Magic Custard Cake for difficult times

Magic Custard Cake

A couple weeks ago, I shared this dessert with the ESOL crowd.  It turned out to be quite fitting at the time.  It was the day after the marathon bombings, and people were still processing what had happened.  I’m thankful that all of my family and friends are safe, but the week’s events certainly hit close to home literally and figuratively.  Literally because of the physical proximity of what had happened.  Figuratively because Boston is a part of me.

Surprisingly, as relieved as I am that the suspects were killed/caught, as much as my heart hurts for the victims and their families, and as much as I want to see justice delivered, part of me feels sad for the suspects too.  Part of me wonders what shaped them into people who would do such things, what went on in their minds and hearts. And as unpleasant as it is to think about, it also made me reflect on my own heart, and whether there’s a little bit of those people in me.  After all, I too have the capacity to act selfishly, to feel self-righteous, to act out of hurt, anger, resentfulness, spitefulness, misunderstanding, or a misplaced sense of justice; I’m far from perfect and have done my share of wounding others through my words, actions and attitude.

The way in which some of the victims who were injured have reacted also strikes me.  I’m sure they have experienced dark moments and will still have many more physical and emotional challenges ahead, but in contrast to the destructiveness and cowardice of the bombers, the victims have already demonstrated so much positivity, hope, grace, strength and courage in the face of injustice.  One of the most seriously injured survivors, Jeff Bauman, has been reported to have aided the police in identifying one of the suspects, reached out to a fellow survivor in the hospital on her 18th birthday, and comforted his own grieved family and friends.  What Bauman and others have gone through and the way they have responded has given me  much-needed perspective and inspiration for my own personal challenges.

Dense custard-y bottom.  Silky pudding-y middle.  Moist, spongy top.

As we gathered around and ate this before class that Tuesday at ESOL, we recalled simpler times.  For several, this conjured up fond childhood memories of their mother making custard for them when they were sick, or of being in charge of making pudding – the only food preparation that could be entrusted to their not yet fully-developed motor skills.  It was fitting that people found familiarity and comfort in it during a difficult and bewildering time, and I was glad for it.

Followed whiteonricecouple‘s recipe almost exactly
Referenced Pasteles de Colores (original recipe)

1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 1/2 c. milk, lukewarm (I only had almond milk on hand, and it was fine)
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
4 eggs, separated, RT
1/4 tsp. distilled white vinegar
1 3/4 c. confectioner’s sugar (or 1 c. granulated sugar)
2 Tbsp espresso or strong coffee, lukewarm
1 tsp vanilla extract
optional:  extra confectioner’s sugar for dusting

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter an 8×8″ baking dish, or line with parchment paper.

(According to Pasteles de Colores, the batter volume to dish size ratio is important for getting the fluffy top layer.)

2.  Whisk cocoa powder and flour together (make sure to break up cocoa powder clumps).  Set aside.

3.  Combine egg whites and vinegar in a mixing bowl and whisk to stiff peaks.  Set aside.

4.  Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light in color (almost white);  the mixture will still be quite dense and thick.

Dense, thick, light-colored yolk + sugar.

5.  Beat in the melted butter, espresso and vanilla extract until evenly incorporated.

6.  Mix in the flour/cocoa into the batter until evenly incorporated.

7.  Gradually stir in the milk at low speed, pouring in a steady stream (Since the batter is quite thick, adding a little liquid at a time makes it easier to incorporate the liquid and get a homogenous mixture).  The batter will be very thin and liquidy.

8.  Mix in the egg whites, 1/3 at a time, using a folding motion.

The egg whites don’t fully incorporate into the batter because the batter is so watery. The mixture will look kind of curdled.  This is extra “curdled,” because I over-whisked my eggs, but it should look similar to this.

9.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until just slightly jiggly.

(I baked for ~40-45 minutes – the shorter end of White on Rice Couple’s recommended time range – but think it still ended up a tad overdone.  More done = denser;  less done = more pudding-y).

10.  Cool cake completely before adding confectioner’s sugar and cutting.

(Comments on the original recipe mentioned waiting several hours for the cake to settle, so yours may take a while as well.  Mine only took ~1 hour, but were on the more well-done side to begin with.)

Can be stored several days in the fridge.


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