Mexican chocoflan, the impossible chocolate cake

Chocoflan, a combination of chocolate cake on the bottom with flan on the top, defies baking logic. It goes into the oven with the flan on top, and comes out of the oven with the flan baked on the bottom, out of sight. Invert the cake pan on a plate, and there is the flan again, now on the new top.

Normally, flan is baked on a base of caramelized sugar. Chocoflan, marching to its own drum beat, uses a base of cajeta, a sweetened, caramelized concoction made with leche de cabra (goat milk), famous throughout Latin American countries and designated as this year’s Bicentennial Dessert of Mexico.

A caja is a little box, and cajeta can still be purchased in little pine boxes in and near the city of Celaya in Guanajuato, Mexico. One of our long-ago travel memories is stopping to buy a number of small boxes of cajeta to take home as gifts, only to immediately lose all will power and eat every single bit with the tiny plastic spoon supplied with each box. I can still picture those elegant little boxes, decorated with a colorful goat picture and tied with yellow string.

David Lebovitz recently baked a Chocoflan on his blog, also called Pastel Imposible (Impossible Cake), and since I read his blog, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Plus, Cooking in Mexico could use some more readers and there is nothing like a recipe with chocolate to bring the Mexican foodies to my blog’s doorstep, hoping  for a few morsels.


  • 1/2 cup ( 5.4 oz./154 grams) cajeta
  • 2 large eggs, cool room temperature
  • 6 oz. (180 ml.) evaporated milk
  • 6 oz. (180 ml.) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) Kahlúa
  • 1 3/4 cups (7 oz./200 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (7 oz./200 grams) sugar
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (1.2 oz./33 grams) cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz/114 grams) butter at cool room temperature
  • 9 fluid oz. (260 ml.) buttermilk (or equivilent amount of plain yogurt thinned with milk to buttermilk consistency)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoon (45 ml.) Kahlúa
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F. (180 C.). Butter a tube cake pan (8″ across and 4″ high/200 mm.  x 100 mm.)  and spread cajeta on bottom of pan.
  2. Heat a small sauce pan of water for hot water bath to pour into a pan larger than cake pan.
  3. Prepare flan mixture by blending 2 eggs, evaporated milk, condensed milk and 1 tablespoon Kahlúa. Set aside.
  4. In standing mixer (or use a hand-held electric mixer), mix butter and sugar for 2 minutes on medium-high speed. Scrape down sides of bowl, and add 1 egg and 3 tablespoons Kahlúa. Beat for 30 seconds.
  5. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and salt. Add half of dry ingredients, alternating with half of buttermilk, until all is incorporated into butter mixture. Beat for 1 minute on medium-high speed.
  6. Spoon batter into cake pan over cajeta, and level with a spatula. Pour flan mixture over cake batter, pouring over a spoon to gentle the pressure (see photo below).
  7. Set cake pan in a larger pan, and place on oven rack. Add boiling water to large pan to a depth of 1″.
  8. Bake 50 minutes, or until cake tests dry with a wooden toothpick. (Cake will pull away from sides of pan after it is removed from oven.)
  9. Remove from water bath and cool on a rack to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, run a thin knife around inside of pan sides and invert onto cake plate. If any cajeta sticks to the pan, spread onto the cake.


  • Don’t use an angel food pan with a removable bottom because the flan mixture will leak out all over the floor of the oven. I know this, because one of my readers tried it and reported the unsatisfactory results. She said she was left with an inch of flan on the cake, but she did have the presence of mind to put a baking sheet underneath to catch the leak.
  • This recipe was inspired by David Lebovitz and based on a recipe by Rick Bayless, with a few changes to his recipe. I halved the flan recipe (not the cake batter recipe), since I did not have the  10″ x 3″ round pan called for in his recipe. The proportions of cake to flan turned out to be perfect, as I would not have wanted twice the amount of flan.
  • Dulce de Leche is very similar to cajeta, the latter being made from goat milk.
  • If you have left-over cajeta, treat yourself to Crêpes with Cajeta, Nuts and Chocolate Sauce.


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49 thoughts on “Mexican chocoflan, the impossible chocolate cake

    1. I haven’t done this, so I can’t say. I assume you have already made the chocoflan, reversing the layers, so please let us know how it turned out. Maybe you invented a new form of this favorite cake!

  1. Melissa

    What happens if i would forget to put the camera on the bottom of pan first before the cake mix will it still make

  2. Patrick

    Hi tried your recipe turnes out great! My flan and cake layers didnt separate nicely though… what do you think went wrong? Thanks

    1. Hi Patrick, sorry the layers didn’t separate for you. I haven’t experienced this, but my guess is that your baking powder and/or baking soda weren’t fresh. The cake should rise to the top because all the air bubbles created by the baking soda and baking powder action make the cake lighter than the liquid custard. If the air bubbles aren’t sufficient, the cake remains heavy. I hope you try it again with fresh ingredients, and let me know how it turns out.

  3. Pingback: Chocoflan (a.k.a. Impossible Cake) | Baking for Scientists and Engineers

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    1. Jada, other recipes online bake this cake in a bundt pan, so I think it is possible. Use a non-stick Bundt pan and spray the sides of the pan well with a cooking spray. Unmold the cake when it is chilled. I think it should come out fine. Be sure to let me know how it comes out!

      1. Jada

        Thank you for such a fast reply ! I will be making this for Christmas and will definitely update you on how it turns out !
        Merry Christmas !!

  5. Okay, I will try this recipe…just one problem “Cooking IN Mexico” I have never seen buttermilk in any store anywhere in Mexico!! maybe a substitution of plain yogurt?

    1. Robyn, thank you for bringing this oversight to my attention. I should not have specified an ingredient that is not available in Mexico without giving a substitution. I recommend using plain yogurt instead of buttermilk, and have added this substitution to the recipe. I hope you do try it.

  6. Natally Vega

    What equipment is necessary? Every site I check has the ingredients but not the tools; bowls, type of cake pan, etc. listed and I need to know!

    1. If you read my recipe, you will see it is very specific for the type of pan, even giving dimensions. It also specifies the size of saucepan and options for mixers. As to bowl, well, whatever you use to mix a cake in. :)

  7. Anonymous

    hi, mi name is Brenda and i am Mexican, what i can tell you about this cake is that you don’t need to do all of that like that, i have been baking chocoflan for a lot of time and i do it like this:

    first of all you don’t need the cajeta if you cant find it, you just need baking pam, a chocolate box of cake flour, prepare as says on the box, for the flan use 1 can evaporated milk, 1 can sweetened condensed milk 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla, cover your pan with baking pam, then place the cake mixture and then the flan, put it in the over for about 25 min or until a toothpick comes out clean, wait 10 min and then take it out, if you have cajeta you can spread it then and for decoration and better taste chopped nuts on the top.


    1. Hi Brenda,
      There are many different recipes for Chocoflan, and this is the one I like the best. It sounds like you use a cake mix. I don’t use mixes, because I don’t like to use chemical preservatives and I like to control the ingredients in my recipes. But I understand that some cooks prefer to use cake mixes because it takes less time. Thank you for writing.

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  10. Susan Schrandt

    Gearing up to make this dessert for Pizza Night this Friday. I just received My Sweet Mexico. In that book, the recipe calls for Dutch processed Cocoa – but your recipe says not to use Dutch processed. Which to use?? I am very excited about making this cake! SHould go well with homemade pizza, don’t you think!
    Thanks for any advice!

    1. Hi Susan,

      As to whether to use Dutch cocoa or not depends on which recipe you follow, mine or Sweet Mexico’s. Use exactly what the recipe calls for. Changing the type of cocoa influences the type and amount of leavening (baking soda or baking powder) and whether sweet milk or sour milk is used. In baking, they all interact chemically, and you can’t change one without changing the others.
      Did you see David Lebovitz’ photo of the Sweet Mexico chocoflan he made? If not, and if that is the recipe you are using, read his blog about it. Go to my chocoflan page, and a link to his post on it is under the recipe. Yes, it will go great with pizza. Great with anything! Happy baking!

  11. Helen

    Hi Kathleen, that looks superb, something my kids would love. In Britain (where I live) we can’t get cajeta, but do you think I could substitute dulce de leche, which I can get?

  12. Pingback: Crêpes with Cajeta and Chocolate « Cooking in Mexico

  13. Vicki in GA

    The cajeta you featured in your photos is available on line!
    No excuse for me not making this yummy cake.

    I mentioned your recipe to the owner of the Cuban restaurant; he has made a similar dessert using “yellow cake.” I was thinking of tweaking the recipe by making pumpkin cake since there is such an abundance of baking pumpkin this year. Pumpkin cake, flan, sprinkled with a little bit of roasted pecans? I’ll use a little bit of dark Rum rather than Kahlua. Hello five pounds!

    Speaking of rum – do I ever love Bacardi Añejo.

    Again, I adore your site. The photos and recipes make my mouth drool with delight!

    1. Vicki, I think there are many different cakes recipes that flan would compliment, and pumpkin cake is a good choice. I was thinking of trying this on a Grand Marnier cake with chocolate pieces in it. If you try it with pumpkin, be sure to let me know how it turned out.

  14. Vicki in GA

    Flan and chocolate cake – two of my favorite foods!
    This is a must try – I’ll cut the recipe in half, too, because I know I’ll eat the whole thing!

    Recently a Cuban couple from Miami opened a delish Cuban restaurant in our little mountain town. The food is less spicey than Mexican food but very good. The couple make amazing flan so I will take this recipe to them. Also, the restaurant serves Tres Leche cake – it is divine.

  15. Hello – I am commenting on behalf of my mother who just found your blog via google. She recently has been relocated to Mexico and found your information on cleaning vegetables exetremely helpful.

    She called me saying “OH MY GOSH I just found your blog,” she was very estatic, but I inquired how she found it. She walked me through her google search, talked about how she found your blog and gushed about how much she loved it, and then told me to look at the top of the page and hit “My Blog” – she found my blog because I had forgotton to sign out of wordpress via her browser. After a little explaination, it was all in all a good laugh.

    I will back her up though – your blog is beautiful. Look forward to reading more :)

    1. Good to hear from you. I checked out your blog. It is attractive — I liked that we each have a category for “Chocolate”!

      Tell your mom that I’m glad she found the article on cleaning fruits and vegetables helpful and that I hope she visits again.

  16. linda

    What a fabulous looking cake! I do not own a tube pan, can this be made in a regular cake pan? I have a sneaky feeling that one of those cajetas bought for gifts might have been intended for moi! Now I find out that you consumed it! Bravo! I would have done the same!

    1. The original recipe by Rick Bayless calls for a round pan, 10″ across and 3″ deep. I did not have a pan that size, so I used the smaller tube pan, reducing the flan recipe. It came out fine. And yes, one of the little cajetas, bought years ago, was for you, but not for long.

  17. Wow! You really went all out….. that looks fantastic! I’ve had all kinds of flan, but I’ve never had chocolate flan. One more for my “definitely have to try list”.

  18. anneke

    Kathleen, this looks fabulous, but a little ambitious for me to make in the RV at the moment. On Saturday we went to the flea market in Tesuque and I bought a jar of chocolate sauce with chile. Yummie!!! Do you have any kind of recipe with chocolate and chile? It is such a delicious combination. At the Old Town PV Xocolate Diva store they have chocolate with chile truffles.

    I had “huevos motulenos” (sorry – not a Mexican keyboard to do the “enye”) for breakfast at the famous “Pasqual’s” in Santa Fe yesterday. A fried corn tortilla on the bottom with black beans, small chunks of feta cheese, some red chile sauce and lots of roasted chunky green chile sauce and 2 fried eggs -over easy- on top and garnished with green peas (of all things) and sprigs of cilantro and….fried bananas around the edges of the plate!!!! The taste of feta, roasted green chile and bananas was just awesome! I will try making this myself one of these days.

    The day before in Taos I had a delicious panini for lunch prepared with sliced baby roasted squash and zuccini, provolone cheese and green chile salsa. Also really delicious!

    A few more days here and then on to Durango, Colorado.

    Hasta la vista Catalina!

    Am loving it here even though the altitude is making me feel a little light headed and weird. The weather is beautiful, the aspen are beginning to turn and there is so much to see and do. We were thinking of you and Russell working here in the area. I believe this is where he was making those stairs – if I am not mistaken.

  19. Erin

    I think I might have to give this a go for my daughter’s birthday cake this year.It looks delicious and I’ve never seen this combo before. We normally have cake+flan as it is, might as well combine the two, right? It’s also an evolution of her cake last year (Buttermilk vanilla filled w/ cajeta & frosted with chocolate).

    1. I don’t see why a flan recipe can not be combined with any cake recipe, though chocolate cake with flan is traditional in Mexico. I thought of combining flan with Golden Grand Marnier cake, but that might be too much over the top …

  20. Cindy Bouchard


    Chris is drooling! I’m allergic to wheat, do you think I could make it with almond flour? Can I get almond flour there?


    1. Cindy,

      I doubt you would find almond flour here, though you can grind almonds yourself.

      I am not experienced in baking non-wheat cakes. I know there are a lot of blogs and forums that address this issue and include recipes. My recommendation would be to find a non-wheat chocolate cake recipe from one of these sites, and use my flan recipe to pour over the batter. I hope you try this, and if you do, please let me know if you were successful. For Chris’es sake, I hope you are.

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