I remember hearing in management meetings at one job that men generally need to hear the same thing three times from other men and an amazing seven times from women. While I do not know if this is strictly true, I came across the recipe in this post three times before making it finally; however, the sources were both women and men – for whatever that is worth in this equation.
First, I watched Rick Bayless prepare ChocoFlan a couple of years ago on Mexico One Plate at a Time. I always enjoyed going to his restaurants, the first few years they were open in Chicago, when I still lived there. I never met him or even recall seeing him at Frontera Grill or Topolobambo, but I made sure to watch his television program whenever I can, as he is intelligent, funny, and unsurpassed by any chef specializing in the many diverse regional cuisines of Mexico. (When I wrote that, I was wondering if people might think, “Tostados, burritos, tacos, enchiladas, salsa, and guacamole – are those the diverse regional cuisines?” Or, “Is chimichanga a region?” Of course, I quickly realized that you, my dear sophisticated readers, would never think that!!).
I saw the episode in July, 2008, when I looked up the recipe and saved it electronically for the day I would need a magical-preso-reverso-chocolate-cake-and-flan for a party. So then I noticed the mini version on Krissy and Daniel’s fun site, The Food Addicts, and then I thought, the time is nearing when I will now make a smallish version of the cake. I checked out their original source from The Food Network, Marcela Valladolid.
After my recent foray into the Bundt-baking world, I remembered my mini-Bundt pans I had bought for a Dorie Greenspan recipe I have yet to make. So I looked up the recipe source Krissy and Daniel featured a week later (the third step) and decided to use most of Rick’s instead, given they were virtually identical and Rick’s descriptions were more detailed. However, I did use Marcela’s flan ingredients (one less egg but four ounces of cream cheese, in order to use up the latter, sitting around in the fridge!).
I adapted it by adding cinnamon and cayenne to make it into a “Mexican Hot Chocolate” version. This adaptation I decided to do for a Moroccan-Indian dinner party, as the cayenne and cinnamon complemented spices in the dishes the hostess was preparing. I suggest trying my version, if you like a more lively cake – remember my “2 x C3” Cocoa-Cayenne Cupcakes with Citrus Cream Cheese frosting?
More on the fun of the Flan-Cake – and the Recipe
The fun part is that the flan layer sinks while the cake layer rises, reversing positions while baking. This is the impossible aspect, though I like “magical” better here. As with most buttermilk based-baking, the cake has a delicate crumb and is very moist. In contrast to the cakey layer, the flan is a very rich counterpart, and the caramel or cajeta or my hard candy topping will complement both layers.
The “hard candy” was a strange by-product of my experimentation. I tried to add a flan-syrup, from Rick Bayless, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico (which I would say is the one Mexican cookbook to have it you could have only one – how sad would that limitation be, if one had to choose?). Perhaps I should not suggest that you do this, as I did, after the cake-flan has baked and is cooling.
I made the beautifully deep amber syrup and then poured it on the cooling individual magical-mystical-Mexican cakes. Not being a big candy-maker, I did not realize that I probably reached hard-ball stage, which meant the syrupy-pool on top hardened into a crunchy disk, as the syrup began to set up pretty quickly. It was kind of fun as a decorative option, and our friends liked it. Yet it was not traditional (flan is typically baked on top of this syrup, which probably keeps it from hardening – my theory). Rick suggests cajeta, below. You can find easily a recipe for flan syrup or let me know, if you want mine, for the hard candy version.
Krissy and Daniel’s version of the mini-variety is a good option, and the recipe below can be used in a single Bundt cake pan (35-40 minutes baking time). One option is to go with Rick’s original flan recipe (one more egg and delete the cream cheese), which I might try next time for a more traditional, perhaps less rich, flan.
However you top it, the Impossible Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Flan-Cake is quite possible to make successfully and impossible to beat.
Individual Impossible Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Flan-Cakes or Chocoflan
Adapted from Season 6 of Mexico–One Plate at a Time (cake) and Marcella Valladolid (flan part)
Serves 10, in individual Bundt pans
For the pans
A little softened butter (or cooking spray) and some flour
1 cup store-bought or homemade cajeta (goat milk caramel) – though I used a traditional caramel syrup
For the cake:
3 ½ ounces (7 tablespoons) butter, slightly softened
¾ cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
Or 2 tablespoons espresso
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup cake flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup cocoa powder (I like the more commonly available—not Dutch process—cocoa best here)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or ¼, if you cannot take the heat)
¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
For the flan
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, preferably Mexican vanilla
Prepare the mold. Turn on the oven to 375 degrees and position the rack in the middle. Generously butter (NB: I used cooking spray oil) the bottom and sides of 10 one cup individual bundt cake pans, sprinkle with flour, tip the pans, 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.
Make the cake batter. 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, cinnamon, cayenne, and cocoa. With the mixer on medium-low, beat in about ½ of the flour mixture, followed by ½ of the buttermilk. Repeat. Scrape the bowl, then raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 1 minute.
Make the flan mixture. In a blender (I used a food processor), combine the two milks, the eggs, cream cheese, and the vanilla. Blend until smooth, for about a minute or two.
Layer and bake. Evenly scrape the cake batter into the prepared cake pans and spread level. Slowly, pour the flan mixture over the cake batter. (I used an ice-cream scoop, to make it even).
Pull out the oven rack, set the cake pans 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 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out dry. Remove from the water bath and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
Carefully run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the cake/flan to free the edges. Invert a wire cooling rack (larger than the individual bundt cake moulds) over the cake pan, grasp them 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.