The chocoflan is the answer for dessert lovers who want to have their cake and flan too. A favorite at restaurants all over Dallas, this rich, layered concoction has two desserts in one: devil's food chocolate cake on the bottom, topped with a thick layer of flan. Slide your fork down and you get two tastes: moist, fudgy chocolate cake and cool, dense creamy custard.
Around town you can find chocoflan in all its two-layer glory at Komali in Uptown, Oak Cliff restaurants Mesa and El Corazon de Tejas, Ñustas Cafe in Arlington, Latin Deli in East Dallas, and Didi's Tamale Diner in Mesquite.
A cake this complex seems like a challenge to construct, requiring the skills of a top pastry chef.
But chocoflan turns out to be easy to make. It belongs to the "impossible" or "magic" cake family, along with its sibling, the impossible pie. They're impossible because you're dumbstruck by the results.
You throw the ingredients into a pan. As it bakes, the two parts magically divide. The flan sinks to the bottom; the cake rises to the top. What emerges is a sophisticated two-tiered dessert. (The impossible pie forms its own crust.)
Surpisingly, this exotic Latin confection is cousin to a category of desserts that became popular in the '50s and '60s, with names such as the chocolate upside-down cake, chocolate brownie pudding cake and hot water chocolate cake, all of which create a pudding-like sauce as they bake. But chocoflan has its own unique story.
"My mom used to do it in Mexico, and she learned it from her grandma," says Fernando Parrera, owner of Latin Deli in East Dallas. "It's common there. In Guanajuato, it's one of the desserts they do for funerals and holidays; it's a special-occasion dessert. It's easy to eat, it's not messy and it's easy to make."
Chef Abraham Salum does a stunning version at Komali that's authentically draped with cajeta sauce. "I've had chocoflan in Mexico several times when I've gone to visit my parents," he says. "There's a well-known bakery, El Globo, that's been around for 150 years. They do a killer chocoflan."
Peruvian restaurant Ñustas Cafe in Arlington was one of the first around Dallas to put it on the menu; Peru has its own signature flan, says Ñustas' Jean Gamarra.
"We call it crema volteada. Everybody makes it," Gamarra says. "It's more caramelized and without so much egg. In Peru, we also love German chocolate cake; it's the European influence. Peru has a large colony of German people. With the chocoflan, we try to blend in two different cultures."
There's even a company in North Richland Hills called The Impossible Cake Co. that is dedicated to the chocoflan and other similar cakes in different flavors. Owner Olga Aguilar began by making the cakes for restaurants; they're now sold at Central Market, Tom Thumb and coming soon to Kroger.
"I've been making flan since I was 19," she says. "I started with chocoflan because it wasn't in the market at the time. But I have an inventive palate. Whenever I taste something, I tweak it so it will be my version."
Her creative flavor combos include strawberry cake and vanilla flan, or pineapple cake and coconut flan. "They call it the magic cake, the miracle cake, and you can see why," she says.