Cocoa Angel Food Cake with Boiled Icing


A hundred years ago there were some delightful cake recipes. I recently found an old recipe for Cocoa Angel Food Cake with Boiled Icing. It made a delectable light and airy cake with an absolutely decadent old-fashioned gooey frosting.

The Boiled Icing brought back memories of  fluffy, glossy frosting on incredible cakes that great aunts brought to family reunions. (Does anyone still make Boiled Icing?) I’d forgotten how good it is.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Larkin Housewives Cook Book (1915)

This recipe makes a relatively small cake. It has a wonderful texture, but it is not as thick as many modern angel food cakes.

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Cocoa Angel Food Cake with Boiled Icing

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Cocoa Angel Food Cake

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 cup pastry flour

1 cup sugar

5 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Sift together cocoa and flour, then stir in the sugar. Set aside.

Put the egg whites in a mixing bowl and beat until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and continue beating until the mixture holds stiff straight peaks. Gently stir in the vanilla.

Sprinkle a small amount of the flour and sugar mixture (about 2 tablespoons) onto the whipped egg mixture; and then fold it in. Continue sprinkling and folding the flour and sugar mixture until it all is folded in.

Gently spoon the batter into an ungreased 10 X 4 tube pan with removable bottom (angel food cake pan). Bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is lightly browned and the top springs back when lightly touched.

Invert pan until cool (at least 1 hour) and then remove cake from pan, and ice with Boiled Icing

Boiled Icing

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

dash cream of tartar

2 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a saucepan; put on medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Once the mixture reaches a bowl, reduce heat so that there is a slow boil. Continue boiling until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage (240° F.), then remove from heat.

In the meantime, in a mixing bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowing pour the hot sugar mixture over the egg whites while beating constantly.  Add the vanilla; continue beating until cool. Immediately use to ice cake.

34 thoughts on “Cocoa Angel Food Cake with Boiled Icing

  1. I haven’t had boiled icing in years. I barely can remember what it tastes like, but I do remember how good it was. I’ll have to give this a try the next time I need to take a cake somewhere — although I think we’ll have a little practice session before I make it for someone else!

    1. Boiled icing is definitely a little trickier to make than today’s typical butter icing. The boiling process is similar to the process used for making candies – which introduces lots of things that can potentially go wrong.

  2. This sounds delicious. I wonder if I could substitute cake flour for the pastry flour and still get good results?

    1. The use of so many egg whites (and no yolks) is definitely an issue with this recipe. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I ended up discarding some yolks when I made this recipe because I couldn’t come up with uses for all of them. I used a couple in scrabbled eggs that I made using a mixture of whole eggs and yolks – but I still had some left over.

    1. You are absolutely right. I stored the cake in a Tupperware cake server – but it still got crunchy. I didn’t mind in the least because it was so tasty.

  3. Oh, yes I do.. only I use it on a regular chocolate cake ,Not a good icing to make if it has to sit for a few days before eating as the icing goes flat.

    1. It would be wonderful on regular chocolate cake. The cake didn’t last long enough at my house for the frosting to go flat – though it definitely had a firmer, crunchier texture the second day than the first.

  4. I can’t believe how beautiful yours looks! Bravo! I tried a very similar recipe from an old Betty Crocker cook book this week (daughter’s birthday) and it was an epic failure! I relied too much on my candy thermometer instead of “feel”. Thought I ruined my pan, but it all soaked off. Ended up making buttercream rather that go through the entire box of eggs ; ) Want to try 7-minute frosting next time, I think I can handle that one easily : )

    1. Oh dear – that’s too bad. Thank goodness your pan wasn’t ruined. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that 7-minutes frosting goes better. I’m a strong believer in the importance of “feel” when making things like this. Whenever I make candy, I always use the old ice water soft ball/firm ball/ hard ball test in addition to using a candy thermometer – and generally go with the old test if they don’t agree.

  5. I’ve never heard of Cocoa Angel Food Cake. It sounds divine.
    My Mom make the best boiled icing. I’ve never tried to make it, but I might now.
    With all them egg whites, the left over yolks would make a dandy old-fashioned cocoa pie. 🙂

    1. I find it amazing that neither this cake recipe nor the icing recipe calls for any fats or shortenings (unless you count the tiny bit of fat in the cocoa). And, the recipes were so tasty that I never even missed it.

  6. I used to make boiled icing back when I used to make cakes. I guess I would have to make a cake that used a lot of egg yolks or have a big family breakfast with an egg yolk dish. What did they do with them 100 years ago?

    1. I’m thinking that they would have made another recipe that called for yolks – though I didn’t do enough research to figure out what might have been a common “companion” recipe.

  7. This recipe sounds really good. I like angel food cake a lot, but I’ve never had a cocoa version it. It sounds like it would be delicious, though.

    I also wanted to share a link with you, Sheryl, to see what you thought of it. I follow someone on Twitter who shares a lot of stuff from the World War I era, and today he tweeted a picture of a recipe for a cake that’s made without eggs, milk, or butter:

    (If that link doesn’t work, I found the same recipe on regular recipe site, too:

    Do you think your grandmother ever made a cake like this? I could have sworn that you blogged about something similar once, but when I searched your site nothing came up.

    It was a very interesting old ad, at any rate. I thought you might like it. 🙂

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