Caramel Espresso Flan Cake

Happy New Year and welcome to the new blog! So, as much as I love The Sweet Art blog, which I've had since 2009, I decided it was a time for a change. It didn't help that there is a bakery in St Louis (that is incredibly delicious) that goes by the same name. Another issue was that I do want to expand on more than just desserts and sweet things.

Even though I primarily identify as American, I can never let go of my Indian heritage. Chai is one of the most quintessential Indian things that I absolutely love. As for the dumplings, I've officially wedded a Chinese-American who loves dumplings above all other foods. I used to think they were overrated until I had them at his home where his family rolled out the dumpling skins from scratch and produced the tastiest meatiest dumplings I've ever had. I now see what he's talking about. So to go hand in hand with a new adventure of mixing cultures and maybe attempting to learn Mandarin, I thought I'd try for a new blog, too, and shout out to Lauren Ver Hage who designed a kickass logo for me!

That being said, all the old posts will still be here and I'll still be running the whole thing, hopefully a lot more frequently than I have been (sorry, guys).

I like to use birthdays as an excuse to make something over the top, something I've hidden away to try but either due to time constraints or laziness, I simply never got around to it. This past birthday though, I made a real effort.

I went for one of my favorite blogger's recipes--It’s an espresso flan on top with a light buttery sponge cake on the bottom – both baked at the same time. The flan is added first, and when the sponge cake batter is spread over the top, it’s so light that it floats above the flan. When it’s baked, it leaves a magical hybrid layer in the middle.

As if that weren’t enough, a hidden caramel layer is spread along the bottom during baking. When the cake is flipped and served, the caramel slowly seeps past the flan and into the sponge cake over time. Indeed, the cake is better a day or two after it is made, but it’s well worth the wait.

It took a few bowls and some patience but I loved the finished product. I don't know that I'm rushing to make it again since it was so time consuming, but it's a great showstopper for a special occasion.

 The flan is smooth and soft, as an egg custard should be, while the cake is spongy and delicate. You won’t regret the time and effort put into this one. 

Caramel Espresso Flan Cake
Adapted from a recipe at Lady and Pups
8 servings

1 cup granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. water
1½ cups half and half
2 Tbsp. espresso powder
Pinch of cinnamon
6 egg yolks, divided
2 eggs
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
4½ Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. flour
¼ cup whole milk
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 egg whites

• Pour 1 inch water in a baking dish large enough to hold a 9-inch cake pan and place it in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch round cake pan and set aside.
• In a large saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil over medium heat without stirring. Cook until the sugar turns light brown, about 8 minutes, then remove from heat and swirl the pan gently until the caramel turns deep amber, 10 to 15 seconds.
• Set aside 2 to 3 tablespoons caramel and pour the remainder in the cake pan. Rotate the pan to evenly distribute the caramel on the bottom.
• Let the saucepan cool but do not wash it. Add the half and half, espresso powder and cinnamon and return the pot to the stove over medium heat. Bring to a bare simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon until the espresso powder is completely dissolved in the half and half, 5 to 8 minutes.
• In a mixing bowl, whisk 4 egg yolks, 2 eggs and the condensed milk together. Using a hand mixer, carefully pour the hot espresso cream into the egg mixture, beating on low to medium-low speed until combined. Pour into the prepared cake pan.
• Cut a long, 3-inch wide strip of parchment paper and lightly grease both sides. Line the top half of the cake pan above the flan layer with the parchment paper to prevent the cake layer from sticking (the flan will easily release from the pan).
• In a clean large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until it begins to bubble. Add the flour, whisk quickly until incorporated and remove from heat. Whisk in the milk and the brown sugar until the sugar melts. Let cool slightly, 2 to 4 minutes.
• Whisk in the remaining 2 egg yolks and the vanilla extract until the cake batter is thick and even. Set aside.
• In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on high speed to beat the egg whites to soft peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Add half the egg whites to the cake batter in the saucepan and whisk gently until combined. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
• Carefully pour the cake batter over the flan layer. It will appear to sink to the bottom, but it will rise back up since the batter is lighter than the custard. Smooth the top.
• Place the pan in the middle of the water-filled baking dish, return it to the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 340 degrees. Bake 50 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out completely clean.
• Let the cake cool 30 minutes. Gently remove the parchment paper and run a knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the flan. Place a large plate on top of the cake pan and quickly invert to remove it from the pan. (If any caramel sticks to the bottom of the cake pan, warm on the stove over low heat until it’s loose and pour it over the cake.) Warm and drizzle the reserved caramel over the top as well.
• Refrigerate uncovered 1 to 2 days for the cake to absorb the caramel. Serve chilled or at room temperature.