Chocoflan (AKA Pastel Imposible or Impossible Cake)

The first time I tasted this was a couple of decades ago in a market stall in Merida. It blew me away: chocolate cake on the bottom fused with a rich, creamy flan on the top. I quickly went on the hunt for a recipe, which was pretty easy to find, given that most recipes are based on prepared ingredients (chocolate cake mix, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk) and easy for non-bakers to execute. Recipes abound, but history does not. Given the prepared ingredients, I guessed it was first concocted in the test kitchen of a prepared foods company. But to date, I have not found one claiming it. Nor anyone else, which seems odd for such a crazy-good, crazy-fun-to-make cake. Here’s what you do: you smear caramely cajeta over a deep pan, spread in chocolate cake batter, then carefully top it with a liquidy custard. In the oven, the cake’s leavening is activated, filling the batter with bubbles causing it to rise through the flan (it does this in clumps) and reform into a chocolate cake layer. The cake batter that started out below the flan finishes on top as a beautifully cooked cake layer. You turn the whole thing out onto a platter and there it sits: chocolate cake topped with flan, the cajeta standing in for the flans typical caramelized sugar crown. Though the boxed-cake-mix recipes abound, I wanted to make chocoflan from scratch, so I contacted a professional baker friend in Puebla and asked if she had one. Hers is the recipe I’ve used for years, though it calls for a 10-inch cake pan that’s 3 inches deep, not a pan the average cook owns. Here I’ve scaled her recipe to fit in a Bundt pan (the internet tells me this is the most common way to bake chocoflan), which actually makes the baking quicker and more uniform. I’ve fiddled with the cake, too, nudging it closer to a devil’s food cake and more streamlined than my original. Some recipes call for cream cheese in the flan (making it what’s know as a flan—or queso—napolitano). My version is a little lighter, which I love. Though this recipe may appear daunting, I will relay that my mother, in her eighties, decided this was her dessert and made it for many special occasions. And she never considered herself much of a baker. This recipe is my current favorite. It's a little different from the one I did on TV in season 6.
Servings: 16people (or more)


  • For the pan:
  • afew tablespoons softened butter
  • 1cup cajeta (store-bought or homemade)
  • For the cake:
  • 11/3 cup (190 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1cup sugar (200 g)
  • 1/2cup (40 g) cocoa powder (one of the dark/black cocoa powders shines here)
  • 1/2teaspoon salt
  • 3/4teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4teaspoon baking soda
  • 1cup milk (or ½ cup milk and ½ cup coffee)
  • 1egg
  • 1/2cup oil
  • For the flan:
  • 112 -ounce can sweetened condensed milk (La Lechera brand is very popular in Mexico)
  • 114 -ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1teaspoon vanilla
  • 4eggs


Prepare the mold. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees and position the rack in the middle. Generously butter the inside of a 10-cup Bundt pan. Microwave the cajeta for 20 to 25 seconds just to soften it (not heat it), then drizzle it evenly over the bottom half of the pan, tilting the pan to coat everything evenly. (Don’t worry that most of it will eventually collect in the very bottom.) Set large pan of water over medium-low heat. Set out a deep pan that's a little larger than your Bundt pan (a roasting pan works well) and deeper than 2 inches; this will serve as a water bath during baking.

Prepare the cake batter.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, baking powder and soda. In another bowl, whisk together the milk (or milk and coffee), egg and oil.  Whisk the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients until the two are well blended.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, then smooth it on top. 

Prepare the flan. In a blender, combine the two milks (scrape everything out of the sweetened condensed milk can), vanilla and the eggs.  Blend just until the mixture is homogenous.  Rap the blender jar gently on the countertop 6 or 8 times to expel air bubbles.  Slowly and gently, pour the flan mixture over the cake batter. (I find it easiest to pour the mixture into a small ladle, letting it run over onto the batter; others prefer pouring it over a spoon.) Oil or butter a piece of foil and use it to cover (greased-side down) the pan, tamping it down all around the top edge to secure it.  

Bake. Gently move the cake pan to the larger pan and pour hot water around the cake pan to a depth of 2 inches (no less). Carefully slide the whole assemblage into the oven.  (Some people find it easiest to pull out the oven rack, set the cake pan in the large pan on it, pour in the water then slide the rack back in.) Bake about about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the surface of the cake is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out relatively clean. Remove from the water bath and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Run a thin-bladed knife around the upper edges and center of the bundt pan to loosen the cake from the mold.  It’s safest to unmold the chocoflan after it has chilled long enough to firm it, so I recommend refrigerating it for several hours or overnight. 

Unmold and serve. Just to be sure nothing sticks, run your thin-bladed knife around the upper part of the bundt pan (don’t forget to do the center) for a second time. With the pan firmly on the countertop, jiggle it back and forth a few times until you see a slight movement in the cake.   Invert a serving plate over the mold, then reverse the two.  If the cake doesn’t drop immediately, give the mold a few raps until you hear it fall.  Remove the mold.  Scrape any cajeta remaining in mold over the chocoflan and you’re ready to cut and serve slices to guests who likely won’t know what a seemingly impossible thing happened while flan and batter were in the oven.   


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