pastel inteligente (the smart cake)


A few months ago, I ran across this recipe online, and found that there are actually different versions floating around the internet. All of them have similar names–tarta magica, pastel inteligente, smart cake, magic cake–but the idea is the same.

tartamagica 006

The cake basically is one batter that separates into three separate and distinct layers while baking. Hence the name. It’s magic. It’s a smart cake. Pastel inteligente. It is an easy recipe, and the results are impressive for the small effort involved.

tartamagica 011

The biggest factor ensuring success is that when you are beating both the egg yolks with the sugar, and later the egg whites, that you beat thoroughly, especially for the egg whites. If you beat at a medium speed, and take longer to build the egg whites to stiff peaks, the air bubbles that you incorporate into the egg whites will be smaller, and thus they will be sturdier and harder to deflate. And when you fold the egg whites into the batter, you want to fold them in gently, without deflating them, and being careful not to over-mix.


I decided to make it a half recipe, since I was going to use an 8-inch square pan, but if you make the full recipe from Kanela y Limón, use a 9 by 13 by 2 pan.


I decided to use a fresh vanilla bean, instead of extract. And although the powdered sugar sprinkled on top is adequate, I decided that some whipped cream with a sugar-frosted grape would make a nice, simple garnish on top of each slice. To frost the grape, dip each grape in egg white, let the excess egg white drip off, then roll in caster sugar. Caster sugar or superfine sugar definitely helps because the grain is finer, but use regular sugar if you can’t find caster or superfine sugar. Sometimes it’s called baker’s sugar, too. C and H now sells it as baker’s sugar.


I hope you enjoy!


Smart Cake (based on a recipe from Kanela y Limon)


4 egg yolks

4 egg whites, beaten, with a few drops of vinegar, to stiff peaks

1/2 liter of warm milk

125 grams of unsalted butter, melted, then cooled slightly until just warm

140 grams of powdered sugar

zest of half a lemon

112 grams of all-purpose flour

1 vanilla bean, cut in half with seeds scraped



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 8-inch square pan by greasing with butter and lining parchment paper that hangs over two sides, greasing the parchment paper as well, for easy removal. Separate egg yolks from whites into two separate bowls.

Starting with the yolks, add the powdered sugar and scrape vanilla bean seeds into it, then beat with a hand held mixer for about five minutes. Mixture should be very pale and thick, and when you lift the beaters, it should look like a “ribbon” folding over itself.

Add zest of lemon and mix until incorporated. Pour all of butter into the egg yolk mixture, then mix with electric hand held beater until fully incorporated and mixture starts to thicken slightly again. Gradually add in some of the warm milk, a third of it at a time, mix until incorporated, until all the milk has been added, then sift the flour over the mixture and mix on medium speed, until incorpoarated. Do not over-mix.

Wash beaters, or use another set of clean beaters, to whip up egg whites to stiff peaks when beaters are lifted from egg whites. Fold into the batter with a spatula, quickly but gently, being careful not to over-mix or deflate the whites. Pour into prepared pan and bake for ten minutes at 350 degrees F, then lower heat to 325 degrees F, without opening door, continuing to bake for 50 minutes more, or until toothpick test comes out clean.

Cool completely on wire rack, leaving it in its pan, then cover with a plastic wrap and cool in refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Unmold and cut into equal pieces, dusting each piece with powdered or confectioner’s sugar, and then, if desired, topping each slice with some whipped cream and frosted green grape.


37 responses to “pastel inteligente (the smart cake)”

    • Thank you!! Yes, me too. Especially when it’s a freshly split vanilla bean or two!! Have a great rest of the weekend!


    • Thanks! I actually made it once before, but the cake part was a little flat. It was worth it to try it again. Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Hi Regina,
    I went ahead and made conversions:
    If you are making it in an 8 X 8 square pan, as I did, the amounts are as follows. To make it using a 13 X 9 X 2 pan, double the following:

    4 yolks
    4 egg whites
    2 cups warm milk
    4 ounces unsalted butter, melted, cooled to warm
    1 cup + 2 Tablespoons powdered (confectioner’s sugar)
    1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
    1 Tablespoon vanilla extract (I had two vanilla beans, so I used those in place)

    Hope it works out for you.


    • I’m also about to ask for the conversion as I don’t want to ruin the cake and make a huge mess. Thank you for providing this, Dave. This cake indeed looks smart. 🙂


      • You’re welcome! I’m sure it will turn out great, but feel free to ask me anything about it. The first time I made it, I didn’t whip the egg whites on slow speed for a long time, and the “cake” part was still there, but just a thin layer at the top. Still good, but not like the second time where I took time to build the egg whites by using a medium speed and for a longer time period. Have a great week!


  2. Thanks for the conversions. I was too proud to ask and too lazy to do the conversions myself. I’m not a baker but I think I’ll try this. Even a disaster would make a funny blog post. 🙂


    • You’re welcome. I hope it works. My math in conversions is horrible, but I tried to convert it as best I can.

      Truth be told, the first time I made it, the cake part was only about 1/4 of an inch tall, and the rest of the cake was custard! I’ve even seen people posting it like that, calling it a custard cake (which it is), and it is still good that way, too! 🙂


    • This one I had to do a couple of times. Couldn’t get the cake layer in past attempts. But, yeah, it’s a cool cake. It’s all over the internet, not my recipe, but it certainly gets the most hits daily.


  3. Hey Dave, just wanted to let you know I made this a few days ago and absolutely loved it, definitely the coolest thing I’ve ever baked, will make again soon, already craving more, thanks for sharing xoxo


    • Thanks!! It’s definitely one of the coolest things I’ve made, too! Thanks for the feedback. Speaking of cool, I really like that chocolate cake you currently posted about! Have a great rest of the weekend!


    • Thank you so much. It totally made my day to read your comment. I think it’s just the right thing to do. Have a good day/night wherever you are!


  4. Very handsome. And possibly a distant relative of a dessert we have in Britain called Lemon surprise pudding – similarly, you seperate the eggs, beat the whites etc, then after it’s baked you have a curdy-custardy layer on the bottom. It’s not quite so refined though!


    • Pretty interesting, huh? Different countries that have recipes for similar things. After I made this and posted it, I noticed a lot more recipes from different places, using slightly different names and techniques. Makes me want to travel more than I do. Oh well. Maybe some day. Thanks for stopping by! Have a great day!!


    • Hi Conni,
      Unfortunately, I have not tried it with skim milk, so I don’t know how if it’s possible. I imagine that a loss of fat might affect the mouthfeel and flavor, but not sure if it will be significant or not.


      • I ended up using 2% milk with excellent results. Custard portion still nice and creamy. Used vanilla extract instead of a bean. Following your instructions about whipping the egg whites I ended up exactly 1/2 the cake being the fluffy/cakey portion. Beautiful!
        I had a little batter left over so baked it in a small dish and sampled it warm. YUM! My family actually preferred it heated up a bit. Very much a comfort food. Next time I’ll try using skim milk.


      • 🙂 I love it when things work out! Thanks for experimenting and telling about it here! I hope it works out with skim.


  5. Does anyone know the conversions for this cake. I did Google it but it kept showing and gram…help please I know asking for a entire chart is asking a lot…help!!


    • Virginia,
      Please look at the comments above, I replied to Regina with conversions for ounces, cups, and Tablespoons.
      Hope that helps!


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