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Pumpkin Spice Latte 'Magic' Cake

I really wanted to title this post “When Bad Cakes Happen to Good People.”

But it’s not actually a “bad" cake. It’s just not a “magic" cake.

A few years ago, I was browsing Pinterest, as one does, when I came across a photo of something called “magic cake.” I clicked on it immediately (wouldn’t you?) and discovered a cake that—from a single batter—magically bakes into three separate layers: cake, custard and fudge.

I had all the ingredients I needed on hand— basically butter, sugar, eggs flour and milk—and was delighted at the results.

I’ve made this cake (and a yummy chocolate version) many times since, and the recipe has never failed me. Until now.

I was intrigued with the idea of taking everyone’s fave fall flavor—pumpkin spice—and make a fall version of magic cake.

I made what I thought were some simple adjustments to accommodate the addition of the canned pumpkin and popped the pan in the oven.

The crack at the top of the cake should have alerted me that something was wrong as soon as it came out, but I was optimistic. I cooled it completely and turned it out onto my cutting board. And as soon as I saw the first slice, I knew that something went awry. There was only one layer, not three.

So I gave it another try, the results of which you see here. What you don't see are those three magical layers.

I was bummed but here I was, with my not-magic cake. And a fork. So I dug in.

This is a delicious cake! While not magical in the least, it had a lovely light and tender texture, and the fabulous flavors of pumpkin and coffee.

And we all agreed that the cake was a winner, even if it wasn’t “magical."

Pumpkin Spice Latte "Magic" Cake

  • Makes


    9 servings
  • Meal
    dessert, snack
  • Prep

    15 minutes
  • Cook

    60 minutes
  • Total

    75 minutes


  • 4 eggs separated and at room temperature (place whites right into your mixer)
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 stick butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups whole milk, warmed to lukewarm


  • 1. Pre-heat oven to 325. Grease an 8"x8" pan and line the bottom with parchment paper; grease the paper and flour the entire pan.

  • 2. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed till the top is completely covered in tiny bubbles. Slowly increase speed to high and whip till stiff peaks form. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the bowl and attachment.

  • 3. Whip the egg yolks and sugar till thick and lightened.  

  • 4. With the mixer still running, slowly beat in the pumpkin puree, melted butter, pumpkin pie spice, espresso powder and salt. Beat in the flour.

  • 5. With the mixer running, very slowly pour in the vanilla and milk. 

  • 6. Fold in the egg whites in 3 additions; scrape the batter into your prepared pan.

  • 7. Bake for 40 – 70 minutes, until only the dead center is jiggly (this will set upon cooling). Cool cake completely on a wire rack. Dust with additional confectioner’s sugar before serving.

All images via Sheri Silver

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