Adding egg whites to your batter is one way to make a lighter cake. There is a lot to know about the proper way to whip egg whites but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Your goal is to incorporate as much air into them as possible. Here are some dos and don’ts to help you accomplish just that.
Do: Bring egg whites to room temperature before beating. If necessary, you can put the bowl in a bath of lukewarm water to warm them up. Warmer eggs hold air better.
Don’t: Use plastic bowls. No matter how many times you wash them, they still have traces of fat. Any fat on your whisk or bowl will prevent the egg whites from solidifying.
Do: Use a third container for separating and then pour your white into one mixing bowl and your yolk into another. It is important that no yolk at all gets into the whites. Again, any fat on your whisk or bowl will prevent the egg whites from solidifying. Egg yolk is a fat! By using a third container for separating, you eliminate the danger of wasting the whole batch if your yolk breaks and gets into the white. You can just throw out that one egg and get a fresh separating bowl.
Do: Break your egg either on the counter or by banging two eggs together. (Only one will break! Promise!) If you use the side of the bowl to break them, you are more likely to break the yolk.
Do: Use metal or glass bowls. Copper bowls are best.
Do: Use a large enough bowl. Beaten egg whites will triple in size.
Do: Begin with a slow speed on your electric mixer and gradually move up to medium-high. Never turn it up to high. This way you will get smaller and more stable bubbles in your whites.
Do: Add 1/8 teaspoon of table salt or cream of tartar per egg white after beating for about 30-45 seconds.
Don’t: Over beat your egg whites! I repeat, don’t over beat your egg whites! They will liquefy again.
Do: Use beaten egg whites immediately. Every minute you let them sit, they are deflating.
Soft peaks vs. Stiff peaks
We’ve all seen recipes instructing us to “whip the egg whites into soft peaks” or “whip until firm peaks form.” But what does that mean? Well, soft peaks have formed when the egg whites are a solid white. When you pull the whisk out of the mixture, you see peaks with tips that droop over. If you keep mixing, you get stiff or firm peaks. These are reached when the egg whites are shiny with tips that stand straight up.