Heavenly Creations Grace Angel Food Competition

1/12/2013 7:00 AM
By Sue Bowman Southeastern Pa. Correspondent

HARRISBURG, Pa. — “Wow, look at all those cakes over there!” The Pennsylvania Farm Show passerby who uttered those appreciative words might have been surprised to learn that all those beautifully arrayed cakes of every color were angel food cakes.

Often thought of as the “plain Jane” of the cake world, the angel food cakes competing at the 97th Pennsylvania Farm Show looked positively heavenly. No wonder — each of the 65 entries was already a winner, having earned the blue ribbon at a local fair’s angel food contest to qualify for the Jan. 6 Farm Show competition.

Sponsored by Pennsylvania’s Egg Farmers, the angel food cake contest was the perfect vehicle for showing off eggs’ versatility, because each such cake generally uses at least a dozen egg whites among its other varied ingredients. While most of the entries had been baked in traditional round tube pans, there were also square tube cakes and a rectangular angel food cake. However, the most distinctive features of these entries were their elaborate decorations. Glazed or iced angel food cakes dominated the field with decorative garnishes ranging from flowers to fruits, nuts and berries, as well as candies. Some entries also featured flavored fillings hidden inside them.

Louise Nogle of Danville, Pa., won her earlier first-place finish at the 2012 Bloomsburg Fair with what she termed “just a plain angel food cake.” She attributed her cake’s success to its height and consistency, as well as the vanilla flavoring which her son had bought her while vacationing in Mexico.

“Maybe they’ll like plain,” she said of the Farm Show judges. Nogle competes annually in multiple food categories at both the Bloomsburg and Moutour-DeLong Fairs.

Valerie Trobridge, angel food contest winner from the Kiwanis Wyoming County Fair, had risen at 3:30 a.m. on the morning of the Farm Show contest to fill and glaze her entry; she termed it “a plain old angel food with lemon glaze and lemon filling.”

For Holly DeVivo of Kunkletown, Pa., who won her earlier blue ribbon at the Carbon County Fair with a spice angel food cake, this year marked her first visit to the Pennsylvania Farm Show. She used cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves to flavor her cake and topped it off with a butterscotch glaze, egg white frosting and artfully placed cinnamon sticks. She also competed in the chocolate cake contest held the day before.

DeVivo was not the only first-timer at the angel food cake competition. Andrew Monk, executive chef at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Inn in State College, was also experiencing his first Farm Show; however, he was doing it as one of the five judges with the difficult task of narrowing down the competition from 63 to 25 semi-finalists and then picking the top five winners.

The angel food cakes were scored in five categories, with “flavor” counting for the highest number of points, 30. Interior characteristics such as texture and lightness were worth up to 25 points, while overall appearance accounted for 20 points. Creativity contributed up to 15 points to the mix, with topping, icing or decoration adding 10 points to the total possible score of 100 points.

In the end, the blue ribbon and first prize of $500 in the Farm Show’s Angel Food Cake contest went to Lucinda Donough, a dairy farmer from Spruce Hill Township near Port Royal in Juniata County. Donough’s creation wowed the judges with its cream-based icing and strawberry filling. She noted that when she originally made her cake for the Beaver Community Fair this past summer, she had used strawberries from her garden and then snapped off some roses to garnish the platter; these features were a bit harder to come by in January, but just as attractive.

Donough also won the angel food competition at the Farm Show three years ago, but was so certain her entry wasn’t competitive that she’d wandered off to see the rest of the Farm Show with her family; by the time they returned and saw her cake on the winner’s pedestal, all the judges and spectators had already left the area. This year, she had erroneously expected to lose to her 16-year-old son, Clancein, whose angel food cake had beat out hers for the top spot at the McClure Bean Soup Festival and Fair in Snyder County to earn his way to the Farm Show. The junior at Juniata High School has been baking for 10 years under his mother’s tutelage.

The second prize of $250 went to Pam Foor, representing the Bedford Fair, while the $100 third prize was awarded to the Denver Fair’s Robert Wengert. Linda Reinert of the Oley Valley Fair and Dorothy Martin from the Elizabethtown Fair took home fourth- and fifth-place ribbons, respectively.

Here is Donough’s winning recipe.

Angel Food Deluxe

Cake batter:

1 cup cake flour

1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

12 egg whites (1-1/2 cups)

1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Heat oven to 375 degrees, stir together flour and first amount of sugar; set aside.

In large mixer bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until foamy. Add second amount of sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating on high speed until meringue holds stiff peaks. Gently fold in flavorings. Sprinkle flour-sugar mixture, 1/4 cup at a time over meringue, folding in gently just until flour-sugar mixture disappears. Push batter into ungreased tube pan, 10x4 inches. Gently cut through batter.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly with finger. Invert tube pan on funnel; let hang until cake is completely cool.

For the vanilla-cream frosting, in small bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat 3 tablespoons margarine or butter, softened, 3 tablespoons milk, 1-3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract until smooth, adding more milk if necessary until mixture has an easy spreading consistency. In large bowl, using some beaters and with mixer at medium speed, beat 2 cups heavy or whipping cream until stiff peaks form; fold confectioners’ sugar mixture into whipped cream.

Vanilla buttercream frosting:

1/3 cup butter, softened

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided

3 to 4 tablespoons milk

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed in large bowl until creamy. With mixer running, gradually add about 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, beating until well blended. Slowly beat in milk and vanilla.

Gradually add remaining confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth. Add additional milk, if necessary, until frosting is desired consistency. (makes about 2-1/3 cups frosting.)

Decorate with roses, candied strawberries, strawberry flavored icing, and strawberry pieces. Add shavings of white chocolate and sanding sugar.

Lucinda Donough

Juniata County, Pa.

First Place, Angel Food Cake Contest

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