magic custard cake

I mentioned recently that I wasn’t sure if time is my friend or foe. Some moments feel like they last forever, and others are so fleeting, it’s as though I blinked, and poof—they’re gone. Somehow everything before turning 40 seemed like an accomplishment. Now, I feel a bit of a rush to get things done, as though time will run out before my life’s to do list is completed.

The reality is that this journey is a constant work in progress. There’s so much to experience, and there’s no doubt we’ll all leave this life wanting more. Last night Isabella and I were talking about what happens after death. Our conversation began because I made a reference about my “next life”. She asked what I meant. It’s interesting having these conversations with her because religion is not an essential part of our family fabric. Michael was Jewish, and because of his family’s roots and history, I felt it important that the girls understood this part of their heritage. I often refer to myself as a recovering Roman Catholic. Many years of parochial school, and a very pivotal moment in seventh grade, led me to believe that while that faith was my family’s, it was not one I wanted to follow.

Being without a specific religion doesn’t mean I’m not a spiritual person. I believe in a higher power, something bigger than this one life, one planet, we live on. I just don’t know what that is exactly. I do know the best tenet by which to live life is to simply walk through it in a kind, honest manner. This is one area where Michael and I were in complete agreement. The weight of it feels a little heavier, though, as I navigate single parenthood. So, when Isabella asked me where we go when we die, I gave her my most honest answer. I explained that some people believe in a place called Heaven, and that’s where they go when they pass away. I then told her I believe we live many lives, although we likely don’t remember previous ones. Actually, I think that’s what déjà vu is—those moments when glimmers of our past experiences make themselves evident. I didn’t want to totally explode her brain, though, and decided to keep my explanation a bit more simple, for now. Therein lies the magic of this life we are living. When it all seems to become too weighty, I remind myself that getting caught up in the anxiety of the big picture means I’m going to miss all the little things. The moments that actually make a life feel full, and worth living. The memories that may one day flood back to my consciousness.

When I really have trouble managing all of my anxieties, I do what I know how to do best. I cook, more specifically, I bake. There has been a lot of baking going on the past five days. Is the level of anxiety becoming clear? Retreating to the kitchen is akin to emotional lamaze. Instead of focusing on my breathing, I pull out the scale, and carefully measure out grams of flour and sugar. It was the perfect excuse to make a recipe I’d been wanting to tackle for months. Tackle may be the wrong word, since there’s nothing complicated about it.

From a technical point of view, this magic custard cake comes together quite easily. The challenging part is believing it will actually bake up as pictured. Todd and Diane even mention their skepticism every time they slide the tray into the oven, yet it (ahem) magically comes out perfect every time. Thankfully, they wrote excellent notes to guide me through every step of the recipe, especially on what to expect in terms of consistency of the batter (it really is very liquidy). The cake is also very much the way my life feels these days—a major leap of faith.

Music Pairing: Dreaming by Blondie.

Get the recipe for Magic Custard Cake here.

p.s. don’t skim through the post and recipe; you’ll want to read all of their notes before trying it on your own. Also, I used the metric measurements to make this, and that’s important to note. The recipe calls for 1 cup (115 grams) flour. If you use measuring cups, you’ll want to use a scant cup, and spoon in your flour. Using the scoop and sweep method will weigh a whopping 150 grams, and may affect the overall result of the recipe.


  • Nicole

    I really identified with this post. Like your daughters, I grew up in a home with one parent who was raised Jewish and one who was raised Catholic. Like you, I don’t feel religious, but spiritual. My parents answered the big questions about life and death in a way that’s similar to how you answered Isabella’s question about what happens after death. I cook when I am anxious. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing this blog post. It was good to feel connected to a complete stranger for a moment.

  • Maria

    I grew up Catholic as well and attended parochial school. Somewhere in my college years I grew more spiritual than religious and, like you, adopted a belief in a higher power of some sort. I’ve also grown to believe that we have many lives. The book Journey of Souls heavily impacted my thoughts on the matter. I highly recommend it. Wishing you peace as you bake your way toward it.

  • Nat

    I love reading ur posts they are so encouraging and inspiring and relaxing. In fact I come here to read more than learn recipes lol. Though that’s what brought me here in the first place. I feel the same way about rushing things, the need to overfill life with every little thing on a long wish list. And I too find baking the best form of kitchen therapy. Keep doing wat u do god bless.

  • Angie

    I agree with the previous comments, and I loved this post as well. It was really honest, and thought provoking. I love this kind of space that we share where we, your readers are permitted to share in your life and thoughts, and sometimes vice-versa. I’m anxious to look up the “Journey of Souls” book, thanks Maria. And who doesn’t want to bake and eat a cake that’s MAGIC! I most certainly do! Namaste, Angie

  • Jeanne L

    I too feel like I’m running out of time. After my son died at the early age of 21 seven years ago, I am still trying to live each day to the fullest (in case it is my last). I have recently quit my job at the request of my husband and family and I have been go crazy trying to cook/bake the perfect EVERYTHING before my time is done. I soooo look forward to your emails. I owe you so many “thank you”s for helping me find my love of cooking through you wonderful and inspirational stories.

  • Taylor

    Aside from this looking delicious, I love your outlook on the afterlife. I’m not a particularly religious person either, but I do hold my spirituality close. I believe that the most important thing is go through love with kindness and love. I’m not sure where I’ll end up in the end, but as long as I get there while doing good a long the way, then I’m okay with that.

    Also, I’m an anxious baker too. I love cooking, but when I’m anxious, cakes and cookies call my name. It’s something about concentrating on the precise measuring that feels so incredibly calming to me.


  • jan

    I am one of those Christian girls who believe in God, Heaven, and Jesus. And I have never doubted that I have this one life to live here on earth. And yet, I love your blog and can’t wait for you to write a new entry. This recipe looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it.

  • Miranda

    Kindness and honesty are beautiful and the world needs more of both, and you are a great ambassador for that, including here in your blog. As someone who loves Jesus, I am so sorry when people of any faith, including myself, act out of anything other than a gracious, nonjudgmental sense of asking ourselves, “What does love require of me?” as I have heard it put. Because religion is far too little to settle for. If it doesn’t point to Love, I would ditch it, too. Much respect for your way forward… And this cake looks delicious!

  • Trisha

    Hi Jennifer! I just happened upon your site from another food blog/fb page that I found from another food blog, from another one, and so on… I just can’t stop! haha I just wanted to give you and your readers a quick tip on this recipe. I had already made different versions of “Magic Crust Pie” when I came upon the same one you linked to from whiteonrice. Theirs is a lot more complex and complicated than the previous ones I’ve tried, which are super simple. I wondered if it would make that much of a difference to take all those extra steps. So I did a comparison test and made both recipes at the same time. And, in my opinion, there really wasn’t a huge notable difference at all! Maybe a little difference in the consistency of the custard, but no difference in taste and I preferred the consistency of the simpler one anyway. I’d suggest giving it a try and if you like it, it will simplify your life! (Not to mention this delicious dish will be ready to eat much sooner!) Basically you take all the ingredients, throw them in a blender, blend for 30 seconds or so, pour into greased baking dish, put in preheated oven and bake! Here is one of the recipes I’ve used (replacing the margarine with butter) but you can just google “magic crust pie” and find a whole bunch of them! Hope this helps! 🙂

    Oh, another note! The first place I tried this was at a Dutch oven cooking class. So it’s an easy dessert for camping or outdoor cooking as well!

  • eva

    I made this cake over the weekend. I had my friends over for a delicious Spanish dinner and wanted a dessert that would wow, and not take all my time up the day of. (Paella needs love.)
    Anyway back to the cake, It was brilliant. Everyone went back for seconds and it was subtle and delicious.

    Thank you for sharing it and your thoughts. I come here often to read your recipes and your feelings and thoughts on life.

  • Genny

    I attended parochial school and it changed my feelings about my faith too. Dare I say, I hated the nuns. They were mean. On a happier note, this custard cake/pie looks wonderful! I appreciate your honesty and enjoy your site.

  • Sharon

    How would you substitute gluten flour mixture?

    JP’s note: I know there’s the GF mix called Cup4Cup Sharon, but I’ve never used it, and have not done enough gluten free baking to definitively say what would work.

  • Sharon

    I was asking for a friend ..saw a recipe on where they used rice flour in a magic cake and just wondered if you had any idea. Thanks for responding.

    JP’s Note: Hi Sharon. I haven’t used a GF substitute in this recipe, and am not fluent enough in GF baking, so can’t comment on what might work. Sorry I can’t be of more help at this time.