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This low-carb recipe takes the (angel food) cake

This low-carb, gluten-free angel food cake is as light, airy and tasty as traditional angel food cake.
This low-carb, gluten-free angel food cake is as light, airy and tasty as traditional angel food cake.
Published Jan. 17, 2012

It seemed impossible. I wanted to make a zero-sugar, low-carb version of a cake that is made from almost nothing but sugar and carbs.

And it took just 20-something attempts. But after many disappointing — and some downright disgusting — versions, I finally managed to bake an amazing and sweet angel food cake that rises beautifully and has the same delicate, almost spongy texture as traditional recipes.

My motivation was simple — Mom. A longtime vegan, she has lived without her (and my) favorite cake for decades. But she recently started eating egg whites again, which put angel food back on the table. Except she isn't eating sugar and is limiting carbohydrates.

Angel food cake has three primary ingredients: egg whites, sugar and flour. Egg whites and sugar are whipped until they form a thick, airy batter, then flour is gently folded in. Could I make a cake with only one of the key ingredients?

From the start, structure was the challenge. Using egg whites and the natural sugar alternative known as stevia, I was able to bake up cakes with the proper taste. And they would rise beautifully in the oven. But as soon as they came out, they wilted into near puddles of cooked dough.

To get the structure I needed, I turned to two ingredients popular in gluten-free baking: guar gum and xanthan gum. Most baked goods get their lift and structure by working the gluten (a type of protein) in wheat flour until it forms bonds that trap air. People who avoid gluten need to find a way around this, so they use other ingredients to replicate those bonds.

The cake still needed dry ingredients, and for that I turned to more egg whites. A blend of powdered egg whites and egg- or whey-based protein powder was a good start. A bit of almond flour completed the dry mix, giving the cake a bit of extra body.

This cake is easy to love because it is simple to make, delicious and great for dieters. It makes a standard-size angel food cake but has just 80 calories, 2 grams of fat, 14 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbohydrates per slice. That's right. Per slice.