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Light and Airy or Tender and Crumbly? The Surprising Differences Between Angel Food Cake and Shortcake

Light and Airy or Tender and Crumbly? The Surprising Differences Between Angel Food Cake and Shortcake

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If you have a sweet tooth, like me, then you’re probably an expert on classic dishes like angel food cake and shortcake.

Yet, many people aren’t really sure whether these two types of cakes are two variations of the same thing or if they’re completely different. And if they are different, what are the characteristics that make each one distinctive?

While these two delectable treats share some similarities, each one has distinct characteristics that set it apart. In this post, we’ll compare angel food cake vs. shortcake by looking at the ingredients used to make each one as well as their flavor, texture, and even a bit of their history.

Let’s get started.

Angel Food Cake vs. Shortcake: The Full Rundown

Take a look at some of the features that make each of these delicious desserts unique in their own way.


Unfortunately, the precise origins of the angel food cake haven’t been fully documented. However, it’s thought to have evolved from previous recipes of the traditional sponge cake.

One theory proposes that a recipe found in “The Kentucky Housewife” cookbook published in 1839 served as a precursor to the angel food cake that we know today. It was made with egg whites and sugar, giving the cake a foamy consistency, delicate structure, and unique taste.

Another theory suggests that the Pennsylvania Dutch, who were known for their cake molds, could have possibly played a role in making angel food cakes more popular and accessible as early as the 1800s.

It’s become so popular over the years that it’s even earned itself a special day, known as “National Angel Food Cake Day,” which falls on October 10th of every year.

However, the first-ever strawberry shortcake recipe is believed to have appeared as early as 1588 in an English recipe book. But back then, it was made with a pie crust in rounds.

Then, by the mid-1800s, shortcake was a popular fruit and biscuit dessert that was typically served with sweetened cream and butter.

Even to this day, shortcake parties are held to celebrate the summer fruit harvest. Not to be outdone, this tasty dessert even has a special day named after it, which falls on the 14th of June and is aptly called “National Strawberry Shortcake Day.”


Angel food cakes are usually baked in a tube pan. This helps the cake rise evenly on all sides during baking.

The best thing about this mouthwatering dessert is its versatility.

While it’s usually made with vanilla flavoring, there are variations to the recipe that allow you to combine different flavors. For example, some recipes call for chocolate, citrus zest, or other add-ins that add a tasty new twist to the classic recipe.

On the other hand, shortcake is basically a type of biscuit or scone. It’s usually served with layers of cream and fruit, typically strawberries, which is why it’s commonly referred to as strawberry shortcake.

Ingredients and Preparation

The ingredients used to make angel food cake include egg whites, sugar, and your choice of flavorings, such as almond or vanilla extract.

The recipe also calls for cake flour, which is more delicate and more finely milled than all-purpose flour. It’s also low in protein so it won’t weigh down the egg whites or the cake as a whole.

It’s worth mentioning that there’s no butter or egg yolks. This gives the cake its fluffy and airy consistency.

The secret to baking the perfect angel food cake is in the preparation. First, preheat your oven to 325℉.

Then, start by whipping the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. After that, gently fold in the dry ingredients and avoid over-mixing.

This delicate preparation process is what creates the cake’s light structure and helps it maintain its shape.

Next, pour the batter into a tube pan with a detachable bottom, which is similar to Bundt pans but without the fluted edges. But remember, you don’t need to grease it because the cake needs to cling to the sides to maintain its height as it bakes.

Place the pan into the oven and bake for about 35–40 minutes or when you insert a wooden skewer into the center of the cake and it comes out clean.

Finally, once it’s ready to come out of the oven, invert the pan on a cooling rack and remove the bottom to prevent it from collapsing as it cools.

As for shortcakes, the ingredients used are:

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking powder or baking soda
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Milk or cream
  • Sometimes eggs are also added, but it’s not in all recipes

To prepare shortcake, first stir together the dry ingredients, then add the butter. Blend until the mixture begins to look like cornmeal.

Next, mix in the liquid ingredients until the mixture is moistened. The result is a shortened dough, which is then dropped in spoonfuls on a cookie sheet.

After that, the dough is rolled out and cut like baking powder biscuits. It can also be poured into a cake pan, depending on how liquidy the dough is.

Finally, it’s placed into a preheated oven and baked at a high temperature until it sets.

Flavor and Texture

Angel food cake is best known for its light and airy texture, which is a result of the egg whites mixed in with the sugar. The flavor is a subtle combination of sweetness with a hint of vanilla. This makes it the perfect base for all kinds of toppings, such as:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Jam
  • Sprinkles
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate ganache
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Salted caramel

Or you can just enjoy it plain, which is just as delicious.

As for shortcakes, they’re known to be more flaky in texture, like a scone or biscuit, rather than light and airy. This tender and crumbly structure makes them perfect for soaking up the juices from the fruit toppings and whipped cream, which add a touch of sweetness to the otherwise, plain taste of the cake.

They can also be enjoyed plain, without any toppings at all. On their own, they tend to have a rather plain taste, similar to shortbread, but slightly sweeter.

Final Thoughts

Both angel food cakes and shortcakes are equally popular, equally tasty desserts. They’ve each carved a special place in the world of desserts to delight people of all preferences and on all occasions.

Angel food cakes are light, airy, and fluffy. They don’t require a lot of ingredients, but the preparation process needs to be just right in order to maintain its shape and consistency.

On the flip side, shortcakes are more crumbly and tender. Their lightly sweet flavor offers an indulgent and substantial treat, especially when covered with whipped cream and juicy fruit toppings.

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