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Freckled Angel

Rose Levy Beranbaum is the author of the excellent "The Cake Bible," but this recipe is from another of her books, "Rose's Celebrations." She created it for her son Michael as a way of combining his favorite flavor (chocolate) with his favorite texture (angel food cake). She recommends refrigerating the chocolate before grating it so that it will form actual particles in the cake, rather than simply melting.

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 cup cake flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (about 16 large) egg whites
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces grated unsweetened chocolate

Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready an ungreased large tube pan (10-inch diameter and at least 16-cup capacity), preferably with a removable bottom. If pan bottom is not removable, you must line it with parchment or wax paper, but do not grease or the batter won't be able to climb the sides of the pan, and you will have a flat angel food cake.

In a small bowl, sift together half of the sugar, all of the flour and the salt. Whisk to blend well. Sift the remaining sugar into a small bowl and set aside.

Beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar, and beat at medium speed until whites form soft peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually beat in the sifted sugar and continue beating until whites form very stiff peaks when the beater is raised slowly.

Dust the flour mixture over the beaten egg whites, about 1/4 cup at a time, folding it in quickly but gently with a spatula or large wire whisk. It is not necessary to incorporate every last speck until the last addition. Add vanilla extract and grated chocolate, and fold them in just until evenly incorporated.

Spread a thin layer of the batter onto the side of the tube pan to ensure smooth sides. Pour the rest of the batter into the pan (it will reach almost to the top). Run a small knife through the batter to prevent air pockets, and smooth the surface. Bake for 40 minutes or until it's golden brown, a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake springs back when lightly pressed.

During baking, the center will rise above the pan, but it sinks when the cake is done. After cooling, it will be level with the sides of the pan. The surface will have deep cracks.

If the cake pan has feet, invert the pan onto them. If not, invert the pan over the neck of a bottle (or two stacked wire cookie cooling racks) so air can circulate completely all around it. Allow cake to cool completely for about 2 hours.

To unmold, run a thin serrated knife around the edges, being careful to dislodge as little of the crust as possible. Pull cake out of pan and use the same technique on the bottom, or peel off parchment or wax paper if using. Place cake, bottom side up, on a platter. Cut slices by inserting two forks back to back and gently pulling apart the cake -- or saw gently with a serrated knife. The important thing is not to compress the cake and ruin the lovely light texture. Serves 12 to 14.

Sunday, August 13, 2000

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