Impossible Cake (AKA chocoflan)

Pastel Imposible (AKA Chocoflan)
Recipe from Season 6, Mexico—One Plate at a Time
Servings: 12generously


  • For the mold:
  • Alittle softened butter and some flour
  • 1cupcajeta (goat milk caramel), store-bought or homemade
  • For the cake:
  • 5ounces (10 tablespoons) butter, slightly softened
  • 1cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2tablespoons espresso powder dissolved in 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water OR 3 tablespoons espresso
  • 3/4cup all-purpose flour
  • 1cup cake flour
  • 3/4teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (I like the more commonly available - not Dutch process - cocoa best here)
  • 9ounces buttermilk
  • For the flan:
  • 112-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 114-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1teaspoonMexican vanilla or pure vanilla extract


  1. Prepare the mold. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees and position the rack in the middle. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch round cake pan (you need one that's 3 inches deep), sprinkle with flour, tip the pan, tapping on the side of the counter several times, to evenly distribute the flour over the bottom and sides, then shake out the excess. Microwave the cajeta for 30 seconds to soften it, then pour over the bottom of the pan, tilting the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Set a kettle of water over medium-low heat. Set out a deep pan that's larger than your cake pan (a roasting pan works well) that can serve as a water bath during baking.
  2. Make the cake. With an electric mixer (use the flat beater, if yours has a choice), beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light in color and texture. Scrape the bowl. Beat in the egg and espresso. Sift together the all-purpose and cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa. Beat in about 1/2 of the flour mixture, at medium-low speed, followed by 1/2 of the buttermilk. Repeat. Scrape the bowl, then raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 1 minute.
  3. Make the flan. In a blender, combine the two milks, the eggs and the vanilla. Blend until smooth.
  4. Layer and bake. Scrape the cake batter into the prepared cake pan and spread level. Slowly, 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.) Pull out the oven rack, set the cake into the large pan, then set both pans on the rack. Pour hot water around the cake to a depth of 1 inch. Carefully slide the pans into the oven, and bake about 50 to 55 minutes, until the surface of the cake is firm to the touch, except for the very center . Remove from the water bath and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
  5. Serve. Carefully run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the cake/flan to free the edges. Invert a rimmed serving platter over the cake pan, grasp the two tightly together, then flip the two over. Gently jiggle the pan back and forth several times to insure that the cake/flan has dropped, then remove the pan. Scrape any remaining cajeta from the mold onto the cake.


  1. I am definitely making this soon; do you think it would work work with almond, hazelnut or coconut flour? Thank you for the inspiring books and tv shows 🙂

    1. Hi Sherry,
      We have not tested this recipe with any other flours. Generally I would say go for it! Give it a try! But this recipe is a bit tricky and I cannot promise that it will work exactly the same as all-purpose flour.

  2. I need to ask for help making this cake. Twice I’ve tried to make it, following the directions very carefully. Each time the flan never set up and I wound up with a puddle of goo. The cake part turned out fine. And while it looked terrible it tasted very good but I am puzzled why the flan failed. Can you provide any help?

    1. How high up the sides of your cake pan does the water go? Try going higher. The purpose is dual – it helps to create a moist cooking environment (like steaming and baking at the same time) as well as conducting heat and cooking the flan from the outside in. So make sure that the hot water is high enough that it is at the same level as the flan. Hope that helps!

      1. The only pan I could find was my new large square copper pan. I may have filled it with too much water because after an hour the cake was not set – HELP

        1. I cover the bottom of my springform pan with foil before putting it in a water bath…learned this the hard way.

    2. I know it has been a while since you posted this, but I just made this recipe last night fro the first time. The same thing happened to me, the flan had not cooked completely. I put it back into the oven and cooked it for another 20 minutes. All good :D.

    3. Leave it for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hr 30 in the oven also add 4oz cream cheese to the flan, then wait 2hrs before invert on a serving plate. Leave it in the fridge for at list 24 hrs but is best 24 to 36 hrs. For some reason gets creamier. Good luck!

  3. Hello, I’ve made other choco flan cakes, but am looking forward to trying this one! One question tho, I have a can of cajeta, it is thicker than the bottled one. Will this be a problem? Thanks for your help!

  4. I am going to try and make this. Is using the expresso mandatory? The crowd I am making it for is not really into coffee. Thanks.

    1. Hello Angela –
      The espresso does not affect the flavor much, it really just acts to deepen the flavor of the chocolate. Best of luck!

  5. If I have to make it the day before will it keep overnight or do I have to unmold it as soon as it cools

  6. If I make the crème cheese flan instead of the regular, will it work? I like the cream cheese flan better than the Napolitano.

  7. I’m confused, shouldn’t the flan mixture go in first? Or do you flip the plates twice? (Once to take out of the pan, & then to get the flan on top)

    1. during the baking process the batters swap places which ends up with the flan on top when plating.

  8. Not a terribly difficult recipe for this newbie but it can get labor intensive and tricky without the right tools or in a tiny kitchen. Sifting dry ingredients is a must. Delicious outcome. The bottled cajeta is pure gold.

    1. You definitely can, although it will be lacking that delicious flavor that you get from the goats milk. Another option is that in Rick’s new cookbook, More Mexican Everyday we have a recipe for slow cooker-overnight cajeta that is so delicous and easy. We also have another version here on our website. Good luck!

  9. This turned out great, a big hit. I used a 12 cup bundt pan. I put a couple tbs canola oil into the cake batter for extra moistness, and few ounces of cream cheese into the flan mixture. I covered the bundt pan with foil for most of the cooking time so the cake wouldn’t dry out. Cooking time was about 20 minutes longer than directed in this recipe. Because of the height of the bundt pan I think you need this extra time. I left it in the water bath to cool. The cake was reluctant to come out of the pan when I turned it, which was nerve wracking, but eventually it came out in one piece. Maybe I should turn it when it’s warmer, or maybe I need to do a better job with buttering and flouring the pan. Anyway, great recipe!

  10. would the flan work on top of any chocolate cake alternative choice? Would like to cut corners and use a box cake (please don’t judge to harshly 🙂 )

    1. No judgement’s here Cristina – don’t tell my boss Rick but I love doctoring up a boxed cake mix too! However, I cannot tell you that this would work for sure. I do not see why not, but I’ve never tried it.

      Good luck! Let us know how it goes!

  11. Made this for a NY day Mexican feast. I’m not much of a baker (prefer savory over sweet) so wasn’t sure I was going to pull this off. In reality, it turned out great! I also used a deep Bundt pan in a deep roaster water bath, but kept straight to the recipe. I made sure to cool the pan for a good 1-1.5 hours after taking out of the oven, then turned it over on a serving plate and left it for another 30 minutes. By the time I checked again, it had slipped out and was in perfect form for serving. Hit of the party!

  12. I live in Denver and am going to make this for my husbands birthday he loves Rick and as soon as he saw this recipe he said he wanted this for his birthday. I am wondering if you have any advice for the altitude. I bake all the time up here and know the normal adjustments, but I have never made flan so I am a little nervous… thanks for any advice you have

  13. I am a bit confused or maybe I am not getting it. I see the picture and the flan is on top. In the instructions, it says to pour the cake batter first, then the flan batter over the cake batter. Once baked and cooled, invert it on a plate. Wouldn’t I need to invert it again to have the flan on top? Am I missing something here? I plan to do this next weekend.

    Thank you

  14. Hi! I tried making this cake but the cake didn’t rise. I used both baking powder and baking soda. I hope you could help me on this. Thanks!

    1. This happened to me once and I found the the culprit was expired baking powder! Check the date and see if that’s the case. If not, maybe check to make sure that your oven is properly calibrated. It may be running a little low. You can purchase an oven thermometer for less than $5 at the supermarket.

  15. I am planning to make it this weekend and I am confused on the order of the batters. If I pour caramel, then chocolate cake, then flan, as the instructions say, and then flip the cake out onto the platter, wouldn’t the flan be on the bottom of the platter, then cake then caramel? This will eliminate the signature caramel coating on the flan and with the cake being on top it would be different from the above picture. Does the flan sink to the bottom maybe?

    1. Try it–it’s cool how it works! (The flan batter sinks underneath the cake batter, but you’d never manage to spread the cake batter out if you didn’t put it in first.)

  16. Can this be made in a mini version with a cupcake pan? I have a large crowd to feed. Considering a double batch but individual servings would be best for this event.

  17. I tried a different recipe and everything came out okay, but I didn’t love the flavor of that particular chocolate cake. I want to try this one next, but I’m curious why these are the only intructions I’ve found that don’t include covering the pan with foil while it bakes.

    1. Hi Stephanie-The reason you don’t cover it is because the cake batter replaces itself with the flan batter and for cakes you bake them without being covered. Its magic! 🙂 Give it a try and let us know how it turns out!

    1. The answer is you CAN freeze it, but I wouldn’t recommend it, because of the uniqueness of the cake combined with a flan. If you can make it a day before it should turn out better than freezing it. Good Luck and let us know how it turns out!

      1. Tried it yesterday with a combo of King Arthur’s GF AP flour for the cake flour, because it has no stretchiness, as cake flour has less gluten (converted to weight using 120g/cup of regular gluten flour) and Cup4cup for the AP flour because it has a bit of xantham gum to replace the gluten in a normal AP flour.

        The cake came out SUPER dense and a bit dry, and those can be normal effects of converting to GF. I’m going to try another time, but I will probably add another couple ounces of buttermilk to cope with the moisture hungry GF flours. I also felt like it was too much volume of cake (in height, the slices were about 2/3 cake and 1/3 flan, unlike the even split in the photo here), so I may go even further and try to cut the cake ingredients by a third. (In that case, I’ll probably leave the buttermilk at 8 or 9 oz and still use the whole egg.) I will also not make a day ahead next time but will try to serve just after the first cooling (GF baked goods dry out something fierce in the fridge!).

        Would love to hear if someone else figures other things out about making this GF!

        1. I LOVE Bob’s Redmill GF flour 2 to 1 mixture! Everything I have used this flour for has come out beautiful, light and fluffy! Give it a try! 🙂

  18. Hi
    Can you tell me if I can use Kalua in place of the coffee and what would the amount be?

    I would like to make it for Mothers Day and Dia de las Madres.

    1. Unfortunately we do not have a written recipes for high altitude however I did find this information: “At 9,000 feet and above, preheat oven about 25 degrees above the baking temperature called for in the recipe. As soon as the baked goods are placed inside the oven, lower the heat to the actual baking temperature called for in the recipe.” I would test this out and please let me know how it turns out. 🙂

      1. I’m at 7,000 ft visiting my in-laws and the first time was a failure but this time I increased the temperature 15 degrees and didn’t add as much oil and it turned out better … but not as perfect as when I do it at sea level.

  19. Two questions:

    Can you bake this recipe in a 12 ” bundt pan like I see in some other recipes? and

    Do the other recipes cover their chocoflans because it’s in a bundt pan? Your recipe is the first one that wasn’t covered. I would like to try this soon for a party and would love to know the answer.

    Many thanks!

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