This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclosure policy.
Custard Cake With Autumn Apples, also known as Magic Cake, requires one simple batter which uses only six ingredients! The apples are a little added bonus!
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Magic Cake With Autumn Apples
This weirdly simple, one-bowl recipe yields an astonishing-to-see and even more astonishing-to-taste three-layer cake. A most unique cake that is! The first time you make it, you’ll be wowed. Sometimes referred to as Miracle Cake, there are no bizarre ingredients, and no difficult techniques. By combining eggs, flour, sugar, milk, vanilla, and butter in a precise order, a stunning 3-layer magic cake is achieved in just about one hour.
First let me say this exercise in baking isn’t really about having to be a good baker at all. No, no…this one is about science. And you all know that I point out REALLY COOL FOOD SCIENCE whenever possible! You see, in a Magic Cake, the batter consistency is more liquid to less dry ingredient. Once popped into the oven, the cake is baked over a longer period and at a lower temperature. Quite literally, the cake separates into three distinct layers on its own.
Three Layer Custard Cake:
Layer 1: a dense, fudge-like bottom layer abundant with sweet fall apples
Layer 2: a light delicate creamy pale yellow custard layer center similar to pudding
Layer 3: a lovely top layer crumb that is familiar if you’ve ever tasted a Genoise sponge
Magic Cake With Autumn Apples is altogether decadent and requires one simple batter which uses only six ingredients!
My Ukrainian great grandmother made something called Sharlotka more than any other cake. Along with a few apples, the batter is made all in one bowl with eggs, flour, sugar, whole milk, vanilla, and butter.
The recipe is very easy, so I imagine this is why she adopted it. Well, that and it was her heritage. I believe this cake reminded her of home.
Do You Have What’s Needed for A Magic Cake with Apples? Check The List!
large eggs, egg yolks and whites separated and at room temperature
melted butter, preferably unsalted
Granny Smith apples
How This Recipe Came About…
Since no recipe was left for me to follow, I have simply assembled Sharlotka from recipes I found online. Until that is, I found a recipe for Magic Cake.
To my surprise, the method is largely THE SAME! And the way this cake batter separates as it bakes is where the real magic happens.
I bake my Magic Cake as I would my Sharlotka – in a well-buttered springform pan that I’ve wrapped tightly with aluminum foil. You can also take the extra step of lining your pan with parchment paper if you like.
When the baking time is up and the cake comes out of the oven, it has a crisp and crackly crust on top that softens as it sits. Literally, it cools to become this awesome vanilla magic custard cake.
Just before serving, I cover the cake with powdered sugar for some sweetness on top. No folks, cake recipes like this are not to be skipped over…
How To Make a Magic Cake?
How Do I Separate Eggs So I Do Not Get Yolk into The Whites Accidentally?
The “hardest” step in this recipe is separating the eggs. But do start with room temperature eggs.
I separate by using my fingers to allow the whites to run through, the in-tact yolk left in my hand. Normally, I separate eggs by alternating the yolk between each half of the shell, but for this I do it by hand because I absolutely want uncompromised egg whites.
How Do I Prep the Apples for A Magic Cake?
Your apples must be peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. I avoid the apple corer and opt for a paring knife for this step because I find it quicker.
I give them a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and toss them, so the majority are coated. This helps to avoid them browning.
Can I Use Baking Spray?
Use butter. Hey, you’re already planning to gobble up a piece of cake, so you may as well not worry about the calories and just use the right method for the pan.
You’ll need a well-buttered (preferably unsalted butter) springform pan for this cake, 10-inch or 12-inch but no smaller. A CAVEAT to the use of a springform: perform a water test by filling the pan with water while it’s tightened.
If your pan springs any leaks at the seams, consider using a 9 x 9-inch baking dish for this cake. Now, if your pan is like mine, and you do not appear to have anything less than a tight seal, use the springform.
Because the recipe creates a very thin, runny batter, you need a pan with a good seal. Lining a 9 x 9-inch with a parchment paper overhang on both ends will offer the same liftability that the removable sides springform pan provides.
I heavily grease with COLD butter, being sure to ‘seal the seam’ all the way around by pressing the butter into the seam. You can also line the bottom with a parchment circle cut to fit the diameter of the pan however I never do.
Once finished sealing the seam, place your prepared pan into the refrigerator. It is important to keep the sealed seam sealed. Prepare to bake up some pure magic!
What Can I Use to Easily Place the Springform into And Get the Springform Out of The Oven?
I find this cake is easiest when cleanup is easiest. Have a baking sheet at the ready along with a piece of aluminum wrapped to fit the springform.
If you spring any leaks, you’re not going to have a mess to tend to with, the aluminum ‘keeping it all in’ neatly like a levy.
Taking it a step further, if you should have on hand a cake pan slightly larger than your springform, heavily butter and wrap the springform with foil, then place it into the cake pan and atop a baking sheet. Look at all of this extra security.
Is A Magic Cake Recipe Really a One-Bowl Recipe?
Yes but no. Haha, I say this because you cannot use the same bowl or beaters laden with cake batter to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Therefore, you’ll be needing a separate bowl.
Grab your largest mixing bowl first. This recipe yields quite a lot of thin batter, so you’ll need the biggie for the batter.
To this bowl, add the yolks and some regular white sugar. Mix.
Then in goes the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter which you’ll have melted and cooled, and then the vanilla extract. Mix again. Last comes the sifted flour and warmed whole milk.
A smaller mixing bowl may be used for the beaten egg whites. The whipped egg whites are folded gently into the cake batter in 1/3 increments.
How Do I Measure the Right Amount of Flour for Recipes?
So, this is one of those “things” you learn along the way when you learn to bake. I am talking to all of you who rock the box cake mixes but seldom bake from scratch.
This is good to know – 8 ounces refers to 8 FLUID ounces. That is one cup.
When we talk flour, it must be added to recipes according to its weight. The weight of flour for 1 cup is 4.41 ounces or 3/4-cups.
For this recipe, I specify 3/4 cup flour. By weight, it’s technically a full cup. Confused?
Just measure 3/4 of a cup, level off using the back side of a butter knife, and sift…
I measure and level my flour before I begin this recipe. In fact, I measure it twice, once before leveling and again after sifting once.
Then, I sift the measured and leveled flour into the bowl with the wet ingredients. The milk follows gradually as I mix the batter until smooth.
How Do I Assemble a Magic Cake Within the Spring Form Pan?
Press the apples into the bottom of the springform pan. They may be loose, but they must fall beneath the inside middle of the springform pan if you were to imagine a line going all the way around.
And really, if baking in a 9 x9-inch baking dish, follow this same guideline. A well-buttered dish, parchment paper overhang, and apples no higher than the halfway mark.
What To Do with The Whipped Egg Whites?
The batter is complete all but for the egg whites. I save this step until last. It is important to beat the whites to stiff peaks. If using a stand mixer, attach the whisk attachment for this step.
Now fold the beaten egg whites into the batter, one third at a time, until just incorporated. You needn’t worry if there are a few egg white lumps or streaks in the batter.
How Long Does a Magic Cake Bake?
The lot is poured over top of the apples and popped into a low oven for anywhere from 50 to 70 minutes which may seem like a long time, but it really isn’t. As a rule, I begin checking for doneness at 50 minutes.
The top of the cake will be slightly hard, nicely golden brown (the top browns as it bakes) and will not “jiggle” when you gently shake the pan.
If the top appears golden but the cake is not yet set, cover loosely with foil and return to the oven, 10 minutes at a time, until it no longer jiggles.
What Is the Best Kind of Apple to Use in A Custard Cake Recipe?
I doubt there is an apple that wouldn’t be good in this cake, however there are just a couple that are that much better. I do not consider any varieties other than Granny Smith or, if you have heirlooms growing, a Winesap.
Both of these varieties are best for baking because they stand up. That is to say, they will not become mush during the bake.
Additionally, either variety becomes sweet-ish as it bakes. Their lack of oomph is absolutely perfect for this cake, as this is meant to be an only mildly sweet cake.
Modifying The Norm to Make It Not Entirely Average…
This is a basic method for a vanilla magic custard cake to which I am adding fall apples for an apple magic cake. If you were inclined, this could very easily be made to suit an almond magic cake with the addition of real almond extract and sliced almonds as garnish.
I’ve also tried recipes for lemon magic cake and a raspberry magic cake. I’ve yet to assemble a chocolate magic cake for a black magic cake, but doesn’t that seem appealing for Halloween?
Everybody is harvesting just now. I have neighbors with pear trees and berry patches where those fruits will need to be used fairly quickly. Consider them for this dessert.
Treat the pears as you would the apples in the recipe card. For any kind of berry, add them atop the batter before baking.
They will largely remain slightly sunken at the top, but some will sink deeper which is very pretty when this cake is cut and plated. Stay tunes for another version of this 3-layer custard cake to post, a seasonal pumpkin magic cake.
Can I Make This Magic Cake Without the Apples?
Sure can, and the recipe card measurements are exactly the same. If you won’t be using apples, you will not require lemons for juicing either.
I would keep all exactly the same except begin checking for doneness at 40 minutes rather than 50 minutes. You will yield the best results by not over-baking this cake.
If you are not using apples but feel like you want more than just the cake itself, consider drizzling an icing sugar glaze or serving with fresh berries alongside. Both make simple, beautiful additions.
Can A Magic Cake Be Made Ahead?
Yes, but not by days, rather only by hours. This Magic Cake with Apples is one of those same day recipes meaning you bake it and eat it on the same day.
If planning to serve this Magic Custard Cake with Autumn Apples as an after-dinner dessert, bake in the morning to give the cake ample time to cool.
Pro tip: This cake must be 100% cooled before you slip a knife in, otherwise its walls will collapse. It must also be 100% cooled before adding Confectioners’ sugar or an icing sugar glaze.
Can A Magic Cake Be Frozen?
No. The consistency of this cake, especially that luscious custardy center, does not lend itself well to freezing.
Do however refrigerate any uneaten leftover portions. I love this cake even better the next day when it’s well-chilled.
How To Serve a Magic Custard Cake?
I go to town when dusting this cake with confectioner’s sugar. Then I slice and plate it and add more confectioner’s sugar.
I like to top it with only a dollop of whipped cream IF I feel like I must add anything at all. Really, it needs nothing.
If you really felt the need to garnish, sautéed apple pieces with vanilla bean in butter would be out of this world! Also, any kind of fresh berries such as strawberries or blackberries.
Sugared edible blossoms would be exquisite as would sliced almonds dusted with powdered sugar…I digress into the world of desserts…
Magic Cake With Autumn Apples
- use a 10-inch or 12-inch non-stick springform pan PRO TIP: perform a water test on your springform by filling it while it is tightened; if you lose water around the seam rapidly, consider using a 9 x 9-inch baking dish lined with parchment instead
- or a 9 x 9-inch baking dish
- parchment paper (if using a 9 x 9-inch baking dish) see notes in post above
- electric hand mixer
- small mixing bowl
- rubber spatula for folding in the egg whites
Ingredients for Magic Cake With Autumn Apples
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 9 tablespoons unsalted butter 8 tablespoons melted and cooled; 1 tablespoon VERY COLD
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 medium apples Granny Smith or Winesap varieties work best
- juice of half a lemon
- Confectioner's sugar
- Preheat your oven to 325°F. Assemble a well-buttered springform pan atop a sheet of aluminum foil and tightly gather that foil around the springform. NOTE: use the single tablespoon of VERY COLD butter to "seal the seam" all the way around, pressing the butter into the seam like caulk. Place into a refrigerator until ready to assemble. Set all atop a baking sheet. Alternatively, butter a 9-inch x 9-inch baking dish, lining the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Leave a 2-inch overhang on the parchment. Set aside.
- Pour the milk into a saucepan and set it over medium low heat. Stir occasionally.
- Prepare the apples by peeling, coring, and chopping into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss in a bowl with the juice of the half lemon. Apple pieces should be coated with the juice, but LIGHTLY. You want just enough acid to keep the apple from browning, but not too much that the batter won't set properly.
- Arrange the apple pieces in the bottom of the springform pan (or 9 x 9-inch baking dish). They may be loose, but they must fall beneath the inside middle of the pan if you were to imagine a line going all the way around.
- Separate the eggs using your fingers by allowing the whites to run through. Place the yolks remaining in your hand in a large mixing bowl. Beat the egg yolks with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. The mixture will be very light in color and should be almost double in size. Add butter and vanilla extract and continue beating for another minute.
- After measuring and leveling your flour, hold a sifter or fine mesh sieve over the egg and sugar mixture and sift the flour into the mixture. Mix until fully incorporated. Slowly add the warmed milk. Beat until everything is well incorporated.
- In a clean bowl using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Add the egg whites to the cake batter 1/3 at a time and gently fold them in. Do not fold the egg whites in completely. A few white streaks or lumps of egg white are encouraged.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan. Smooth out the top making sure batter seeps in between the apple pieces. Bake for 50 minutes or until the top is lightly golden. Baking times may vary. Begin testing for doneness at 50 minutes. The top will be slightly hard, nicely golden brown, and will not "jiggle" when you gently shake the springform. If the top appears golden but the cake is not yet set, cover loosely with foil and return to the oven, 10 minutes at a time, until it no longer jiggles.
- Cool the cake in the pan. For a springform, gently loosen the clasp to create a gap between the finished cake and the inside wall of the pan. If necessary, run the back of a knife all the way around. Keep the pan intact and cool the cake for at least 2 hours before cutting. For a 9 x 9-inch baking dish, use the parchment overhang to 'lift' the cooled cake from the dish. If necessary, run the back of a knife all the way around to loosen. Cool the cake the remainder of the way for at least 2 hours before cutting. NOTE: Slicing before the cake has fully cooled will result in the cake collapsing.
- To serve, remove the sides of the springform and place the bottom of the springform with the cake on a cake plate. Dust generously with Confectioner's sugar. Slice the cake and plate. Dust again with more Confectioner's sugar.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.
If You Like This Recipe…
…you might also like: