This Phyllo Crinkle Dessert, also known as Muakacha, combines buttery flaky pastry with a smooth custard, baked in three stages to crispy perfection and then drizzled with a warm simple syrup.
This crinkle cake is an absolute showstopper dessert, yet incredibly easy to make. Perfect for a brunch, luncheon, holidays, or anytime.
Phyllo Crinkle Dessert – Muakacha Recipe
Also known as Muakacha (which means “wrinkled” in Arabic) and similar to Mesh Om Ali, which is an Egyptian bread pudding made with sweetened condensed milk, this Phyllo Crinkle Dessert is an impressive crunchy-creamy dessert that was viral on TikTok, thanks to Ramena, and for good reason!
If you love Baklava, you will most certainly love this dessert, too. They’re somewhat similar, except where Baklava incorporates layers of phyllo dough, nuts, and honey, this crinkle cake is more like a custard pie made with accordion-style folded phyllo dough soaked in butter and a creamy custard, baked, and then finished with a simple syrup.
Muakacha can also include rose water, cardamom, and orange blossom, although for the version I’m sharing today, I kept it super simple with easy to find common ingredients.
This is a perfect dessert to make an appearance at your next brunch or dinner party – get ready for all the oooohs and aaaahs when you serve it!
You only need a handful of very common ingredients to make this Phyllo Crinkle Dessert recipe.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Phyllo dough sheets – The star of this dessert. You’ll need a 16 ounce box, completely thawed before starting to make the dish. (See note below.)
- Butter – Melted butter is drizzled onto the phyllo before the first bake and what helps with the crispy texture. It’s also used to brush the pan.
- Whole milk – The base of the creamy custard.
- Granulated sugar – This sweetens the dish, used in the custard and also the simple syrup. I prefer all granulated sugar for this dessert, but if you want more of a caramel flavor, you could use half granulated and half brown sugar.
- Eggs – Blended with the milk and sugar to provide structure for the custard.
- Vanilla – For flavor.
- Cinnamon – Lends a lovely warm flavor to the dessert. You could also use cardamom, but I recommend half the amount.
- Water – Needed to dissolve the sugar for the simple syrup.
- Fresh lemon juice – Adds a bright citrusy component to the simple syrup.
- Pistachios – Finely crushed for topping. This is optional, but we love the added nutty flavor and color it provides.
Working with Phyllo Dough
Phyllo (or filo) dough is an ultra-thin, unleavened dough, almost like translucent sheets of paper. It’s very popular in many Middle Eastern foods like savory Spanakopita or sweet Baklava. We use the Athens brand, commonly found in the freezer section of your local grocery store. Make certain you buy phyllo dough and not puff pastry dough which are completely different.
If this is your first time working with phyllo dough, take note that it needs to completely thaw first and it can take awhile, so it’s good to transfer it from the freezer to fridge the night before.
As you’re assembling the Muakacha, make certain the phyllo stays covered with a lightly damp towel at all times, to prevent the sheets from drying out.
The “crinkle” of Muakacha is the signature part of this Phyllo Crinkle Dessert, thus the name. Having made this recipe a few times now, I can say making the accordion rolls are actually quite easy and if they’re not perfect or some of the phyllo sheets crack, the dessert is very forgiving so don’t fret!
How to Make Muakacha Phyllo Crinkle Dessert
This phyllo crinkle dessert is made in a few parts, baking three times.
(Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details and don’t miss the helpful tips and video below.)
- Thaw the phyllo. Defrost the phyllo dough according to package instructions. Cover the sheets of dough with a lightly damp towel to prevent it from drying out as you build the dessert.
- Prepare the pan and oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 13×9 metal baking pan with melted butter.
- Makes folds with the phyllo. Working with 2 sheets of phyllo dough at a time stacked together, grab the corners by the shorter end and hold them up horizontally, then fold them in an accordion style, scrunching in about 1 inch thickness, until you reach the end. (For visual help, don’t miss the pictures above and video below.)
- Place the phyllo folds in the pan. Place the scrunched-up piece of phyllo dough onto the edge of the baking pan that has the same width with the folds facing up. Repeat until all the phyllo dough is used and the pan is full. Lightly adjust/fluff your phyllo accordions as needed to make sure they fill the pan loosely with no dense folds.
- 1st bake. Transfer to a 350F preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- Drizzle with butter. Remove from the oven and evenly drizzle with the melted butter.
- 2nd bake. Transfer back to the oven and bake another 10 minutes.
- Make the custard. In a large measuring container with a spout, whisk together milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon until fully incorporated. Remove crinkle from the oven and pour the custard evenly over the top.
- 3rd bake. Return to oven, and bake until the custard is set and the top is golden and crispy, about 30-35 minutes (watch it carefully so it doesn’t over-brown.)
- Make the simple syrup. Toward the last 10 minutes of the final bake time, make the simple syrup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, water, and lemon juice. Whisk to combine and heat to a gentle simmer until it’s thick like maple syrup. Once the crinkle is done baking, immediately drizzle the warm syrup evenly over the top
- Garnish and serve. Sprinkle crushed pistachios on top. Allow the dessert to cool completely to room temperature before you cut it into squares and serve.
Tips for Success
Follow these recipe tips to make sure your Muakacha comes out perfectly.
- Allow the phyllo dough to thaw completely. Make certain your phyllo dough is completely defrosted before starting or it will tear into a million pieces. It’s a good idea to transfer it from the freezer to fridge the night before.
- Use two pieces of phyllo at a time per crinkle. If you use too many sheets of phyllo, the baked folds won’t be crisp. Alternatively, avoid using just 1 phyllo sheet per crinkle or the dough will bake up too crispy and over-brown.
- Whole milk for the custard is best. I highly recommend whole milk for the custard so it has the proper consistency. The higher the fat content in the custard, the better it will set. However you can use 2% milk, if preferred.
- Check the simple syrup consistency. The simple syrup should be slightly thick. For me, this takes about 8 to 10 minutes gently simmering over medium heat. If you want it sweeter, use a higher sugar ratio of 2:1 sugar to water.
- Bake in a metal dish. For best results, use a metal baking dish or aluminum take-out pan. Glass or ceramic dishes tend to make the phyllo dough soggier.
Put a different flavor spin on the dessert.
- Add some citrus. Instead of vanilla, use orange or lemon zest in the custard filling. Or include rosewater in the simple syrup (traditionally used.)
- Try other spices. Swap out the cinnamon with a half the amount of cardamom or chai spice.
- Change the nuts. Traditional Muakacha tops the dessert with crushed pistachios, but they can be replaced with crushed almonds or hazelnuts.
- Make it chocolatey. You could include some chocolate chips in-between the folds before baking and after it’s baked, dust with powdered sugar.
- Sprinkle with rose petals. Finish the dish with some edible rose petals for a wow factor.
Video: Phyllo Crinkle Dessert Recipe
This phyllo crinkle dessert is best eaten lukewarm or at room temperature. You can serve it on plates with a fork or cut into smaller pieces and enjoy as finger food.
Traditionally, muakacha is served with crushed pistachios on top, but you could use a different nut or simply leave it off. A piece would also be lovely with some sliced fresh fruit. If you want to really indulge, drizzle the top with some caramel sauce and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Cool completely and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days. To rewarm, microwave individual portions for just 30 seconds or so. Keep in mind, the longer the dish chills, the phyllo will soften. I don’t recommend freezing this dessert as it will turn soggy once it thaws.
Phyllo Crinkle Dessert
- 1 package (16 ounce) phyllo dough sheets , fully thawed but still chilled
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons butter , melted, divided
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups granulated sugar , divided
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup finely crushed pistachios , for topping
- Defrost the phyllo dough in the refrigerator overnight, or according to package instructions.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 13×9 metal baking pan with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter.
- Cover the phyllo with a lightly damp towel to prevent it from drying out as you work with a couple sheets at time.
- Working with 2 sheets of phyllo dough at a time stacked together, grab the corners by the shorter end and hold them up horizontally, then fold them in an accordion style, scrunching in about 1 inch thickness, until you reach the end. (For visual help, don't miss the photos included in the article or the video below.)
- Place the scrunched-up piece of phyllo dough onto the edge of the baking pan that has the same width with the folds facing up. Repeat until all the phyllo dough is used and the pan is full. Lightly adjust/fluff your phyllo accordions as needed to make sure they fill the pan loosely with no dense folds.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and evenly drizzle on the 1 cup melted butter.
- Transfer back to the oven and bake another 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, make the custard. Place the milk, eggs, 1 cup sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large measuring container with a spout. Whisk together until fully incorporated.
- Remove crinkle from the oven and pour the custard evenly over the top.
- Return to oven, and bake until the custard is set and the top is golden and crispy, about 30-35 minutes (watch it carefully so it doesn't over-brown.)
- Toward the end of the final bake time, make a simple syrup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining 1 cup sugar, water, and lemon juice. Whisk to combine and heat to a gentle simmer until it's thick like maple syrup, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Once the crinkle is done baking, immediately drizzle the warm syrup evenly over the top. Sprinkle crushed pistachios on top.
- Allow the dessert to cool completely to room temperature before you cut it into squares and serve.