Magic Custard Cake satisfies a craving for rich egg custard in a flash, and comes together like magic. Use real vanilla beans to let that flavor shine!
The benefits of real vanilla beans
You know how you sometimes see little brown specks in baked goods, custards or frostings?
No, those aren’t dirt from a careless chef…they’re something wonderful that adds a delicious flavor to all they touch: vanilla bean seeds.
Using real vanilla beans can be expensive and messy, but they’re oh, so worth the effort. The flavor they impart is rich without being cloying, with none of that artificialness (yes, I've decided that's a word) that you get from inexpensive vanilla extracts.
What are vanilla beans?
How do you use them? Glad you asked! Here’s a primer (oh boy…here we go...)
[ ** Warning: Wiki-lecture alert **]
Vanilla is actually the dried fruit pod from orchids. It was first cultivated by Pre-Columbian Mesoamericans and was brought to Europe in the 1520s by Spanish conquistadors.
Now grown in the tropical regions of Mexico, the South Pacific, Indonesia, and especially Madagascar, vanilla is the second-most expensive spice after saffron because it’s very labor-intensive to grown the pods.
Beyond baking, vanilla is used in sorts of products for its lovely aroma. I buy Madagascar vanilla beans from Beanilla, and store them in a ziplock bag either at room temperature in a cool, dry place (like the back of my pantry) or in the freezer.
To get to the vanilla bean seeds, just take the pod and cut it in half, then split it open lengthwise. Using the back of a paring knife, scrape the seeds and add them to whatever needs flavoring.
I use real vanilla beans when I want the vanilla flavor to really take center stage, such as in the aforementioned custard. When the flavor is a supporting actor (like in a chocolate cake or pecan pie), I’ll use vanilla extract.
You can, of course, buy good quality vanilla extract, but I make my own by immersing spent vanilla beans in vodka…it’s a great way to recycle those expensive used beans, and I still get some of those little seeds into my products.
You'll see my little bottle of homemade vanilla extract in many of my ingredient pictures, starting with Mocha Chocolate Truffle Cookies (it's there on the right).
Ok, lecture over…I hope your eyes haven’t glazed over too much!
How to make Magic Custard Cake
The reason I started thinking about real vanilla beans in the first place is because I had a craving (you know, the usual way these thoughts are usually started).
I wanted vanilla egg custard, the kind with nutmeg on top. But I didn’t want to wait for hours for it to chill.
I came across a recipe for Magic Custard Cake from Cinnamon and Toast. What is that, you ask?
"This magic custard cake is truly quite magical. Using simple ingredients, the batter separates into three layers as it bakes. The bottom is a slightly dense custard. The middle is a smooth and soft custard. The top is a light and moist sponge cake."
…and it was! The only change I made to the recipe is that I used real vanilla bean to intensify the vanilla flavor to counteract the “egginess” of the cake. Ok, I also added nutmeg because, well, it’s my craving, my rules.
The final cake was thinner than I thought it would be, but it was wonderful, completely satisfying the custard craving that I had started with. My husband has already asked me to make it again, and for him, that’s a real stamp of approval.
Oh, and that spent vanilla bean? I rinsed it a little bit and put it into my extract jar, there to await my next baking adventure. Hmmm…what sounds good now…?
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
p.s. to my Boston baby...all I need is to take a whiff of orange blossoms and I'm transported to when I'm holding you in my arms, when caring for you became the focus of my life. Your empathy and caring for others started so young, and has never abated...it shines in all you do. I'm so proud of the person you are, and I wish you a wonderful day filled with love and laughter. Happy birthday, my love!
Custards come in many forms, but the method is similar across the board. Luckily, the technique is easy to master, and you'll be able to make a whole range of treats!
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star ⭐️ rating in the recipe card below ⬇️ and/or a comment further down the page.
I'd love to hear from you! Stay in touch on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and please tag me using the hashtag #scotchandsconesblog. You can also sign up for my mailing list. I can't wait to see your creations!
Magic Custard Cake
- 4 large eggs, separated, room temperature
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk, lukewarm
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped or 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- ground nutmeg, for sprinkling, optional
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray an 8- x 8-inch baking pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang to help lift the cake out of the pan.
- Warm the milk in the microwave, about 45 to 60 seconds on HIGH. Add the scraped vanilla bean seeds (if using) and allow them to infuse the milk.
- Using a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites on high speed to stiff peaks. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is smooth, creamy, and pale yellow, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the melted butter and mix on low speed. Gradually mix in the flour until just combined.
- On low speed, slowly add the vanilla-infused milk (or milk and vanilla extract, if not using a vanilla bean).
- Gently fold in the egg whites, a third at a time, until just incorporated. You want to keep the air in the batter, so it's ok if there are a few lumps of egg white. The batter will be quite thin, like a thick cream.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until top is lightly golden and set (firm to the touch). After 30 minutes, if the cake is still jiggling when the pan is gently tapped (not fully set) but the top is golden brown, lightly cover the pan with aluminum foil.
- Let the cake cool completely in the pan, then use the parchment paper as a sling to lift the cake out of the pan to a cooling rack.
- Dust with some powdered sugar a light sprinkling of nutmeg (if desired), then cut into squares. Serve and enjoy!
- Custard cake should be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, but freezing isn't recommended.