When I first saw this cake, I was struck by wonder. The world of baking opens my eyes to brand new things almost every single day, which is probably why I love it so. I don’t even like eating sweet things that much, but there’s no doubt that I want to keep learning how to make absolutely every possible dessert there is in the universe.
And so of course, as a baker who smells her next kitchen experiment, I got really excited. I read through the instructions for making this cake and it looked easy enough, but somehow every time I told myself I was going to make it, something got in the way.
Late last October, as I was writing down notes and ideas about what recipes I should make this year for Christmas, a piece of paper slipped out of the pages of my planner. Turns out, I had taken my print-out of this recipe and placed it inside my planner with the intention of jotting it down into my schedule of to-bakes. And as though tired of being ignored for such a long time, it finally decided to call my attention once again.
And now I’m hooked.
Magic cake is a real thing. It’s a cake with three layers, but it doesn’t even require any intentional individual baking of each component before putting it all together. All it takes is one batter and the oven does all the rest of the work for you, transforming an unassuming puddle of batter into a triple layer of yummy textures. Like magic. And as far as the Christmas season goes, we all know there’s that sense of magic in the air. Perfect time to finally get this on the table!
I don’t want to think about the science of this cake, all I know is that this Chocolate Magic Cake recipe has a soufflé-like top, a custard centre, and a cake-like bottom. And the effort of making this? Not a lot actually!
I am officially obsessed with magic cakes. So obsessed in fact that I have just ordered me this cookbook that’s all about… You guessed, it: Magic Cakes! I don’t know if it’s because I find it novel, but it’s certainly a type of cake that I like– that is to say, not too sweet but still very flavourful. I love getting three different hits of chocolate from this cake thanks to all three layers that have different texture.
This Chocolate Magic Cake Recipe can be made by hand, but I really prefer whipping the egg whites using a machine since it can be tiring. The rest of the steps I prefer doing by hand though, especially the part where the milk is added into the mix, because Lord knows how a stand mixer makes that such a messy job. Milk splattering everywhere even at the lowest speed!
Important notes to make sure you get the best version of this is to first of all use a small pan with high sides. An 8×8-inch pan is best so that you can really get the full effect of those layers. I didn’t have a pan in that size so I ended up using a longer pan. And as you can see my cakes are a little squat.
Secondly, do not overwhip your egg whites. I don’t know how to explain this but your egg whites should be stiff but at the same time still creamy enough that it will melt into your batter once you mix it in. I actually overwhipped my egg whites a little because I stepped away from the mixer for a second (don’t do that!) so my batter didn’t come out smooth initially. But an easy remedy for that is to run the batter through a sifter to remove those lumps right as you transfer it into the baking pan.
The third most important tip? Do not overbake. Remember that this has a custard at the heart of it– a silky, melt-in-your-mouth type of custard. If you happen to overbake it you’ll get a firm gelatin in the middle instead, and while the cake will still be delicious, it’s just not the same! So remember to check your cake around the 45 to 50 minute mark by wiggling the pan a bit. There should be a good jiggle but the cake will look more or less set.
This cake is delicate so I really think it’s not a good idea to cut into while it’s not completely cool. (Pop it in the fridge if you’re impatient!) To get nice precise slices, use a clean and cold sharp knife. Wipe the knife off with a wet cold towel every time you make a slice so that nothing catches on the knife and ruins the shape of the cake!
You know, maybe I should make a recipe video for this cake in another flavour next year, to make it easier for you guys to visualize. What do you think? 😉
Makes one 8x8-inch cake
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 2 1/2 cups (600 mL) whole milk, lukewarm
- 1 cup (115 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (43 grams) cocoa powder
- 4 large eggs, separated
- A pinch of cream of tartar
- 1 3/4 cups (210 grams) confectioner's sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (30 mL) lukewarm espresso or strong coffee
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
- extra confectioner's sugar for dusting
- optional-fresh berries for garnish
- 1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Lightly butter or grease an 8x8-inch baking dish*.
- 2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder for 20 seconds. Set aside.
- 3. Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, in another bowl, whip the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until stiff peaks are attained, but the whites still have a slightly "creamy" texture. (Do not overwhip!) Set aside.
- 4. In another small bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until light. Beat in the melted butter, espresso, and vanilla extract for about 2 minutes or until evenly incorporated.
- 5. Add the wet ingredients into the flour-cocoa mixture and mix until evenly incorporated. Gradually whisk in the milk to avoid it splattering, until everything is well combined. The mixture will be runny.
- 6. Fold in the egg whites, a third at a time, until all of the egg whites are folded in and mixture is smooth.**
- 7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Check around the 50 minute mark by gently shaking the cake. It should still be slightly jiggly but no longer runny. If you overbake it, the custard portion will be too firm and less like the silky custard you want. (But still delicious!)
- 8. Allow cake to completely cool before cutting. Be very careful when you slice through the cake as it is quite delicate and jiggly, which is what you want. You can refrigerate the cake for faster cooling. Dust with confectioner's sugar and/or top with whipped cream and fruit, if desired.
- * It's better to use a smaller pan with higher sides so you can actually see the layers of the Magic Custard Cake more apparently. I used an 8x10-inch pan and ended with a thinner cake, and ultimately the layers became thinner too.
- ** If at any point the mixture looks a little lumpy, pour it through a strainer as you transfer it into the pan for baking to ensure the smoothness of the batter.
This cake is best eaten cold, I think. It reminds me a little of a silky flan out of the fridge, except instead of a caramel syrup on the top, you get a soufflé. This is truly a stroke of genius, and I have no idea how long this type of cake has been out there, but it sure is a welcome addition to my recipe rotation.