Uh oh, it’s magic

 magic recipes

Scrolling through my Twitter feed today, I came across several recipes with the word ‘magic’ in the title. A Magic lemon poppy seed cake from The Telegraph promised three types of cake from one batter. Food Network offered a Magic lemon meringue pie, although it was unclear to me what was magical about it. There are many variations of the ‘magic’ theme, and you can find almost 150 online recipes featuring the words ‘magic’ or ‘magical’ in the EYB Library.

Most of the magic cakes involve a single batter that settles into distinct layers, ranging from dense and creamy to light and airy. Christelle Huet-Gomez, author of Magic Cakes: Three Cakes in One!, explains the concept: “The liquid batter divides into three layers: a dense, moist base; a delicate creamy middle and the top layer of light sponge. The yolks, beaten with sugar, butter, flour and milk, form the base and cream. The beaten egg whites form the Genoise sponge layer. Slow cooking at 150°C cooks the bottom like a cake without cooking the upper part,” she says. 

There are other types of ‘magic’ recipes. Perhaps the most famous is the chocolate ‘magic shell‘ ice cream topping which starts out as a liquid until it’s poured on ice cream and instantly hardens. Another variation is a ‘magic’ (aka ‘impossible‘) pie, where the batter forms its own crust.

It’s easy to see how these recipes received their names, but some ‘magic’ recipe titles are more puzzling than magical. For example, take the “Magic bean” chocolate cake.  The recipe doesn’t explains what is magical about kidney beans. Maybe it’s magical that you can make a cake with beans in it and get someone to eat it? Sames goes for Magic black hot sauce from The Barbecue Lover’s Big Book of BBQ Sauces. There is no explanation for any magical properties the sauce might possess.

Of course we know that none of these recipes is really magical. But even when we know the science behind the recipe, it still seems like a bit of magic when the cakes and pies turn out with their distinct layers, or when the chocolate sauce immediately hardens on the ice cream sundae. What is your favorite ‘magic’ recipe?

Photos clockwise from top left: Magic vanilla cake from Magic Cakes by Christelle Huet-Gomez; The best homemade chocolate dip (AKA Magic shell) from Serious Eats; Magic bars from Baking Bites by Nicole Weston

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  • Cubangirl  on  April 25, 2016

    I love Magic bars and have been making them for 45+ years. Recently I started using half of a box of TJ's Coconut Cookie Thins instead of graham crackers. My husband requested I continue using the sub. I also bake mine in a 9"X13" Pyrex dish in the microwave for 8 minutes and cool them for 15 minutes. Great unexpected company treat since I always have the ingredients at hand. I keep Nestle's mini semisweet morsels on hand just for this.

  • Jane  on  April 25, 2016

    One recipe that I really feel is magical is Hervé This' chocolate mousse. It's on our Food52 index – they have it in their Genius Recipes book too. You start with dark chocolate, hot water, and a little sugar and whisk over an ice bath until you have the most intense (and dairy-free) chocolate mousse you have ever tasted. You can't believe at the start that it will really ever solidify as it's completely liquid but it does. A good one to do with kids as they won't believe it either.

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