To be completely honest, flan is one of those things that took time to grow on me. I was never really a fan until recently, and not a total devotee until one of my friends, who is an overall amazing cook of Puerto Rican delicacies, made a to-die-for flan for New Year’s Eve at my house. When me and my mother-in-law unwrapped this flan, I had this premonition that it would be the one that would forever solidify my undying amor for this dessert. Sitting quietly next to my also beloved arroz con gandules, this one wasn’t like others I’d seen, with glaring pock-mark-like air bubbles marring what could have been a beautiful surface, or caramel that had been cooked to long, lending its acrid taste to the custard. No, this one was so beautiful in appearance it was almost sinful. The custard had no blemishes and the caramel was a beautiful amber-brown. This flan was the flan to completely change my mind on flan forever, and became an object of my obsession. I’m sorry, no store-bought flan can do this traditional latin (and, of course, by extension, Cuban) dessert justice.
On my quest to recreate the perfect flan, I had grandiose plans of researching and researching, but real life got the best of me. So there I was, at 9pm on a Sunday night, in the midst of tying to get the little ones to bed, making flan for the first time. I picked the simplest recipe I saw to start, and figured I would work my way up from there. To my surprise, however, as I carefully flipped the flan over onto a plate the next morning, it looked beautiful (first surprise) and was perfectly creamy, caramely, and not-too-eggy. Just like the New Year’s Eve, this masterpiece was perfect. There would be no more searching (until of course I wanted to try the many other flan variations).
This is a perfect recipe to keep for those times when you need a dessert but don’t want to have to think too much about it. It’s ingredients are easy to remember, and you can easily keep them stashed on hand for flan emergencies. Also, for the record, I used dollar store brands for both my evaporated and my condensed milks and a leaky cake pan, and they had no negative effect on the outcome. So, cook this, you have no excuse!
Traditional Cuban Flan
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 13oz cans evaporated milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 pinch of salt
- large roasting or baking pan with high sides
- 9″ cake pan, or flan pan
- non-stick skillet
- wooden spoon
- large bowl for mixing
- plate for serving
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and prepare your cake (or other flan) pan.
2. Fill the large roasting pan or baking dish with hot water from your kitchen faucet, or other warm water source. Make sure that the water will come up about halfway on the cake pan.
3. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Pour 1 cup of the sugar in the warm pan.
4. Constantly stir the sugar until it is a perfect amber color, and has become caramel.
5. Quickly pour the caramel into the cake pan.
6. Crack eggs into the bowl and add all of the other ingredients. Combine them completely using a whisk, trying not to whip too much air into them.
7. Pour this mixture custard into the cake pan on top of the caramel. Place the cake pan in the water bath.
8. Place the water bath with the flan into the oven and Bake for about 45 minutes, checking every so often for doneness. I knew mine was done when I giggled the cake pan and it wasn’t liquid anymore.
9. Remove the flan from the oven and let cool in the refrigerator for an hour or overnight.
10. Once you are ready to serve, run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen the flan from the pan.
11. Place a plate or serving dish over the flan tightly, and invert the pan so the plate is now on the bottom. The flan should slide out, but if not, give it some gentle shakes.
12. Remove the pan from the flan.