The process of making an angel food cake is nothing like the process of eating it. That statement could be true of, well, pretty much any food, but those of you out there who have struggled through your first attempts at making the All-American sponge cake know exactly what we mean. Angel food cake, done correctly, is a light, airy treat, totally befitting of its heavenly moniker. Actually baking it? A tricky technique that feels far from heavenly, usually culminating in wrestling the cake out of the tube pan to which it has determinedly stuck.

Why does the cake stick to the pan so much? Because you don’t grease it. “Well,” we can hear a lot of you saying, “the easy answer is just to grease the pan, then!” Not so fast, eager bakers! As America’s Test Kitchen teaches us in this video, greasing the pan is actually a mistake when it comes to angel food cake, chiffon cake, and other similar cakes baked in tube pans. Why? Because their volume comes from stiffly-beaten egg whites, rather than from something like creamed butter, sugar and eggs. The cake actually needs to cling to the sides of the pan in order to rise, and if those pan sides are greased, there’s nothing there for the batter to grip. The result? A flat, un-risen cake with none of the fluffiness you expect from it. Of course, not greasing the pan then presents the problem of how to release the cake without turning the whole thing into a crumble.

So what’s a baker to do? Learn the simple, correct technique, courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen! Watch their video walking us through it, then read on as we break it down for you into easy steps.

OK, did you catch how that’s done? Let’s review.

  1. Cool the cake upside-down, to keep its volume. Ideally, your tube cake pan will be designed to do so easily.
    Cool angel food cake upside down to retain volumeAmerica's Test Kitchen
  2. One the cake has cooled, flip it back to right-side-up. Take a thin, flexible knife – a boning or filet knife works nicely – and run it around both the center tube and the outer edge of the cake pan.
  3. Use the tube to pull the cake out of the pan. Place the cake on an inverted baking pan.
  4. Cut the bottom free.
    Release angel food cake from bottom of the panAmerica's Test Kitchen
  5. Invert the cake onto a serving plate, and twist the tube to remove it completely.

There we go! Once we actually know the technique, getting the angel food cake out of the pan actually seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? It might take a little bit of practice to get absolutely perfect, but it’s so much better knowing how to do it correctly than trying to wrestle it piece by piece out of the pan.

So what do you think? Is this the technique you learned when you first made angel food cake, or do you have your own tricks? Did you ever actually learn how to do it? How often do you make angel food cake, and what do you usually use to top it? Tell us about your baking experiences!