Every time we make this cake, we’re never really quite sure if “cake” is indeed the right name for it. It falls somewhere between a dessert bar, a custard, and a cake… but what we do know is it’s pure magic. It’s creamy and sweet and velvety and it’s easy enough that it’s no chore to make it again and again. (Which you’ll definitely end up wanting to do.)
The cake itself is flavored simply with vanilla, but it’s all about the texture here. Moist, custardy, and smooth, it’s not like any sheet cake you’ve ever had before. A dusting of pine nuts and sugar over the top gives it a bit of Italian flair. (You can skip those… but they caramelize up in the oven in a way that you don’t really want to miss.)
Whipped egg whites are responsible for much of the texture of this confection. Unlike a lot of desserts that rely on egg whites though, you don’t have to worry about carefully folding them into the rest of the batter. You can just stir them in. Stir gently, sure, but you don’t need to do any fussy folding.
This isn’t a cake where the old toothpick trick is going to determine doneness. It will always seem a bit wet and jiggly, but it will set up as it cools. Just make sure to let the cake cool completely before you slice and serve it. You can even pop it in the refrigerator to chill it first. It’s good at room temperature or chilled. No matter how you serve it, it’s pretty much irresistible.
Italian Custard Cake
Serves 6-8; 1 hour 20 minutes
- 2 cups milk, room temperature or lukewarm
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a jelly-roll pan (12x18-inch) with nonstick cooking spray and line it with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Separate the egg whites and egg yolks into separate bowls. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff. Set aside.
- To the bowl with the egg yolks, add vanilla extract and 1 cup of the granulated sugar, and whisk together until creamy. Add melted butter and mix for about 30 seconds.
- Then, mix in flour until well incorporated, followed by the milk. Add in egg whites, one third at a time, and stir gently until incorporated (no need to fold).
- The batter will be very runny. Pour into prepared baking pan bake for 50 minutes. Top with pine nuts and remaining sugar and bake for 10 minutes more. If you’d like sugar to caramelize more, place under broiler for a few minutes.
- Let cake cool completely and dust with powdered sugar. Slice, serve, and enjoy!
Adapted from Give Recipe.