Did you ever attend one of those birthday parties where the featured entertainment was a wacky performing magician? You know, pulling quarters from behind peoples’ ears and extracting rabbits from top hats? I haven’t been to one in a while… perhaps they’re now pulling credit cards from behind ears and iPhones from top hats. (M.! Your cynicism is showing!)
I did attend a few back in the day, and I remember being pretty unimpressed. Not because I was immediately able to identify the solution, but because I knew there was one. And I was perfectly fine leaving it at that.
I do remember being way more concerned about the likelihood of acquiring a second and third piece of birthday cake.
I think that baking is a special form of magic, and no recipe exemplifies that more clearly than Chocoflan, also known as flan imposible.
The making of a magic Chocoflan goes something like this:
Step 1: Spread chocolate cake batter in the bottom of a pan.
Step 2: Pour flan batter on top of the cake batter.
Step 3: Bake for a long time in a water bath.
Step 4: Cool the cake.
Step 5: Invert and unmold the cake.
And it’s magic!
During the baking process the two elements of the cake will have switched places with the porous cake floating to the top and the dense, milky flan settling on the bottom. Everything bakes and sets and it’s a gloriously rich, impressively stacked treat.
But it seems impossible! And there are many opportunities for self-doubt along the way. Just before setting my filled dish in the oven I noted that some of my cake batter had already floated into the flan. Was it a flan fail in the making? I checked my gut, put my cake in the water bath and then in the oven, and hoped for best.
When the time had finally arrived, the magic appeared to have worked!
The top of the pan boasted a fluffy, baked cake.
But what lay underneath? And would this chocoflan be willing to come out of the pan intact?
I paced my kitchen as things cooled and set.
I baked my chocoflan from this recipe, so when it came time to unmold I looked to the copy that I printed out to be sure I was doing things correctly.
And what a coincidence! A typographical error in the original actually came to life as I inverted my chocoflan and suffered from a bout of Nervous Laughter Syndrome. So you shouldn’t forget to giggle a little as you unmold your chocoflan.
And it worked! The giggling worked!
The results are flawless. And delicious! Chocoflan really is a pretty impressive piece of magic that you can share with your friends and family at your next party. No wacky performing magician necessary. But you may want to pull an iPhone out of a top hat, just for fun.
recipe adapted from Marcela Valladolid’s Mexican Made Easy
For the cake:
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. white sugar, granulated
1 large egg, room temperature
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/3 c. cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 1/4 c. buttermilk (Note that I substituted whole milk here.)
softened butter to coat pan
1/4 c. cajeta to coat pan (Note that I had cajeta on hand from when we made cajeta the other day. You could substitute caramel sauce or even dulce de leche if you choose.)
For the flan:
1- 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1- 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. cajeta or caramel sauce
1/4 c. chopped pecans (Note that I did not garnish my chocoflan at all.)
Butter a 12-cup capacity Bundt pan and line the bottom with the cajeta. Place the prepared pan into a large roasting pan and set aside.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°.
To prepare the cake, add the butter and sugar to a bowl and, using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, beat until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa in a medium bowl. Beat 1/3 of the flour mixture, and 1/2 of the buttermilk into the egg mixture. Repeat, ending with the flour mixture. Blend until well incorporated.
To prepare the flan, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, cream cheese, eggs and vanilla in the bowl of blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds.
Scoop the cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan and spread evenly. Slowly pour the flan mixture over the cake batter. Cover with foil and add about 1-inch of hot water to the roasting pan.
Carefully slide the pan into the oven and bake 1 hour until the surface of the cake is firm to the touch or an inserted toothpick comes out clean. When the cake is done, remove it from the water bath and allow it to cool completely to room temperature, about 1 hour.
Invert a large, rimmed serving platter over the Bundt pan, grasp tightly together, giggle a little and flip over. Remove the pan and scrape any remaining cajeta from the pan onto the cake, garnish with chopped pecans and serve (this cake is traditionally served after being chilled for 24 hours, but you can also serve it warm or at room temperature).
YIELD: approximately 10 servings