It was about 3 years ago that Magic Cake popped up on my cyber radar. The name caught my attention (who doesn’t love anything ‘magic’?!) but then I began to see variations of it everywhere, most likely on Pinterest where recipes tend to spread their wings.
Loving the roots of anything new, I did some digging to find the originating recipes and history which I shared with my first attempt at making Blood Orange Magic Cake and Candied Almonds. I’m fascinated by the chemistry that is baking anyway but this cake really, well, ‘takes the cake’.
Magic Cake presents three layers when it is done; a thin crust, a custard layer and a lofty-cakey layer on top. It’s cool to look at and it’s cool to eat. But the coolest thing is how it goes from a watery ‘I’m-sure-I-must-have-done-this-wrong’ looking batter to the definitively layered end result.
We are a bit eggnog obsessed in December. Multiple cartons are usually open in our fridge all month long. If I have time on a weekend, I’ll whip some up. For adults I’ll make my Great Grandmother’s version which after tasting it I fondly renamed ‘Designated Driver Required Eggnog’. When I got the itch to make Magic Cake again I decided to make it Eggnog flavored (and yes with a little rum too; which can be omitted if desired).
I was reminded about what a strange recipe it is when mixing it up. The batter seems fairly traditional until the liquid overwhelms the dry ingredients; my stomach always clenches about then when I haven’t made it for awhile. Then when the lofty beaten egg whites are folded in it looks dreadful; a swampy mess with little bumps of egg white. This is where the leap of faith comes in. Fifty minutes later and out of the oven looks come a golden-brown cake, not anything like what was inserted into the oven originally.
The most fun part of course is after the cake has fully cooled, cutting into it to see the magical layers that formed. It’s a bit of science in dessert form and one you’ll love eating! For those non-nog folks, the flavor is light not overwhelming so I think you’ll love it too!
Eggnog Magic Cake
- 2 cups prepared Eggnog , lukewarm
- 1 stick unsalted butter , melted and cooled (cannot be hot) (plus some unmelted butter for preparing the pan)
- 1 ½ cups Confectioners’ Sugar (plus some for dusting the top of the finished cake)
- 4 Eggs , room temperature and separated
- 1/8 teaspoon White Distilled Vinegar
- 1 cup gluten-free flour (I used King Arthur’s Gluten-Free flour blend); if making a gluten version, all purpose flour may be substituted
- 3 tablespoons Dark Rum (can be substituted for more eggnog if preferable)
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- Whole nutmeg to grate on top or ground nutmeg to sprinkle
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8x8 inch baking pan and set aside.
- To warm the eggnog: place eggnog in microwave container and warm in 15 second increments until lukewarm (about 1 to 1 ¼ minutes)
- Combine the room temperature egg whites and distilled white vinegar and whip eggs with a mixer on the highest speed until forming stiff peaks. Set aside (note: the vinegar helps stabilize the peaks which is a key to success especially at high altitude).
- In a second bowl, mix together the egg yolks and sugar until fully combined and sunny yellow! Add melted butter; mix on low speed until the mixture is fully combined.
- Add the flour very gradually to the batter while mixing, to allow the flour to integrate with the rest of the batter.
- Add the rum and vanilla to the warmed eggnog. While keeping the mixer running on low speed, trickle the eggnog mixture into the batter allowing it to incorporate with the batter. By trickling the eggnog, it has time to mix in easily. Note: by the end the batter will be very watery and should be so don't worry!
- By hand, fold in egg whites one fourth at a time, stirring to combine with the liquid batter. There will be small lumps of egg white in the end and the batter will still be fairly liquid. Pour into the prepared pan and place in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes. The cake will have a browned top but may seem to have some movement when removing it from the oven which is normal.
- Allow to cool on a cooling rack for until completely cool (about 3 hours) OR allow to cool on the rack for 30 minutes, then cover with foil (shiny side out) and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Cut, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and freshly grated nutmeg; serve!