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Flan Imposible (Impossible Chocolate Flan)


Serves 8 to 10

  • by from My Sweet Mexico

This dessert, excerpted from the cookbook My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson, gets its name from a magical thing that occurs in the oven. You fill a caramel-lined cake pan with chocolate cake batter, pour a layer of flan on top, and bake. When it comes out of the oven, you find that the flan has disappeared, and all you see is chocolate cake. You wait for it to cool, unmold it, and there is the flan! This is a sticky, rich, sweet dessert that is not for the faint of heart.

  • 1 cup cajeta, store-bought (see tip, below) 
For the cake:
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the flan:
  • 1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14-oz.) can condensed milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts, for garnish
Cajeta, or Mexican milk caramel, is usually made with goat's milk, and available at Latin markets. If you can't find it, substitute dulce de leche.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch cake pan.

Pour the cajeta over the bottom and sides of the cake pan using a brush or the back of a spoon (you can heat the cajeta very slightly in the microwave so that it is easier to spread).

Make the Cake:

Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture, whisking until thoroughly combined. Pour the cake batter into the pan and set aside.

Make the Flan:

Combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt in a blender and blend until there are no visible lumps. Pour gently over the cake batter.

Cover loosely with foil, place in a large baking dish, and fill the baking dish with hot water so that it comes halfway up the sides. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Remove the cake pan from the baking dish and allow to cool for at least 4 hours or refrigerate overnight. To unmold, lightly pass a warm knife around the edge, place a plate or dish on top, and carefully but rapidly flip over. Garnish with the toasted nuts. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Photo: Ed Anderson © 2010

Reprinted with permission from My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats by Fany Gerson, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc

Way too late, I read the reviews of this recipe and, woe is me, I used a standard 8-inch pan with 1 1/2 inch high sides. TOOOOOOO small. I gave my 9-inch, 2-inch high pan a look and thought "oh, on this first time, I'd better follow the recipe to the letter." My AND YOUR error. My cake is now in the oven almost ready to remove and I'm sure it's going to be a mess. Additionally, I have a dish of "flan" (the leftovers from the recipe) in the oven alongside the cake. Maybe one of them will be okay. This is a fairly expensive recipe to make to have such a glaring error in the instructions. Too bad.

Delicious dessert. The flan was creamy and the cake light and chocolatey. I used dulce de leche and it did not stick to the pan. Be sure to use a pan with 3 inch sides. I had to cook it longer than 50 minutes. I made this for a party and had many requests for the recipe.

There are almost too many things wrong with this recipe to list. First, an 8" cake pan is too small (mine has 3" high sides). Second, a toothpick inserted in the center never actually came out clean; and I baked it for about 20 minutes longer than the recipe indicated. Third, the overall flavor is just sweet and not particularly good. I was very disappointed in this recipe.

I didn't have much dificulties with this recipe. But instead of using cajeta I've used caramel cream (in Poland it's called Kajmak's Cream). It was less sticky than cajeta. I' ve cook it like in recipe- 50 minutes- and it was perfect for my doughter's birthday.

This cake is very good, but I'm giving it the 3 stars due to lack of good instruction on this recipe. First of all, my cake turned out nothing like the picture. Mine did not come out as tall and airy looking. They say to use an 8 inch cake pan, but they fail to mention that it should be at least 2 inches or more deep. I noticed this mistake right away, so I used a spring form pan, as it is the deepest I had, and I lined the outside with foil. Second, the cajeta is way too thick and sticky for this cake! I knew I'd have to warm the pan in hot water before trying to unmold, just as you would with a regular flan. Despite doing this, it would just not come loose from the pan. Since I'd used a springform pan, I was able to finally slide a peice of dental floss between the pan bottom and the flan, but unfortunately, lots of the flan still stuck to the pan. To avoid this problem, they should have suggested lining the bottom of the pan with a parchment round, so you could at least peel it off the flan. Even with that, tho', a lot of cajeta would stick! Third, it took way more baking time than the recipe suggests, at least 20 min. more in my case. The cake was good, but not worth all the trouble to make again. If I do attempt this again, I will carmelize some sugar, as with regular flan to replace the cajeta, as it liquifies much nicer and unmolds much easier!

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