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South of the Border Angel Food Cake

Ingredients

Cake

Optional Garnish

Method

  1. Adjust rack to position 1/3 up from oven bottom; preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Assemble a 2-piece tube pan, 10 inches in diameter x 4 inches tall; do not grease the pan!
  3. In the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, place 1 cup sugar (reserve remainder). Process at highest speed in 2 or 3 bursts of 10 to 15 seconds each, until sugar is very fine-textured. Remove from processor; set aside.
  4. Return the work bowl to processor.
  5. Combine remaining 2/3 cup sugar, cake flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, cinnamon, cloves and pepper. Process at highest speed in 3 bursts of 10 to 15 seconds each until fine-textured and well-mixed. Remove from processor; set aside.
  6. In an absolutely clean 6-quart pot, combine room temperature egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt. With sturdy, hand-held electric mixer, beat at medium speed until combined, then increase speed to high and beat until very white and foamy.
  7. Gradually, about 1 tablespoon at a time, add the processed cup of sugar, beating between each addition. With last addition of sugar, add vanilla extract. Continue beating until this meringue holds stiff peaks, but do not over-beat.
  8. Sift in about 1/2 cup of the processed sugar-cocoa-flour mixture, then gently fold in with a large rubber spatula. Don't be too thorough at this stage.
  9. Continue sifting in additions of the sugar-cocoa-flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, making certain to scrape the pot edges and bottom frequently. You want to fold in these dry ingredients gently but quickly. You'll see that this folding does deflate the meringue slightly, but the batter should still be thick.
  10. Fold in the last addition of dry ingredients just until everything is combined; do not overmix.
  11. Carefully turn batter into assembled tube pan. Gently level with spatula. Now, using a flat knife, cut through the batter several times in a pattern of concentric circles to get rid of any large air bubbles. Place pan into preheated oven.
  12. Bake 30 to 40 minutes.
  13. While cake bakes, make sure you have a clean, empty, sturdy, long-necked bottle for cooling. Do not open the oven door for the first 25 minutes of baking. The cake will rise above the edge of the pan and develop very deep cracks in the top surface. When done, cake will spring back if pressed lightly with a fingertip. Do not over-bake.
  14. Remove cake from oven; place right side up on a cooling rack.
  15. As quickly as possible, carefully pick up the hot tube pan while you insert the neck of the bottle through the tube. Gently and carefully turn the whole assembly upside down so that the baked cake, still in the pan, is suspended on the neck of the bottle. Place the whole assembly on a sturdy cooling rack; the cake should be about 1 foot above your table or work surface.
  16. Cool undisturbed and out of drafts until cake has reached room temperature. While it cools, the cake will shrink slightly.
  17. When completely cooled, remove cake, still in pan, from bottle. With pan right side up, use a stiff-bladed plastic spatula or knife to gently loosen cake from sides of pan and tube. Life tube portion of pan up from sides; the cake should release easily. Carefully loosen cake from pan bottom; gently invert onto serving plate (you can also invert cake gently onto a rack, then re-invert to serve it right side up).
  18. Store airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days, or refrigerate airtight for at least a week.
  19. To serve, use a sharp, serrated knife. Very gently saw slices from cake in order not to squash it.
  20. If desired, sift a bit of confectioners' sugar over the slices just before serving.

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