Behold! A coconut-coated sugar bomb. A blizzard of a cake. An edible pompom, if you will. During its construction, I affectionately called this cake “Snow Beast”, which is fitting if not appetizing. Its official title is Raffaello Angel Cake with Salted Almond Cream, which is much more respectful and descriptive than its playful moniker. But it will always be Snow Beast to me.
Regardless of what you call it, this Raffaello Angel Cake is pure bliss to eat. It isn’t even a little bit challenging or sophisticated, it’s just a solid sugary dessert your inner-five-year-old will love. In other words, this treat inspires goofy grins not tasting notes.
I’m sure you know that tiny dessert brag so many of us are guilty of. You know, when you trot out your “sophisticated” palette and say, “Oh I like dessert. But nothing too sweet”. Yeah, I’ve done it. I’ve eaten more than a few single origin chocolate bars in public and I’ve extolled the virtues of a good finishing salt in a certain Apple Cider Caramel. But, you know what? I’ve also been a Sour Patch Kid junkie my whole life. I ate more nougat than was comfortable while visiting Paris. And I am a lover of the sweetest, spongiest cakes of them all – Angel Food Cake. Oh, and I actually like Raffaello or as they’re called in my house “white Ferrero Rochers”. I sneak them from the variety pack that inevitably winds up in my house every December.
The Angel in Raffaello Angel Cake
Now, let’s address any anxiety you may have surrounding the Angel Food Cake. Yeah, it’s probably been a while since you made one that wasn’t from a box. It’d been a long time for me as well. But when I made my first one in something like a decade, I remembered that it was absolutely nothing to be afraid of. Just because a cake has a delicate texture doesn’t mean it’s going to fall apart.
No, Angel Food Cake is surprisingly durable once it’s had the chance to bake and cool. Getting it to that point is where all the fiddly stuff happens. But you’ll notice I only said “fiddly”, not hard. None of it is actually hard, it’s all just important, so don’t skip a step.
First not-difficult-rule: cake flour. Cake flour is vital in this recipe. As is superfine sugar. If you can’t find superfine sugar, blitz some granulated sugar in a food processor until it resembles dust. You need everything light and fine, so your cake can be light and fine. Next, make sure you work with room temperature egg whites and don’t forget the cream of tartar, you want to stabilize your egg whites as much as possible. And make sure you whip them to a medium-stiff peak. Not soft, not hard, you want the Goldilocks of egg white peaks.
Next non-negotiable step: sift the flour and sugar mixture into the whipped egg whites and make sure you do it in three installments. You don’t want to overwhelm the egg whites by adding all the dry ingredients at once. After that, it’s a folding party. All I can say here is take your time with it and make sure you keep folding until no streaks of flour remain.
Now, for the crucial part. You absolutely must have a tube pan. A bundt pan will not do. I’m not being fussy, I’m just telling you the truth. And do get a non-stick tube pan, please and thank you. Angel Food Cake is maybe the only cake that you want to have stick to its pan. You want this because Angel Food must cool upside down or it will collapse on itself. And if you’re going to invert a cake for the purpose of weightless cooling, the last thing you want is your cake flying straight out of its pan. So, no non-stick tube pans and don’t even think about greasing or lining anything.
And Now For Everything Else
Okay so, the cake is out of the way. Phew! You can officially breathe again. The rest of this cake is actually pretty straight forward. First off, you have to make the Salted Almond Cream, which is a riff on my favorite pastry cream. You’ve seen it before in such tarts as these Midnight Blue Tarts and this Winter Citrus Tart. In this incarnation, I upped the salt and added a splash of almond extract. Easy stuff. You just made an Angel Food cake, there’s no way a simple pastry cream will trip you up.
After chilling the cream, it’s time to divide the cake. As I said before, Angel Food Cake is surprisingly durable in a chilled state, so have courage and proceed in hope, you will not destroy the cake. Then all you have to do is slather on the cream, top it with slivered blanched almonds and vanilla wafer nuggets, and clean up the edges. And then it’s time to chill.
Okay, you’re on the home stretch now. All that remains is the Coconut Swiss Meringue Buttercream. If you’ve already acquainted yourself with the Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream in my Midnight Cake recipe before, you’ll be an old hand at this rendition. They only difference between the two is the absence of chocolate and the addition of coconut extract.
From there it’s a flurry of unsweetened shredded coconut nut and a few real-deal Raffaellos to decorate. But I do have one final tip to leave you with: use a serrated knife when you’re slicing this baby. It will save you a smushed cake and a red face.
Raffaello Angel Cake with Salted Almond Cream
- A 9 or 10-inch tube pan*
- Food Processor
- Fine Mesh Strainer
Salted Almond Cream
- 2 cups half and half
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 5 egg yolks
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter cut into cubes
- 2 tsp almond extract
Angel Food Cake – Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
- 1 3/4 cup superfine sugar
- 1 cup + 1 tbsp cake flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 12 large egg whites room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Coconut Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 3 egg whites room temperature
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened but cold, cut into cubes
- 2 tsp coconut extract
- 1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
- 8 vanilla wafer cookies quartered
- 1 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
- 5-6 Raffaello candies
For the Cream
- Place the half and half, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Gently heat the mixture until steam gathers on the surface and it's hot to the touch. Cover and take the pan off of the heat.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk to combine the egg yolks and the cornstarch until the mixture turns a pale yellow. Add two ladlesful of the cream mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan and return to the heat.
- Gently cook the cream over medium-low heat until bubbles break the surface and it readily coats the back of a spoon. Take the pan off of the heat and whisk in the butter and almond extract.
- Transfer the cream to a bowl and cover closely with plastic wrap. Transfer to the fridge and let chill for at least 3 hours.
For the Angel Food Cake
- Preheat the oven to 325°F
- Place the sugar in a food processor and pulse until it resembles dust. Remove 1 cup of the sugar and set aside for later. Add the flour and salt to the remaining sugar and pulse until fully integrated and light in texture. Set aside.
- Pour the egg whites into a large stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the cream of tartar and whisk on medium-low until foamy. Increase the speed to medium-high and begin adding the reserved sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Continue to whip until medium-stiff peaks form – see photo above for reference. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and whip until fully integrated.
- Remove the bowl and whisk from the stand mixer. Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture into the egg whites using a fine mesh strainer. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the egg whites. Repeat with the remaining 2/3 of the flour mixture.
- Pour the batter into a tube pan and evenly smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 50-55 minutes or until golden and springy to the touch.
- Invert the pan and place it on top of a cooling wrack. Leave the cake to cool upside down for 3 hours. Once the 3 hours are up, run a butter knife around the edges of the cake and invert once again to free the cake. Wrap the cake with plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.
For the Buttercream
- Place the egg whites and sugar in a medium-sized, heat-proof bowl. Set aside.
- Fill a small saucepan up halfway with water. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce to low and place the bowl with the egg whites on top of the saucepan to form a seal. Gently cook the egg whites, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Do not heat the egg white too aggressively or they will scramble.
- Once the egg white are no longer gritty and slightly opaque, pour them into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the salt and whisk the egg whites on medium until completely cooled.
- With the mixer still running, start adding the butter a couple of cubes at a time. Wait until the butter is completely integrated before adding more. Once the frosting is smooth and glossy, add the coconut extract and continue to whisk until fully integrated.
- Transfer the finished frosting to a bowl and set aside until ready to use.
- Take the cake out of the fridge and, using a serrated knife, cut the cake into two layers. Top the bottom layer with the salted almond cream and sprinkle with the sliced blanched almonds and the vanilla wafer cookies. Place the top layer on top and, using an offset spatula, clean up the sides. Return the cake to the fridge and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Once the 30 minutes has passed, take the cake out of the fridge and frost it with a thin layer of the Coconut Swiss Meringue Buttercream to create the crumb coat. Return the cake to the fridge and chill for another 30 minutes.
- Frost the cake again, reserving 1/3 of a cup of the frosting for the final piping. Using your hands, press the shredded coconut into the frosting all over the cake. Pipe 5-6 buttercream dollops, using a 1E Wilton tip, evenly around the top of the cake. Top each dollop with a Raffaello. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.