Recipe: Mexican chocoflan ('impossible cake')

Recipe: Mexican chocoflan ('impossible cake')

40m prep | 1.25h cook

Last updated

There’s something magical about this Central American dessert that sandwiches a flan-like layer of sweet custard between a base of airy, rich chocolate cake, and a covering layer of sweet dulce de leche. Known as el pastel imposible (‘the impossible cake’), the layers go into the oven one way and emerge just over an hour later having switched places.

Traditional recipes feature a caramel made from goats milk, but this dulce de leche chocoflan recipe variation (inspired by similar recipes published by the NY Times and SBS Food) uses the more commonly available South American caramel spread instead.

Made by slowly cooking down sweetened milk until thick and smooth, dulce de leche has a complex sweetness that adds flavour and decadence to cakes, desserts, and traditional Argentinian alfajore cookies. Made in Spain, Havanna dulce de leche is made from the finest ingredients, and is a handy addition to your pantry for whipping up quick, sweet, delicious treats.

While chocoflan is traditionally made in a bundt tin, this easy impossible cake recipe is just as effective in a similarly sized (10 cup) round or square cake tin.

Ingredients (Serves 10-12)

  • Butter (for greasing pan)
  • 350g dulce de leche
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 125g butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 cup whole milk mixed with 2tsp white vinegar)
  • 1 x 340mL tin evaporated milk
  • 1 x 395g tin sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tbsp dulce de leche
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g cream cheese, room temperature, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 180C. Grease a 10-cup capacity bundt or cake tin very well with butter.

Soften dulce de leche in a saucepan over a low heat or in the microwave. Pour into greased tin and tap tin on bench to level the surface.

To make the cake batter, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb soda into a bowl.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer until the sugar dissolves and the mix turns white (scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary). Mix in the egg, then half the flour/cocoa mix and half the buttermilk. Mix on low until just combined, then repeat with remaining flour and buttermilk.

Spoon the cake mix carefully over the cooled dulce de leche, using your spatula to smooth out the surface as much as possible.

To make the custard mix, combine the evaporated and sweetened condensed milk in a (clean) stand mixer with the eggs, vanilla, dulce de leche and cream cheese.

Pour the mix slowly through a sieve over the cake batter, ensuring it remains in a layer above it.

Transfer the tin to a deep roasting pan, fill with boiling water until it reaches 1/2 way up the cake tin, then cover the whole pan with foil. Bake for 75 minutes, then remove cake tin from water-filled roasting pan.

Leave to cool for at least 2 hours, then invert carefully onto a platter, serving tray or large plate, cut into slices and enjoy!


Chocoflan FAQs:

What is chocoflan?

A chocoflan is a dessert that includes a layer of chocolate cake, a layer of baked vanilla custard and commonly a layer of caramel on top. It is famous for having its layers switch in the oven during the cooking process (hence its other name pastel imposible (‘impossible cake’)).

What are the chocoflan origins?

The chocoflan is a Mexican staple, often served at birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations.

How do you make chocoflan?

A cake tin is filled with layers of caramel (or dulce de leche), chocolate cake and egg custard, then baked in a water bath. As it bakes, the chocolate cake rises to the top, becoming the base of the dessert when the cooled pan is inverted.

What are the main chocoflan ingredients?

The chocolate cake portion of a chocoflan is made of flour, cocoa powder, butter, sugar and an egg, with baking soda and bicarb soda added to create lightness. The custard layer is made with condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs and vanilla (cream cheese is also often added). The caramel layer on top is traditionally made with goats milk caramel, but dulce de leche can be substituted.

Can you make a vegan chocoflan recipe?

Due its heavy reliance on milk and egg products, this recipe is not suitable for vegans.

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