Mom and Me and the Angel Food Cake

Celebrating Mother’s Day changes over the years, doesn’t it?  When I was in the first grade I would draw a picture every day telling my mother, Leola, that I loved her.  It was more difficult when I was a teenager and our relationship had it’s ups and downs over the years.  During the last two decades of her life we were each other’s BFF’s.  We shopped, we lunched, we went to cultural events, we went on vacation, be talked on the phone.   I think of her every day and I’m lucky enough to have the same relationship with my sister.



She made our coats!

 When I was seven years old, and it was the day before Mother’s Day, my mother was left with the task of making her own cake.  My dad couldn’t cook.  Neither could my four-year- old brother, and of course, neither could I.  But, I wanted to do something special for her.  And of course, my grandmother would also be at the Mother’s Day dinner, and I wanted that to be special too.

Leola Stevens


My mom invited me to join her in the kitchen so that she could coach me as I made my first cake.  It was Angel Food with pink frosting.  She got out the stand-up mixer and the ingredients.  I remember that I made the entire cake from start to finish in a very competent manner, producing a cake worthy of the best bakeries.  Of course, that didn’t really happen. (Probably).  She did, however, explain every step and let me do a few small tasks, such as helping to pour the batter into the pan.

I felt very accomplished and proud of myself, and I have loved to cook ever since.  My mom also left me with a love of music, reading mysteries, Shakespeare (we read his entire works together),  a thirst for knowledge, a love of art and creativity and an insatiable curiosity.



My mom was born in Portland, Oregon, but her family moved to Central Oregon when she was a baby.  Her dad was a farmer and an auto mechanic  and managed to put together a living during the Great Depression.  She graduated from Redmond High School and spent two years at Oregon State University until my dad convinced her to marry him and be the mother of his children.  Their’s was a love story.

Ernie and Leola Freeman


Now about that Angel Food Cake that I mastered as a child and can still turn out today.

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Angel Food Cake is a sponge cake made mostly from flour, sugar and egg whites.  The first recipe  for this cake is found in “The Kentucky Housewife” in 1839. No oil is added.  It is so light and so fluffy that it was dubbed to be the food of angels. It’s also lower in calories and cholestrol.   Because this is such a delicate cake, it is usually made with cake flour or all purpose that has been sifted several times.


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10 egg whites

1 tumblers sugar

1 tumbler of flour

1 heaping tsp. cream of tartar

pinch of salt

1 tsp. vanilla


The original instructions are in purple. 

This is a very old recipe, more than one hundred years. Modern flour doesn’t need to be sifted.  Anyway, use cake flour for this recipe to keep it as light as possible. A tumbler is one cup.  Put dry ingredients through a sieve twice.Take one-half of the eggs and stir in one-half of the sugar. Beat until they have a gloss. Then add the other half of eggs and the rest of the sugar. Beat again; then add the flour and cream of tartar. Stir up lightly. Flavor with vanilla. Bake in a slow oven.  In modern times, where we have electric mixers, this cake is made much differently:

Whip whites of eggs to firm, stiff froth. Add cream of tartar. Fold sugar in lightly. Fold in cake flour and salt. Add vanilla. Pour into  ungreased tube pan. The pan is ungreased because the cake “grabs onto the sides of the pan as it rises and bakes. If the pan is greased the cake will “fall.”  Bake at 45 to 50 minutes in moderate oven (350 degrees). Remove from oven; invert pan and allow to stand until cold. Ice with either chocolate or white icing.

Angel Food cakes should be cut with a serrated knife as a regular knife will compress it.

Water icing:

2 cups powdered sugar

5-6 tbsp. hot water

Add tablespoons of hot water to sugar until the icing is the right consistency. This is also good for glazing an Angel Food Cake.


My mom loved Mother’s Day.  She told us it was because she loved the family getting together, but I know it was because she loved to get presents!  


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