Food and family memories are so intertwined. Just a whiff of caramel rolls reminds me of my mom. A raspberry salad is Aunt Linda’s signature dish at family events. The sight of angel food cake topped off with a seven minute frosting can only be my grandma. It wasn’t your birthday until Grandma brought over her special cake. She was known around the county for her cake. And just like any other good cook of her generation, she didn’t see it as a big deal. It was just something she whipped up. Luckily for me, I asked Grandma to teach me how to make her cake. I discovered there is the recipe of ingredients and then there are the tips to making it work that aren’t recorded but learned over the years. Here are some of Grandma’s tips to making angel food cake work:
    - Use fresh brown eggs. She swore by the brown shelled eggs. I think what really made them work was the fact that Grandpa picked the eggs daily and she always had fresh eggs.
    - Watch the weather. Angel food cake will not rise when it is stormy or a low weather pressure system is passing through. Only bake on a sunny, clear day with low humidity.
    - When adding the dry ingredients to the beaten egg whites, take your time and use gentle strokes to mix.
    - Don’t open the oven door until the timer goes off. No peaking. Turn on the light and look through the oven glass window if you have one.
    - Bake near the bottom of the oven. Put on one of the lower rack settings.
    - Don’t bang pots and pans around the kitchen while the cake is in the oven.
    - Cool cake upside down. All angel food cake pans have tabs sticking up for this job. Grandma baked her cakes in an oblong cake pan instead of the tunnel cake pan. She swore she could cut more pieces this way and serve a bigger crowd.
    I will always treasure the morning I spent in Grandma’s kitchen learning the secrets to her angel food cake. I will have to admit though, I didn’t learn how to make her seven minute frosting. I much preferred her lemon topping. As any good farm wife, she wasn’t about to let the egg yolks go to waste, so she made this beautiful lemon topping. The other half dozen egg yolks I use to make my homemade pudding. I learned well, not to waste anything. Enjoy.

Angel food cake by Mildred Adair
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 12)
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
    Measure 1 cup sifted cake flour and 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar. Mix and sift together at least three times and set aside. Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt with electric mixer, until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time. Work in well. Add vanilla. Beat until it holds stiff peaks. Gradually fold in sugar/flour mixture by hand with wire whisk (this is a key step). Fill ungreased cake pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until top springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan to cool. This helps to keep the cake from falling as it cools.

Angel food lemon frosting
6 egg yolks, beaten
Juice of 1 lemon and zest
Juice of 1 orange, squeezed
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 pint whipping cream
    Beat egg yolks. Add lemon juice, zest, orange juice and sugar. Mix well. Cook over medium low heat till slightly thick. Stir constantly. When thickened, remove from heat and cool completely. In chilled bowl, whip up cream with a little bit of powdered sugar to taste. When egg mixture is cooled, fold in whipped cream and top off angel food cake slices.

Homemade pudding
1 3/4 cup sugar
10 Tbsp. corn starch
1 tsp. salt
6 1/2 cups milk
6 egg yolks, beaten
4 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips, if you want chocolate pudding
    Combine sugar, corn starch and salt in heavy bottom pan. Add milk and whisk together. Using a wooden spoon, constantly stir mixture over medium heat until starts to thicken (about 8-10 minutes). Remove from heat and pour about a cup of hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Mix well and pour back into pan. This is to bring the temperature of the egg yolks up so they won’t curdle when added to the whole pan. Return to heat, stirring constantly for three minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla, stirring until melted. Pour into serving bowls or dishes. If you want to make chocolate pudding, add chocolate chips (milk and semi-sweet) with butter and vanilla and stir until melted.