~ So light and refreshing, but sweet and decadent, too! This 5-ingredient, easy Angel Food Cake Dessert recipe features warm, toasty cake under a cascade of winter fruit that’s perfectly accented by a little honey and a splash of vanilla. Shortcuts and make-ahead steps make it super-fast for entertaining, or even for a special weeknight treat! ~
This Recipe Is: • Ready in 30 Minutes or Less • Includes Make-Ahead Steps • Vegetarian •
I’ve been waiting and waiting … and waiting to share this recipe with you! So anxiously waiting for pomegranates to finally make their seasonal appearance in the produce aisle. I stalked the produce section for weeks upon weeks.
I honestly didn’t remember that it took pomegranates sooooo long to show up each fall. Sure, I’ve got other great recipes for angel food cake, like my Easy Tropical Angel Food Cake. But those pomegranates! Where were they this year?!? Coupled with sweet citrus, they’re just such a perfect flavor as we head into winter’s holiday season!
Then, finally … at long, long last … one day, there they were! I was ridiculously happy (happier than a person should probably be over a piece of fruit). And so was my family – we all adore this dessert.
It’s one of those recipes that somehow manages to delight you all over again, every time – surprisingly even better than you remembered it would be.
Why We Love This Angel Food Cake Dessert
This pretty concoction hits all the right notes, with a range of textures and flavors that’s as refreshing as it is satisfying. It’s got:
- Warm, toasty angel food cake …
- Topped with a gorgeous cascade of sweet, juicy oranges and wonderful little pops of pomegranate …
- All just lightly kissed with sweet honey and a hint of vanilla!
- And, for an extra cool-and-creamy flourish, you can offer a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt alongside, too. (Hint: we usually do!)
That’s a seriously big payoff from just a few minutes of effort and only 5 ingredients! (Or, well … 6 if you go for the Greek yogurt …)
A Lighter Dessert Option (That Still Feels Special and Indulgent!)
Even better? There’s an extra bonus here, especially in the winter when most people battle with their skinny jeans.
Angel food cake is naturally fat free and lower in calories than lots of other cakes and dessert options. Plus, there’s all that beautiful fruit cascading over top. It’s definitely got healthy perks going for it!
Ok, ok … let’s not kid ourselves here. I mean, it is still dessert. But it’s certainly a lighter, more skinny-jeans-friendly option than so many other desserts served up this time of year.
It’s a perfect, swoon-worthy option for holiday celebrations, when you know everybody is secretly kinda craving a little relief from the never-ending onslaught of rich, heavy party foods.
And it’s a special, not-too-guilty treat as we head into January and February, when everyone’s yearning for lighter recipes to kick off healthy New Year’s resolutions.
And trust me, you’ll want to take every opportunity to make this while citrus is at its very best … and while you can still find those elusive pomegranates piled in every produce section. It’s a long wait until the poms show up again next season!
So quick … before those pomegranates disappear … let’s make this! Here’s a visual walk-through to get you started:
How to Make This Deliciously Light Dessert
The beauty of this recipe is that it really only needs 5 ingredients (many of which you can buy pre-prepped – more on that later).
And you can make the pretty orange-pomegranate mixture in advance. So there’s just not much work to do at the last minute. (A wonderful thing for busy hostesses, especially at the holidays!)
Step 1 – Start by making the orange-pomegranate topping. This is basically like an uncooked compote. Refreshing and light – so, so good!
All you have to do is combine your sweet, juicy orange sections with the leftover orange juice, some pomegranate arils, honey and vanilla. Really easy! (Psssst … we’ve got tips down below if you need help with cutting restaurant-worthy, perfect orange sections.)
Set your topping aside until you’re ready to serve the dessert, or refrigerate it for up to a day or two.
Step 2 – Cut 4 slices of angel food cake. Each slice should be about 1 – 1 1/2 inches thick, which means you’ll use about 1/3 of an angel food cake to make this recipe as written (with 4 slices of cake).
It’s easy to scale this recipe to make more servings, of course. I wrote the recipe to serve up dessert for a family of four.
But, if you cut each slice uniformly about 1 – 1 1/2 inches thick, you should be able to get exactly 12 slices from one entire angel food cake. Then, simply triple the sauce, as well – and you’re ready for a dinner party!
What’s really important here is the technique you using for cutting the cake. Delicate, light-as-a-cloud angel food cake is easy to smush!
I’ve seen people recommend using a cake breaker (like this one), but I don’t like the rustic, messy edges that creates. Another option is to go searching for that electric knife you’ve probably got squirreled away for cutting flank steak and Thanksgiving turkey. But, I prefer to simply use a big, very sharp serrated knife. (My father-in-law gave me this one, which you see in my photos, last Christmas, and I adore it!)
With your serrated knife, saw back-and-forth slowly, without much downward pressure that could smash the cake. Just saw and saw, letting your knife do all the work with its back-and-forth motion.
You’ll get a tidy, clean cut without any squishing and smashing!
Step 3 – Broil your cake slices for a couple of minutes per side. The exact timing will depend on how close your oven rack is to the heating element.
But, try to keep the cake at least a couple of inches away from the heating element, as the yummy sugars in the cake can burn quickly. And be sure to watch vigilantly during those couple of minutes, because once the toasting finally begins, it tends to progress pretty quickly.
You’re looking for the cake to develop a nice, golden, crunchy exterior.
I’ve also tested this recipe using my toaster oven to toast up the cake slices. Works great, too!
And, if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere warm (so you actually enjoy stepping outside to fire up your grill all winter) you can get gorgeous grill-mark sears by grilling your angel food cake for about 2-5 minutes per side over a low heat.
We recommend that you don’t grill the cake over a high, open flame because it’s more likely to burn, instead of toasting beautifully. Your best bet is to preheat the grill completely and then grill the cake over a low flame or on one side of the grill where the flame has been turned off.
(And yes – I’m jealous that you’re outside, happily grilling away, while I’m freezing cold here in Ohio!)
Step 4 – Quickly – while your cake slices are still warm – drizzle your orange-pomegranate mixture over top.
And, if you want, dollop some vanilla Greek yogurt alongside, too. Angel food cake is so sweet and lightly textured, that we find thick, not-too-sugary Greek yogurt to be a much nicer companion than whipped cream would be. Plus, it’s a lot healthier than whipped cream, too!
Mmmmm … next, dig in! And be prepared to be just a little bit surprised at how delicious this is for something so simple, so light. Huh! Who would’ve guessed?!?!
Store-Bought Shortcuts for the Win!
I know I promised you that this dessert recipe is QUICK. And with some handy purchased shortcuts, it totally is!
• Angel Food Cake – I grab a store-bought angel food cake from my grocery’s bakery. (But, of course, you can certainly take the extra time to bake your own, if you prefer.)
• Pomegranate Arils (Seeds) – Honestly, I also usually just grab those convenient little containers of pomegranate arils, instead of a whole pomegranate. Pomegranate arils are actually really easy to remove from a pomegranate (I’ll tell you how in a moment). And, for my photos in this post, I just couldn’t help but include a whole pomegranate, since I think they’re so unusual looking and pretty (in their weird, craggy way).
BUT … whenever I make this angel food cake dessert for my family, I still usually take the shortcut route. Those pre-packaged cups of arils may only save me five minutes of prep, but sometimes I could really use five extra minutes in my day!
• Pre-cut orange slices – Harrumph. These are trickier to find (I’ve looked!), and generally not as good as fresh. IF your store stocks whole orange slices in the refrigerated produce section … and IF those orange slices are floating around in pure juice instead of some sugar-y syrup … they’re an ok shortcut. But only ok. I’d still recommend that you slice your own fresh orange unless you’re in a desperate time crunch – it’ll just be better in the long run.
But not to worry if you can’t find pre-packaged pomegranate arils or decent pre-cut oranges. It won’t add all that much time to your prep! Here’s how to handle both yourself …
How to Remove Pomegranate Seeds (AKA Arils)
There are pretty much two universally agreed upon approaches here.
Method #1 – You can cut the pomegranate in half horizontally (across its “equator”). Then, hold each half upside down over your cutting board and bash it with the heel of your hand, a wooden spoon, or whatever tool you prefer, to jar loose the arils.
Method #2 – I personally prefer this second (non-bashing) method. It’s outlined in terrific step-by-step photos HERE. But basically, all you do is cut a little circle all around the pomegranate’s stem to remove it. Then, score the pomegranate with shallow, vertical slits between its ridges (in its “valleys”), starting up where you removed the stem. Finally, beginning at the little stem hole, gently pull the pomegranate apart into sections, so you can pluck out the delicious arils. Voilà!
Some people recommend holding the pomegranate under water while you pluck off the arils, to avoid a juicy mess. But I don’t really find it to be all that messy, and I don’t want to take a chance on loosing any of the yummy juice. Just work with your pomegranate over a stain-proof cutting board, or line your board with parchment or waxed paper if you’re worried about stains from the ruby-red juice.
This all might sound complicated as you read about it. But after you’ve done it once, you’ll already be a total pro and realize it’s ridiculously easy!
I used to think it seemed too difficult and daunting to bother with a whole pomegranate. Silly me! After just one try, I was amazed at what a fool I’d been not to try it sooner. It’s actually kinda fun to pick out the gorgeous arils (and pop ’em in your mouth … or use them to make this dessert).
And now let’s talk about one of the coolest home cooking hacks out there …
How to Supreme an Orange for Perfect, Restaurant-Worthy Slices
Wanna feel like a restaurant chef? Perfect orange slices will make you look like a pro, and it’s surprisingly easy to do!
No pith, no white membrane. Just sweet, juicy, orange-y joy!
We’e got super-detailed instructions and photos in our Christmas Salad post, but here’s the basic gist of what you need to do:
Step #1 – Cut off both ends of your orange to create a stable base. Then, begin carefully cutting away the peel in vertical strips.
Step #2 – Be sure you follow the rounded contour of the orange, so you don’t cut away too much of the fruit itself – just the peel and white pith. Once you’ve cut away the outer peel, go back and carefully remove any little bits of pith that you missed.
Step #3 – Cut out each individual section of the orange, carefully slicing right along the membranes that separate the orange sections from each other. Be sure you cut just to the middle of the orange, so you can remove each section while leaving the membranes behind, still attached together at the middle.
You’ll end up with an empty orange “core” and the attached pithy membranes. And (ta-da!) you’ll also have a pile of beautifully supremed orange wedges, completely free of peel and pith! So fancy, right?!?
Step #4 – For this recipe, don’t forget to squeeze the empty core over your bowl, to save all the juice that’s left behind. Way too good to miss out on that!
How to Serve Your Luscious, Healthy Angel Food Cake
I recommend that you serve this Angel Food Cake Dessert while the cake’s still warm, fresh from its trip under the broiler. (Although, honestly, it’s still pretty darn good at room temp, too.)
The counterpoint of cool, sweet citrus with warm, toasty angel food cake is divine. And by definition, angel food cake really should be divine, don’t you think?
Also, it’s really best if you wait until the last minute to spoon your orange mixture overtop. That way, your cake doesn’t sog out too much before you can enjoy the thin layer of crispness you got from broiling it. If you’d like, you can even pass around the orange topping at the table, so guests can top their own right before they dig in.
And, of course, don’t forget to offer up the option of a little vanilla Greek yogurt!
I can’t wait for you to give this unique dessert a try! I’m not kidding when I say that, no matter how many times we make this, we all feel sort of surprised by just how GOOD it is. It’s a yummy revelation every time!
A perfect winter dessert that looks festive, gorgeous, and indulgent … but is secretly so much lighter! Your tastebuds will thank you. And so will your skinny jeans! 😉
- 4 (1 - 1 1/2 inch thick) slices of angel food cake (about 1/3 of a whole cake – we use purchased cake from the grocery's bakery)
- 1 cup orange sections (from about two 9-ounce navel oranges), peeled and cut into sections with membranes removed (see directions for how to "supreme" cut an orange, in the post above)
- reserved juice from the oranges (squeeze the membranes and pith after extracting orange sections, to save the remaining juice that's left behind)
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate arils (we usually use refrigerated, packaged arils, but you can also see notes in the post on how to remove arils from a whole pomegranate)
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
- nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt (optional for serving)
Stir together oranges and their reserved juice, pomegranate arils, honey, and vanilla. Set aside (cover and refrigerate for up to a couple of days if making this topping ahead).
Preheat broiler. (See note below on alternate grilling and toasting options.)
Spread the angel food cake slices on a baking sheet and broil until warmed and lightly toasted and golden on both sides (about 2-3 minutes per side). We recommend that you keep your cake slices at least a couple of inches away from the broiler’s heat source, and also keep a close eye on them. Once they begin to toast, they can go quickly from golden brown to burned.
To serve, drizzle a quarter of the orange-pomegranate sauce over each slice of warm angel food cake. Optionally, add a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt alongside. Serve immediately.
Alternate grilling and toasting instructions: This recipe also works well by grilling the slices of angel food cake for about 2-5 minutes per side. Be careful not to grill the cake over a high flame – we recommend grilling over a very low flame or on one side of a preheated grill where the flame has been turned off. You can also briefly toast the angel food cake slices in a toaster oven.
Purchased shortcuts: To make this recipe ultra quick and easy, we typically buy an angel food cake at our grocery store’s bakery and often grab the little cups of pomegranate arils from our store’s refrigerated produce section. If you prefer, you can certainly opt to make your own cake and buy a whole pomegranate to remove the arils yourself (see directions in our post for removing arils, if needed).
Make-ahead step: The sauce can be made ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for a day or two.
Yield: This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a party. Since 4 servings (as the recipe is written) uses about 1/3 of an entire angel food cake, you can triple the recipe to yield 12 servings and use up the entire cake. Increase the orange-pomegranate topping accordingly.