Chocolate and Vanilla Flan with Pecans (Chocoflan Imposible)

Elia suggested this recipe from Pati Jinich as the dessert for our Mexican feast. It is called “impossible” chocoflan, because the two batters look like a mess when you put them into the oven, but when the flan comes out, the layers will have separated neatly as if by magic. (Similar recipes are called “torta magica” in Italy.)

The three layers are chocolate cake, vanilla flan, dulce de leche caramel sauce, topped with toasted pecans. The toasted pecans are essential for the flavor and texture, and you should add more than shown in my photo above (but the amount in my recipe is correct) as every bite should include a piece of pecan as well. This makes it strange that in Pati’s photo they are not shown. The combination of flavors is delicious and this is a fantastic dessert that everyone adored. If you haven’t decided on a dessert to prepare for the holidays, look no further, because this is it! It is not only delicious, but can also be prepared in advance and is relatively easy.

Compared to Pati’s recipe, I reduced the sugar in the chocolate cake by a lot. I first made it according to the recipe, and then the chocolate cake is way too sweet. A less sweet version makes for a more balanced and more interesting flavor. As usual with baking, it is better to measure the ingredients in grams rather than in cups and tablespoons.


For 12 servings

For the chocolate cake

90 grams (6 1/2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

65 grams (5 Tbsp) sugar

1 egg

90 grams (2/3 cup) cake flour

30 grams (1 oz) cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

125 ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk

pinch of salt

For the vanilla flan

300 grams sweetened condensed milk

250 grams evaporated milk (in the Netherlands: volle koffiemelk)

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

Remaining ingredients

about 250 ml (1 cup) dulce de leche

120 grams (12 Tbsp) toasted pecans

butter for greasing the ramekins


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. (Use the hot oven to toast the pecans for 8-10 minutes.)

Combine 1 egg with 65 grams sugar in the food processor.

Process until the sugar has dissolved.

Combine 30 grams cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and a pinch of salt in a bowl and stir to mix.

Add this mixture to the food processor, and process to incorporate.

Add the melted butter (make sure it has cooled enough so that it won’t cook the eggs).

Process to incorporate.

Add the buttermilk and process to incorporate.

Add the flour.

Process until the batter is smooth.

Grease the ramekins with butter and put them in an oven dish.

Pour boiling water into the oven dish until halfway up the ramekins. Put a generous tablespoon of dulce de leche in each ramekin.

Divide the chocolate batter amongst the ramekins.

Combine the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, and 3 eggs in the bowl of the food processor.

Process until smooth.

Divide the flan batter amongst the ramekins.

I actually added the boiling water at this point, but it is better to add it sooner so the dulce de leche won’t solidify as easily.

Cover the oven dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes at 180C/350F.

Check with a toothpick whether the cake and flan has set.

Take the ramekins out of the oven dish and allow them to cool completely. The chocoflans can be prepared ahead up until this point and refrigerated. Allow to come back to room temperature before serving.

To serve, run a knife around the ramekin to loosen the chocoflan.

Put a serving plate on each ramekin and turn it over. You may have to shake or tap a little to make the chocoflan fall down onto the plate.

Remove the ramekin.

Use a spoon to transfer any dulce de leche that has been left behind in the ramekin to the top of the chocoflan.

Top with toasted crumbled pecans (more than shown) and serve.

Wine pairing

This is great with a dessert wine with caramel notes in the flavor, like an aged moscatel from Spain.


These classic meat-filled cannelloni are delicious. There is some similarity to lasagna; the main difference is that for lasagna the meat is mixed with the tomatoes and for cannelloni the meat is in the pasta and the tomatoes outside of the pasta. Just like lasagna it is a bit of work, but worth it and it can be made ahead and just needs to be baked in the oven to serve.


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