Flan, Improved

I hate flan. There, I said it.

I don’t know how I survived two summers in Spain, completely surrounded by flan-lovers. (Fortunately, there were also churros and chocolate.) Actually, my Puerto Rican relatives liked flan, too. And although that veritable chronicle of Latin cuisine, Cook’s Illustrated, assures me that Caribbean flan is better, to me they are one big wet eggy mess and you can keep them and your crème brulée, too.

I’ll rant about Cook’s “Latin American” flan thing another time.

It would not have occured to me that I needed to make flan, until I saw this recipe in The New York Times. Probably it was its un-flan-ness that caught me: this is really just a vanilla cake with chocolate pudding on top, but it is built with flan technology: condensed milk and evaporated milk.

Even though it’s in two parts, the cake is actually quite easy to make (especially since you don’t have to create any kind of custard, courtesy of the canned milks). The only problem I had was that I couldn’t get it out of the mold after it cooled. Possibly this was due to not having any cooking spray as specified, even though I cooked it in a non-stick Bundt pan wiped with canola oil. So be forewarned. I almost served it with an ice-cream scoop, but that wouldn’t have been quite big enough to ensure cake-plus-pudding in every serving. If yours won’t leave the mold, slice it and pry out one piece any way that you can. It will be a wreck. You can’t serve a mess to guests, so you will have to consume it, sharing it with those around you who you like best.

My family loved this. So did I—which proves beyond a doubt that this is not flan. But you can call it whatever you like. Maybe calling it flan is more exotic than “cake with pudding topping.” Maybe for some of you it brings happy associations. Maybe I’ll call it flan and think about my summers with my grandparents.

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