Greetings!! You may have seen “magic cakes” online. There are a ton of other names for this basic cake recipe, like “smart cake” or “impossible cake”. These are named so because the cake batter separates into different layers, due to the egg whites being whipped up separately and added to the batter right before being baked. This creates a light, fluffy cake layer on top of a denser custard-like cake below.
Over the years, I’ve been imagining different flavor versions of this cake in my head, so I thought it would be good to see if I could finally make my cake dreams come true. So I’m happy (and a little proud) to present to you my orange creamsicle magic cake!
I used vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans this time, but feel free to substitute your source of vanilla. The orange extract and zest helps, but if you want even more orange juice flavor, you can probably substitute a few tablespoons of thawed out orange juice concentrate for some of the milk. This may add more color to the cake, too. I didn’t actually try this, which is why I say “probably”, but I’ve made substitutions like that in other things and it usually works as long as you don’t add too much of the juice concentrate, which would increase the sugar content substantially.
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.
orange creamsicle magic cake (based on a recipe from Kanela y Limon)
4 egg yolks, room temperature
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice or cream of tartar
460 mL (2 cups minus 1 Tablespoon) warm whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange extract
112 grams (4 ounces) of unsalted butter, melted, then cooled
140 grams (5 ounces, about 1 cup) of confectioners sugar
zest of two large oranges
112 grams (1 cup minus 2 Tablespoons) all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease and line an 8” square pan with parchment paper that overhangs on two opposite sides to easily lift the cake out of the pan after baking. Set aside.
Separate the egg yolks and egg whites into two separate bowls. Repurpose or store the extra unused egg yolk for later. Set aside.
Combine the flour and the salt into a small bowl and stir with a whisk several times. Set aside.
Starting with the egg yolks, add the confectioners sugar to it and use a hand-held electric mixer with the beater attachments and beat for 5 minutes until the batter is thick and pale and when you lift the beaters the batter falls back onto itself like a ribbon.
Add the zest to the egg yolk/sugar mixture and mix until incorporated. Next, pour all of the melted but cooled butter to this and mix until fully incorporated and mixture starts to thicken slightly again.
Add the extracts to the milk and gradually add this milk/extracts mixture, a third of it at a time, to the batter, stopping after the first addition to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then continue adding until all of it has been incorporated to the batter.
Sift the flour/salt over the mixture and mix on medium speed, until incorporated. Do not over-mix.
Either stop to clean the beaters or else with new beaters, beat the egg whites just until frothy, about 20 seconds. Add the lemon juice or cream of tartar and continue to beat, just on medium. Keep beating on medium for several minutes, then when almost to stiff peaks, change speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form. (It’s important not to beat too fast in the beginning because that helps develop smaller air bubbles, and the vinegar is an acid that helps them be more stable.)
When stiff peaks form, fold into batter using either a rubber spatula or spoon or whisk. You do not have to thoroughly fold or incorporate the egg whites into the batter, but instead should leave some lumps of egg whites about the size of grapes or olives floating in the batter. This ensures more of a cake layer.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Immediately turn the oven down to 325 degrees F. Bake for about 50 minutes. Top should be golden brown and puffed up, but not soft or jiggly. It may look puffy or domed shaped, but once you take it out of the oven it will shrink. Use a skewer to stick into the middle of the cake to check for doneness. It should come out clean.
Remove from the oven and let cool in its pan on a wire rack. Avoid cold drafts or wind simply because the cake tends to shrink as it cools, and wind or cold drafts will make it shrink even more. When cool, wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Serve with a light dusting of confectioners sugar on top, or even with some whipped cream and/or orange segments, if desired.