A lovely, layered dessert known as a “magic cake” has been pipping up on blogs all over the place lately. The cake is a dessert which magically turns itself into layers of cake and custard while baking in the oven, and it reminds me a lot of an impossible pie. Impossible pie is a type of custardy dessert that has a small amount of flour in it which allows a distinct “crust” to form during baking and give the pie two layers with very little work. Magic cake works in a very similar way, but has the custard on the bottom, rather than on the top like the impossible pie.
Magic cake is quite easy to make and this version of it uses buttermilk for a wonderfully tangy, buttery flavor that is addictive. The cake starts by mixing up a thin batter, using a relatively small amount of flour for a cake batter, then egg whites are folded in to it. It is difficult to directly fold the egg whites into the batter because it is so fluid, so I recommend stirring some in to thicken the batter (it’s ok if they loose a little volume) and then fold in the rest. The cake is baked at a low temperature and it separates into a sponge cake-like top layer and a dense custardy layer underneath. Unlike a pudding cake, the custard here is quite firm and very easy to slice through once the cake has set and cooled.
The vanilla and buttermilk cake is delicious, with a dense and custardy texture that you won’t find in any other kind of cake. I am a big custard fan and I am more than happy to eat this delicious cake plain. Buttermilk and vanilla go with all kinds of flavors, however, and this is a great base recipe to dress up. It is fantastic when served with fresh berries and whipped cream, and a drizzle of maple syrup is a simple – but amazing – way to finish it off just before serving, too.
This cake is baked in an 8 x 8-inch square baking dish. You can opt for a round dish of similar size. The depth of the pan is part of what makes this cake nice and custardy at the bottom, so while you could use a 9-inch pan in a pinch, you might not get quite as clear of a custardy layer as you would in the slighlty smaller pan.
Buttermilk Magic Cake
4 egg yolks, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tbsp sugar
Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease an 8×8-inch square baking pan.
In a large bowl, beat together egg yolks and sugar at medium-high speed until doubled in volume. Beat in melted butter, then sift in the flour and salt and mix until well-combined. At low speed, gradually blend in the buttermilk and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, whip egg whites until foamy. Beat in 1 tbsp sugar, then continue to beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form.
Whisk half of the egg whites into the buttermilk mixture until well combined. The buttermilk mixture will be fluid, so don’t worry if the egg whites lose some volume. Once half of the egg whites have been incorporated, fold in the remaining half with your whisk.
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 60 minutes, until the cake is set and jiggles (but is not liquidy) when the pan is gently shaken and the top is golden brown.
Allow to cool completely before slicing.
KalynApril 26, 2013
This sounds like something that even a total novice baker like me could manage, and I love buttermilk!
SunithaApril 27, 2013
Im just learning to bake…..perfect recipe for me to try next 🙂
Vera Zecevic â€“ Cupcakes GardenApril 29, 2013
Simple and delicious! It can’t be better than that!
dena @ohyoucookApril 29, 2013
Looks delicious! I’d be happy with just a little coating of confectioners’ sugar on top, just like in the photo.
mabel mendezMay 12, 2013
Thanks for make my Magic cake!!!
AlexandraMay 20, 2013
Delicious! Made this today. It is tangy with just the right amount of sweetness and very easy to make. Would make this again for sure and serve with fresh strawberries.
LindaJune 21, 2013
Made this for our weekly staff meeting, served with fresh strawberries, it was fantastic. Put everyone in a happy productive mood. Got lots of T Shirts out that day!
AngelaAugust 9, 2013
I don’t like buttermilk. Can I use regular milk in place of it? It sounds fantastic. Thank you.
CookieMarch 22, 2014
Holy cow – how have I never discovered your blog before now? I love baking with buttermilk but half my carton always goes to waste. Shame too – buttermilk is so good for us.
Thank you for sharing this recipe. I’m going to try it for a great finish to this weekend’s Sunday dinner!
Carol DurusauMarch 31, 2014
Do you store leftovers in the fridge or at room temperature?
NicoleApril 6, 2014
Carol – I would store the leftovers in the fridge.
JenaMay 4, 2014
This cake came out amazing. It was hard, but I after letting it cool, I refrigerated it overnight before having a big piece for breakfast the next morning 🙂
My husband tried it and said, it’s like a cheesecake! And he’s right. The bottom layer does have a cheesecake-esque feel, especially with the tang of the buttermilk (which is sort of like the cream cheese tang — subtle, but definitely there).
This is going to be my new go-to cake if I’m craving something sweet (just need to plan ahead a little bit) or if I need to bring something to a party. I think it would be an awesome one to play around with flavor-wise as well: it would be good with some lemon zest to play up the tanginess or with some other kind of extract (ike almond?), or even with some baking spices like nutmeg. Or, I may make exactly how it’s written again. It is already pretty perfect. Also, I track my nutrition on one of those fitness apps, and I entered this recipe, and amazingly, one serving is only 226 calories! I love it even more now.
AnnApril 17, 2015
I added the zest of a lemon and was a little skeptical that it would even work as it’s an unusual batter. Anyway it worked fantastically well and I love it! Thanks for recipe!
ritafordApril 22, 2015
It was game night at my house tonight and I served this cake and let me tell you it was a big hit. I substituted 1 tsp raspberry extract for one tsp vanilla and the flavor was delicious. I heated some blueberry topping for over it and whipped cream and the girls loved it. Will definitely make this again.
maggiueApril 28, 2015
This was incredibly delicious. I made this last night. Next time I will top it with whipped cream and some fruit, as one user suggested. Guest worthy!
A.TungaJanuary 22, 2016
absolutely amazing and easy to make even for a novice like me.. just wondering is it possible to make a baileys flavoured version of this ??