Gourmet Galley: Flan cakes

This show stopper is not only chocolate cake, but cake topped with flan and drizzled with caramel sauce. And, best of all, it all happens in the same pan.

This impressive dessert is actually easy to make because it’s made with a cake mix and the flan is quickly mixed in the blender.

Caramel sauce is poured in the bottom of the pan and the prepared cake mix goes over that. The flan is poured over the cake batter but during the baking, the cake batter and flan change positions and the flan ends up on the bottom next to the caramel and the cake rises to the top. When you turn the cake upside down onto the cake platter, you have the moist cake on the bottom, then the flan and the caramel glaze over the top and dripping down the sides.

I ran this recipe many years ago and had forgotten about it until someone called me about a flan cake. My recipe came from Irma Gremillion, of Arkansas, and it was served by someone in her golf group.

The recipe called for Mexican Cajeta de Leche (caramel sauce) which I did not have and I substituted with Smucker’s Caramel Topping. The caramel glazes the top and sides as you remove the pan.

The baking procedure is different in that the cake pan is tightly covered with foil and baked in a water bath for 2 hours. This allows for the flan to bake properly.

Look at the tips before baking to ensure the cake comes out perfectly. I made it one time and my cake stand had a slight rise in the center of the plate and the cake split. So instead of a pretty slice, that time I served it like a pudding cake.

Gremillion’s recipe calls for Devil’s Food cake mix which is my favorite, too, but some prefer to make it with a yellow cake mix.

Vary the cake-mix flavors if you like. If you keep the amounts basically the same, you can substitute with any of your favorite mixes. The cake is rich and attractive enough by itself, but you can sprinkle toasted nuts or toasted coconut over the top before serving. I added sliced almonds because I had two small splits in the top of the flan and it covered those little flaws.

Bring this cake to the holiday table and wait for the compliments. Both recipes are very similar and are easy to make but have to be made ahead of time.

Flan Cake tips

Make ahead of time because it bakes for 2 hours then has to cool and chill. It’s an impressive make-ahead dessert.

You have to use a large (12-cup) Bundt pan or angel food-type tube pan. Spray it first with nonstick coating and then add the caramel.

The cake bakes in a water bath (bain marie). Find a baking pan that’s large enough to hold your Bundt or tube pan before you start making the cake. It has to be larger than a 9-by-13-inch pan. However, a disposable 9-by-13-inch pan can work if you bend the sides out so water can be totally around the cake’s pan. A wide lasagna or roasting pan also works well.

The cake plate or cake stand has to have a small rim around the edge and flat center (not with a rise in the center).

The flan takes only seconds to make in a blender.

The cake pan has to be tightly covered with foil as the cake bakes and no peeking until it’s done.

Vary the dessert by using different cake mixes, such as yellow, pineapple, spice or German chocolate.