In amongst my cookbooks I have a now faded copy of 'The Sainsbury Book of Baking'. How it came to be on my shelf, I can't quite recall, but it had originally belonged to my mum. When I left home at 21, it was my one and only cookbook. I can vaguely remember it was part of a series: there was one that featured recipes made with a blender, which was rather niche. I do remember my mum buying them. It was 1980 and the books cost 99p each.
It was while browsing through this book that I came across a recipe for Angel Cake. I had never made it before and was intrigued by its ingredients list that read more like a meringue than a cake. Curiosity got the better of me and I baked it. The result is a light-as-a-feather vanilla sponge that is oh-so-pretty. On un-moulding the cake, I found the airy mixture hadn't completely filled the cake tin, so my Angel Cake was dotted with a few little craters. But it is homemade rather than shop-made perfection after all.
I made a simple rose and lemon icing to decorate the cake and popped a blousy chrysanthemum on top to detract from those craters. If you don't fancy the icing, just dredge the cooled cake with icing sugar for a pretty finish.
25g plain flour
150g caster sugar
5 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the icing:
100g icing sugar
1 tsp rosewater
1 tsp lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4.
Sift the flours and 25g of the caster sugar together 3 or 4 times.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff, add remaining caster sugar a tablespoon at a time and continue whisking until very thick.
Carefully fold in the sifted mixture with the vanilla essence and turn into a 20cm (8") angel cake tin.
Smooth the surface and bake for 35 to 40 mins, though do check from 25 mins.
It is ready when the cake springs back when lightly pressed.
Turn it upside down on a wire rack and leave in the tin until cold, when the cake will fall easily from the tin.
Dust with icing sugar, or decorate with a rose icing made by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl and mixing in the rosewater and lemon juice. If the icing is a little runny, add more icing sugar. You want it thick but pourable.