juice the zested lemons then measure out 2 tbsp of the juice.
  • Sift the plain flour, salt & remaining 100 grams of sugar into another mixing bowl & set aside as well.

Cake Mix

  • Whisk the egg whites on a low speed for a minute or two, until frothy then add in the cream of tartar & lemon juice.
  • Continue whisking the egg whites, on a medium speed until they form soft peaks. This will take 3-4 minutes.
  • With the mixer still running on medium speed, add in the lemon sugar a tbsp at a time. Turn the speed up to medium-high & keep whisking until the egg whites form medium peaks. This will roughly take 4-5 minutes.
  • Next, add both of the extracts & half of the sifted flour into the egg whites then gently fold in with a rubber spatula, until just combined. Add in the remaining flour & the poppy seeds then fold again, until incorporated.
    Be careful to not over mix the batter here! The flour should just be incorporated.
  • Pour the cake mix into a 10" angel food cake tin, gently spreading it out into an even layer then run a thin metal skewer (or knife) through the centre of the batter, to remove any air pockets.

Baking & Cooling

  • Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, until the top is a deep golden brown & a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Once cooked, remove the cake from the oven & immediately turn it upside down to cool, either standing on the tin’s legs (if it has any) or by balancing the centre on a ramekin. Leave to cool upside down until completely cold. This will take several hours.
  • Once cool, run a thin, flexible knife (a filleting knife works well!) around the edges of the cake, to release it from the tin then invert out onto a plate/cake stand.
  • Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the cake into portions, using a sawing motion so not to squish each slice. Store any leftovers in an airtight container.

Notes

1. To Bake In An Aga – Bake the angel food cake on a grid shelf placed onto the floor of the baking oven. Slide a cold plain shelf onto the top set of runners just before baking the cake, leaving it in for the duration of the cook.
2. Egg Whites – Egg whites from separated fresh eggs work best for angel food cake. Make sure to let the egg whites come up to room temperature before using. For a visual guide for soft & medium peaks, take a look at the post above!
3. Cake Tin – You’ll need a 10″ angel food cake tin/tube pan for this recipe. Make sure not to grease or line the tin, as the batter needs to be able to stick to the side as it bakes.
4. Lemon Extract – This is available to buy in most supermarkets & adds the perfect amount of lemon flavour to this cake.
5. Storage – Leftover angel food cake should be stored in an airtight container & is best eaten within a couple of days.

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