Let Them Eat Cake: Angel Food vs. Devil's Food

Let Them Eat Cake: Angel Food vs. Devil's Food

Aug 29th 2022

Contrary to popular belief, devil’s food cake is not just angel food cake with cocoa powder. Like the legendary beings after which they’re named, the differences between the two desserts go layers deep. Let’s talk about angel food and devil’s food cake, along with some tips and tricks for preparing both.

Angel Food Cake

Recipes for this light and airy dessert date back to the 1800's. Angel food cake was allegedly named for its texture; it was said to be so light, an angel could eat it and still fly away. Angel food cake contains no chemical leavener and very little fat. It gets its classic lift from whipped egg whites. To help your angel food cake rise to the heavens, use room temperature egg whites, which incorporate air more easily than chilled egg whites.

If you want to jazz up your angel food cake, add a teaspoon of flavored extract to the egg whites before you whip them. You can also add spices to your flour mixture before it is sifted. Add flavor sparingly: too much can impact your cake’s density, and your cake may not rise as expected.

Angel Food Cake

At Chef’s Corner Store, we’re not usually fans of tools designed for a single task, but when it comes to angel food cake, there is no substitute. The ideal angel food cake pan will have three features:

An Uncoated Interior - Angel food cake climbs up the side of the pan as it rises. Nonstick coating doesn’t allow the cake to adhere to the interior surface of the pan. Angel food cake baked in a nonstick pan will be delicious, but dense.

A Tube - The tube helps the center of cake rise as high as the edges, preventing your angel food cake from cratering in the middle. The tube and bottom of the pan are usually removable from the outer layer to help release the cake from the pan. Sadly, a Bundt pan is not a good substitute. Angel food cake will bake into the detailed pattern of your Bundt pan, and it will be a nightmare to get out of the pan.

Legs - Angel food cake cools upside down in the pan. It needs the support of the pan to keep the light and tender texture as it cools. If you already own an uncoated tube pan, you can use that. Place a wine bottle or can under the tube while the cake cools to help keep the pan elevated.

If you’d like to try your hand at this heavenly dessert, we recommend this angel food cake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. It contains only six ingredients, and Sally's post is packed with helpful how-to's. We're confident you’ll bake up a cake to make the angels sing.

Devil’s Food Cake

Devil’s food cake first came on the scene in the early 1900’s. There are a few theories as to how it got its name. One, it's the decadent counterpart to angel food cake. Two, it's sinfully delicious. Finally, devil's food cake came about during a time when food that was spicy, rich, or dark was described as deviled, like deviled ham and deviled eggs.

Devil’s food cake differs from a standard chocolate cake in two ways. First, it uses more baking soda than typical chocolate cake. Devil's food cake also calls for unsweetened cocoa powder. The combination of baking soda and unsweetened cocoa powder causes a chemical reaction that gives devil's food cake a rich mahogany color, similar to early red velvet cake. Several recipes also call for coffee or espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor.

If all this talk about cake has you craving a slice, we recommend this "obscenely fudgy" devil's food cake recipe from Jocelyn Delk Adams of Grandbaby Cakes. It's made from unsweetened cocoa powder, coffee, and baking soda, in addition to tangy sour cream, and topped with a Swiss meringue buttercream. We can’t wait to try it.

Heaven and Hell Cake

Like Bobby Vee in his 1960’s song "Devil or Angel," we can’t make up our minds. Luckily, Imperial Sugar offers a recipe for Heaven and Hell cake. This divine looking dessert contains alternating layers of angel food cake and devil’s food cake, separated by peanut butter mousse and topped with a chocolate ganache.

Heaven and Hell Cake

As neither devil’s food nor angel food cake is traditionally served with peanut butter, we changed up this recipe a bit. We created our own version of Heaven and Hell cake with an Italian meringue dam around whipped cream, plus fresh sliced strawberries, which are commonly served with angel food cake.

We were concerned the rich layers of devil’s food cake might squish the delicate crumb of the angel food cake. So we went with a single layer of each cake type, and we opted to put the angel food layer on top. But however you choose to create and serve your version of Heaven and Hell cake, we bet it will be delicious!