Recipe: Pumpkin Magic Cake

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Pumpkin custard magic cake is a new take on a Thanksgiving dessert that’s chock-full of familiar flavors. Like vanilla magic cake, this is a unique treat with three layers of custardy dessert, all from a single batter. It’s thick at the bottom, rich and custardy in the middle, and fluffy like a super-moist sponge cake on top, making it guaranteed to satisfy the pumpkin pie, pumpkin custard, and pumpkin cake lovers in your crowd.

Perhaps best of all for the cook, pumpkin custard magic cake has to be made in advance and refrigerated, leaving plenty of oven space.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Learn the basic method: How To Make Vanilla Magic Cake

This recipe is based on our cooking lesson for classic vanilla magic cake. But since it contains the added ingredient of pumpkin purée, there are two extra tips to be aware of.

  • Strain the batter: Strain the batter before you add the egg whites. Unlike other magic cakes, once you add pumpkin, a cooked vegetable, you often have to contend with some strings, imperfections, and such. Straining the mixture ensures that it will be smooth and creamy on the bottom and in the middle.
  • Add extra egg whites: Egg whites are mixed in like a usual magic cake, but there are two extra egg whites here. This cake batter tends to separate by density very quickly, even quicker than a vanilla magic cake, and the additional egg whites lighten the batter long enough for the layers to bake evenly and completely. This helps protect the custard layers from overbaking and ensures there’s a sponge cake on top.
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Pumpkin Magic Cake

Makes 1 (8-inch) square cake

For the cake:
Cooking spray
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
7 large egg whites, at room temperature

For the icing:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons heavy cream or whole milk

Make the cake: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 325°F. Coat an 8-inch square pan that is 2 inches deep with cooking spray. Cut 2 (8- by 12- to 16-inch) sheets of parchment paper. Press one sheet into the pan, leaving an overhang of at least 2 inches on either side. Press the second piece across the first, leaving overhangs on the other sides. These will be your “handles” when you take the cake out of the pan; set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer or a whisk (and plenty of arm power), beat the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is a very pale yellow, 6 to 7 minutes. Do not undermix.

While keeping the speed at medium, drizzle in the melted butter and beat until well incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.

Add the flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and salt and mix on low speed until fully combined, stopping the mixer and scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed. Add the pumpkin and mix at medium speed until incorporated. Add the cream, milk, and vanilla and mix just until incorporated, starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium speed.

Fit a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl. Strain the batter through it, using the back of the spoon to help push it through; set aside.

If you are using a handheld mixer or whisk, place the egg whites into a large clean, dry mixing bowl. If you are using a stand mixer, wash and dry the stand mixer bowl, fit the mixer with a clean whisk attachment, and place the whites into it. Whisk on low speed until foam begins to form, then increase the speed to high and whisk until the egg whites hold stiff peaks, about 2 minutes.

Add the whipped egg whites to the pumpkin batter and stir gently with a large spoon, making sure to leave a few fluffy lumps and clumps remaining. It should look like cottage cheese or scrambled eggs on top. Do not overmix or fold the egg whites in.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the edges are set, the top is golden-brown, and the center still wobbles and wiggles when the pan is jiggled, 60 to 65 minutes.

Let the cake cool to room temperature in the pan. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours before serving.

Make the icing: When ready to serve, make the icing. Place the powdered sugar in a small bowl. Add the milk or cream 1 teaspoon at a time, mixing well after each addition, until it is the texture of glue. Use the parchment sling to pull the cake from the pan. Discard the parchment paper. Using a small spoon, drizzle the icing decoratively over the top of the cake. Cut into squares and serve.

Recipe Notes

  • Storage: This cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.