Monday, April 15, 2013

Magic Chocolate Flan Cake

On Friday, Paul ended a six month stretch of endless paperwork and studying by finally sitting for his PE license exam. It was a grueling, day-long exam that tested his engineering expertise in a wide range of different areas in order to determine whether he is deserving of the title "Professional Engineer." If you had asked Paul a month ago whether he had any trepidation about the exam, he would have replied confidently (and perhaps with a touch of arrogance): "It's in the bag. No problem!" However, during the days leading up to the exam, Paul somehow evolved into a nervous, anxious, wild-eyed, wreck-of-a-man who drank no less than 10 cups of coffee each morning while desperately pouring over the 3000+ pages of his study guide. Even when he was not actively studying, his mind was continually working through problems in his head. At one point, while trying to construct a meal plan/grocery list for the week with him, I noticed that his eyes looked glazed and a bit unfocused. Not exactly out of the ordinary for Paul (he has a history of falling asleep mid-conversation - it's the Nistler Disease at work) so I continued to chat through the list until he suddenly interrupted me by sitting upright and declaring: "THAT'S what they wanted! Those tricky B@$T@RD$!!"

Apparently, he had just figured out one of the problems that had been giving him issues during a practice exam.

For obvious reasons, I was very excited for Paul to take the exam so we could return to normal life and not have every conversation involve a discussion of fluid dynamics or heat transfer. Plus, he has been looking forward to getting his PE license ever since we were seniors at Notre it was a big day for him!

He came out of the test feeling pretty good about everything and now we only have to wait two months until we find out whether he passed or not. However, I am confident that he did just fine. The guys has never failed at anything in his life. 

In celebration of completing his exam, I made Paul his favorite dinner - Sweet Potato and Chorizo Enchiladas with Mexican Rice. For dessert, I wanted to make something that fit into our fiesta-themed meal, but the only thing I could think of was flan. Now, Paul LOVES flan. I personally don't really care for it and frankly find it a little strange that Paul loves it so much considering his abhorrence for things like pudding, mousse, and souffle. However, I remembered spotting a recipe in an issue of Cook's Country a few months back for a Magic Chocolate Flan Cake - an unusual dessert featuring a moist chocolate cake topped with a layer of vanilla flan and finished with a decadent caramel sauce. The "magic" part of the recipe is that the cake batter and flan mixture switch places in the bundt pan during the baking process. I figured that the chocolate cake layer might make this dessert semi-enjoyable for me as well.

The cake was a breeze to put together (the ingredients for the flan layer are dumped into a blender and pureed...done). The only caveat is that you do need to plan ahead since the cake requires at least 8 hours of chill time to ensure that the flan sets up well enough to be unmolded neatly. I was a little nervous when it came time to flip the cake onto a serving platter, but it unmolded beautifully. And we all LOVED it! Decadent, creamy, and moist - this was an amazing end to the meal! Matthew hated the flan layer because of the texture, but he willingly gobbled down the cake portion of his slice. If you are looking for a show-stopping dessert for your Cinco de Mayo celebrations, this is the one! We are already planning on making it again soon.

Magic Chocolate Flan Cake
adapted ever-so-slightly from Cook's Country

For the Cake:
1/2 cup caramel sauce or topping (store bought or homemade)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (1 ounce) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Flan:
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 cups whole milk
6 ounces cream cheese
6 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup nonstick bundt pan, taking care to get in all the nooks and crannies. Pour the caramel sauce into the bottom of the pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and microwave at 50% power for 1-minute increments, stirring in between, until the mixture is melted and smooth, about 2-4 minutes. Whisk the buttermilk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla into the melted chocolate mixture until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined. Pour the chocolate batter evenly over the caramel.

Add all the flan ingredients to a blender and process until smooth. Slowly and carefully pour the flan mixture over the the cake batter. Place the filled cake pan in a large roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven and carefully pour warm water into the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the bundt pan. Bake the cake until a toothpick comes out clean and the flan registers 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 75-90 minutes. Remove the Bundt pan from the roasting pan and place it on a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate for 8 hours (or up to 12).

To remove the cake from the pan, fill a large bowl with hot water and place the bottom third of the Bundt pan in the water for 1 minute. Carefully invert the cake onto a flat plate or cake platter. Slowly remove the pan letting the caramel drizzle over the top of the cake. Serve chilled.


  1. Monica, I saw this cake on Rick Bayless' cooking show and I was very amazed! Thanks for sharing this recipe because I have been searching for it.

  2. This is indeed magically wonderful! Yum!


  3. It looks AMAZING!!!
    I'm going to go cry myself to sleep because I want some so bad :)

  4. Congratulations to Paul, and all of you, for hurdling one more of life's stresses!
    Love, mom and dad

  5. I just saw a rerun of that episode of Cook's Country and they used condensed milk. Has anyone tried it with the condensed milk? When I saw this I thought it might be way too sweet, even for flan.

    1. yes it was amazing i have not tried it this way yet so maybe I should to see the difference!

  6. I made this this weekend and here are some tips and observations. It is very yummy and not low calorie but the wow factor make it worth it.

    1) I hate buying 32 oz. of buttermilk when I only need 4 oz. Next time I'll make a substitute with milk and vinegar.

    2) The flan mix did not fit in my 12-cup blender. I had to blend twice and then combine in a separate container prior to pouring onto the cake.

    3) Pour the flan VERY carefully onto the uncooked cake batter. the cake started to float before I even had it in the oven. it still came out okay though.

    3) I used semi sweet chocolate chips. They worked fine and are much cheaper than the bars.

    4) He cake shrunk quite a bit after cooling and the cake portion collapsed. I guess I have to work on this part.

    5) I loosened the cake from the pan and put it in the warm water before flipping it. It came out so easy that I'm nost sure I would do the warm water treatment again.

    1. I am so glad you posted this!!!! mine floated too and I was thinking of starting over but If yours turned out maybe theres a chance!!!

  7. Do you know how to make this without having chocolate cake - just a yellow cake??

  8. I just made this but I don't think it's going to turn out. I followed the directions then realized, shouldn't the flan go on the bottom by the caramel (and also to be cooked in the water bath) and the chocolate cake on top? Seems the written directions are wrong but your photo seems to be right.

    1. Nope! The written directions are correct - that's the "magic" part about this cake - the chocolate and flan layers switch places while baking! Kind of cool! Let me know if the cake works out for you!

  9. Can we use a cake mix instead?

    1. I really can't comment on whether a cake mix would work or not. My guess is the results will not be as good. However, there are recipes out there for this kind of cake that use a cake mix. In fact, there is one on the Betty Crocker website that you might try!