Prajitura Desteapta. Nope, it’s not a disease or some Amazonian jungle plant. It’s actually a Romanian custard cake. I had to bring dessert to my sister Helen’s house for dinner last night so I went searching through my recipe box for something to make. I wanted to bring something different. Maybe make something I hadn’t made in a long time. Lo and behold, I came across this recipe that was given to me years ago by my friend, Lyudmila.
According to Lyudmila, “Prajitura Desteapta” means “Smart Cake.” I guess they call it that because it’s super easy to make which is pretty smart in my book. The ingredients are all things you usually have in your fridge and pantry. While it’s baking, the cake separates into three layers – a dense, fudge-like layer on the bottom, a softer custardy layer in the middle, and a thin spongy layer on top. Lyudmila’s original recipe gave the ingredients in metric measurements. I’ve noted the American equivalents for those who want them. By the way, in America, this cake is called “Magic Cake” and it’s easy to understand why.
PRAJITURA DESTEAPTA (SMART CAKE)
- 250 gm butter or margarine (1 cup)
- 8 eggs, separated
- 300 gm sugar (1½ cups)
- 2 packets vanilla sugar (2 tsp. vanilla extract)
- 225 gm flour (2 cups)
- 1 liter warm milk (4 cups)
- powdered sugar, for dusting on top
- Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease a 9×13-inch rectangular baking dish.
- Melt butter in microwave and set aside to cool.
- In an extra large bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar together on high speed until very light and fluffy. Don’t undermix! This step takes about 5 minutes. You want the egg yolks to be a very pale, almost whitish-yellow color.
- Drizzle in the melted butter and vanilla, continuing to beat until well incorporated.
- Reduce speed to low and sprinkle in the sifted flour, beating until flour is well combined. Don’t worry if the batter seems lumpy.
- Raise speed to medium and slowly add the milk, beating until well blended. Batter will be very thin and watery.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form.
- Gently stir the beaten egg whites into the batter with a wooden spoon. Don’t overmix! You don’t want the egg whites to disappear completely into the batter. You want to stir them just a few times leaving lots of clumps and bits of egg white unincorporated and floating on top.
- Pour into prepared baking dish and bake 50-70 minutes. Oven temps vary so check the cake at 50 minutes by shaking the pan gently. You want the center to have a little jiggle when shaken, but if it’s too jiggly, bake the cake some more, checking every 5 minutes or so, until done. If the top seems to be browning too much, tent a piece of foil over your cake pan.
- Cool to room temperature, then place in refrigerator to chill.
- Once cake is chilled, sprinkle top with powdered sugar, cut into squares and serve.
- You can easily cut this recipe in half to make a smaller cake. Use an 8x8x2-inch square pan. You’ll also have to adjust the baking time and start checking your cake after 40 minutes.
- It’s best if your eggs are at room temperature. Put them out on your counter at least half an hour before you begin baking.
- The butter should be melted but not hot. Make sure to cool it to room
temperature before using.
- Vanilla sugar is a very popular baking ingredient in Europe. Dr. Oetker is a very
well-known brand, but unfortunately, it’s not easy to find in the U.S. However, you
can easily substitute vanilla extract for the vanilla sugar in this recipe.