I love chocolate cake. I love flan. So, what happens when you combine the two? Pure excellence! Pastel imposible translates into “impossible cake” for you non-Spanish speakers, and it gets its name from the seemingly impossible feat of layering creamy flan on a bed of dense chocolate cake. It is believed that this dessert originated in Mexico, where it is still very popular to this day.
I first heard of pastel imposible when I was looking up recipes for a standard flan. Once I perfected the flan, it was only natural that I take it to the next level. At the time, all of the recipes that I encountered for this cake instructed you to use boxed cake mix. That was fine in the beginning. But, once I resolved to eliminate cake mix from my pantry for good, that just wasn’t going to work for me. I tried several of my chocolate cake recipes, but none of them worked. The end result was always some weird, mixed-up abomination. I was ready to give up and assume that there was some sort of formula that was inherent in cake mix that prevented the mixing.
Then, Marcella Valladolid to the rescue! While I never actually watched that episode of her Food Network show, Mexican Made Easy, I saw this recipe on Food Network’s web site. The cake batter is incredibly thick and dense, which probably helps to keep it from being mixed into and watered down by the flan mixture. Here is the recipe, with some minor modifications. The original recipe can be found here.
- 1/4 cup cajeta or caramel sauce (I used caramel ice cream topping)
For the cake:
- 10 tbsp butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- a pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
For the flan:
- 1 (12oz) can evaporated milk
- 1 (14oz) can condensed milk
- 3 eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- Preheat to 350 degrees F.
- Coat a Bundt pan with a cooking spray, then coat the bottom with 1/4 cup cajeta or caramel and put it in a large roasting pan. (The roasting pan will serve as a water bath during baking.)
- For 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 dry ingredients 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.
- For the flan: In a blender, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, eggs and vanilla. Blend on high for 30 seconds. Or, throw all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and blend with an immersion blender.
- Scoop the cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan and spreading 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 cake is done, remove from the water bath and 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, and serve!
A few things I’d like to point out:
- My baking time is never an hour. Usually, the cake batter is still liquid after an hour, and I have to remove the foil and bake it uncovered for an extra 20-30 minutes. Make sure that there is enough water in your water bath to keep the oven steamy, so your cake doesn’t dry out.
- Like most custard desserts, this is best made a day in advance. The flavor really develops after a night in the fridge.
- Cajeta is the Mexican version of dulce de leche, and can be made with goat’s milk or cow’s milk. I have tried using cajeta for this recipe, and did not like the result. I think the caramel sundae topping makes for a nicer presentation.
- When pouring your flan mixture over your cake batter, it might look as though they are starting to mix together. Don’t worry, they will separate during baking.
This dessert is very, VERY rich! So, a little goes a long way. Keep that in mind when cutting your servings, and enjoy!