Rosemary Lemon Angel Food Cake
I’ve been working with a new concept lately – “just enough”.
Go with me on this for a little bit.
I’ve never been a “just enough” person. I’m a workaholic who’s only just started admitting that maybe I’m “type A” when I consistently didn’t get the shocked expressions I’d expected after telling someone I’d been accused of being as such. I’m the kind of person who will think nothing of working 7-day weeks. I’m an adult who has dealt with active and repressed Lyme Disease cyclically for almost 20 years, and constantly feel I need to gain strengths to balance out my weakness so that I can be worthy of whatever or whomever is investing in me.
But here’s the thing. That way isn’t working.
Last week I left my job as a private chef, at a position I’ve had for only ten months. It was for a very wealthy, good family, of whom I have no drama to report. But it was too much work. I’d work 40 to 60 hour weeks, without having cut down on writing work and while still going to help my family business out now and then.
As the months passed things started slipping while I tried to sustain the ability to work at my job: I started taking interviews and not having the energy to finish the stories; I dated a man for about 6 months and I can count on both fingers how often we went “out” for anything other than a lazy meal; everything started hurting, so I started medicating to work. Not as badly as I have in the past, but a Percoset or two a day, and two or three muscle relaxers, and maybe some ibuprofen. Even drugged, it was important to me to not let the family I worked for know, and to be as good as my job as I could be. Possibly more than I even needed to be. I was tired, and depleted, and feeling horribly lethargic any time I didn’t have to be “on”.
I gave my notice in the beginning of January.
I came to New York City to be an actor on the stage. And while I’ve had relative success I couldn’t cut being an artist and independently making a living, physically or spiritually. Sometimes I feel like a quitter “retiring” to transfer my energy to writing a few years back. But it was a choice made to devote a little bit more to my health.
And now I’m taking one step further.
In January, I’d made a list of all I accomplished in 2012 – a testament to myself of how hard I’d worked and what I’d done, what I’d succeeded at. I’d made good money, good connections and produced a lot of good work. I’d traveled without concern for a budget or an agenda. I’d taken care of my dog and apartment and bought my family presents and helped out my lil sis when she needed some help and paid for my medical expenses. But was I any happier than I had been the year before? Any healthier?
During some healthy meditating with my life coach (yes), I realized that that is a list of misguided accomplishments.
I hadn’t gone to the park for no reason. I hadn’t kept my body healthy by doing the luxurious things it needs like acupuncture, yoga, meditation, saunas, massages. I had missed friends’ shows and family members’ weddings. I had been hurting my own body – the only one I get – by doing instead of being.
And in that way, I wasn’t being me.
So, now, the philosophy is “just enough”.
- I will work just enough to make a decent living.
- I will work just enough so that at the end of every year I’ll look back and will have completed one big project very well, in a way I’m proud of.
- I will work just enough so that I have time to do the things that make my body feel better.
- I will work just enough so that the next time I meet someone special, I’ll just be with him, and do more with him.
- I’ll do just enough so that going to the park for no reason is just a part of what I do.
Just enough sounds like so, so much…
Rosemary Lemon Angel Food Cake
This cake came about during my last week of work, when I was training my replacement and starting to accept the transition that was coming. It’s incredibly light and decadent – I love the magic that is angel food cake batter rising high in the pan.
The key to angel food cake is making sure that your whites are beaten to peaks strong enough to hold the amount of sugar and flour you’re adding, without it crystallizing on top (mine did a little in this version, but it was still divine). I made a batch “normally” with white cake flour for work, then remade it at home for myself with the gluten-free equivalent. Both versions are so good. Light, airy, and almost completely fat free as egg whites do the heavy lifting and no other fat is added. It’s naturally dairy free, and an excellent dessert to top of a big meal (I served this after brisket).
I love adding savory herbs to sweets – check out my Rosemary Mint Linzer Cookies and Rosewater Lavender Shortbread – and this combo won over the boss-fam. At home, I found out it was even better a day or two later, when the sticky lemon glaze had absorbed its way fully into the cake.
- 12 oz egg whites, at room temperature (1 1/2 cups, about 10 whites from large eggs)
- 12 oz white sugar (around 1 1/2 cups)
- 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
- pinch of fine salt
- 1 large lemon, zested and juiced to around 4 Tbsp, separated for cake and glaze
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 oz high-starch gluten-free flour: I used 1.2 oz (around 3 Tbsp) millet flour, 1.3 oz (around 3 Tbsp) brown rice flour and 1.5 oz (around 5 Tbsp) arrowroot starch
- 1/8 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 Tbsp very finely chopped rosemary
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a small bowl, mix cream of tartar and salt. Have 1 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp vanilla extract nearby.
Whisk together the flours and xanthan gum in a medium bowl, then sift together.
Using a standing mixer with the whisk attachment or a metal bowl and hand mixer, beat egg whites on medium/high speed until foamy, around 1 minute. Add cream of tartar / salt mixture and beat until very foamy and opaque, around 30 seconds.
With the mixer on high speed, very slowly add all the sugar in a slow stream (this is most easily done with a standing mixer while you slowly shake the sugar on). Add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and vanilla, and beat until the mixture forms a glossy, stiff meringue, forming a rounded but firm tip when you lift the beater. In a standing mixer this should take only about 3 minutes when the sugar has all been added, by hand it may take a bit longer.
Beat in the rosemary, quickly.
Sift 1/2 the flour mixture over the meringue and fold in with as few strokes as possible with a spatula, until almost all incorporated. Repeat with remaining flour and fold until completely turned in.
Pour into un-greased angel food cake pan and bake for 30-50 minutes (yes, it will vary that greatly depending on how much your cake rises, exact oven temp etc), until slightly brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least one hour before removing from pan.
Meanwhile, whisk together 3 Tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 cup powdered sugar until completely smooth. Whisk in lemon zest. Cover and set aside until ready to glaze.
To serve, invert cake onto a plate, drizzle with glaze, slice with a serrated knife and enjoy.