flan flop

1 a.m. Saturday, I texted Alex to say: “Being dragged to M Shanghai now. Flan was an inedible disaster. Will turn in cooking credentials now.”

Really people, it was that bad. My friend Molly took one look at it, pushed it away, and said, “I think I’ll skip this one. Sorry, Deb.” Jocelyn had one bite and pronounced that “This is the first thing that you have ever cooked that I actually didn’t like.” Darren smartly pretended he was too full from dinner to try it. And I nibbled on my spoonful, trying to figure out how something with such glorious flavors as rum, coconut, caramel and vanilla–from a batter that smelled so good, I wanted to wear it as perfume–could go so horribly awry. Oh, and then I drank some bourbon and forgot about it.

But it’s Sunday now, and I demand answers. To rewind, Jocelyn was making turkey tacos for dinner (which were delicious, by the way) and I wanted to make a flan for dessert. I scoured my cookbooks and cooking websites, deciding to (danger! danger!) combine two recipes to get what I desired, namely a dreamy coconut, caramel and rum flan with a real caramel layer on the bottom (or top, once you flipped it out of the pan).


To achieve this, I caramelized the half-cup of sugar that the recipe called for in the bottom of the pan, as instructed in a second recipe. I then swapped the quarter-cup caramel sauce (ech) for regular sugar. But I otherwise changed nothing, and the flan, it never set. At 1 hour, 15 minutes (the suggested cooking time) it was wiggly and loose. Ditto at 1 hour, 25 minutes, and every ten minutes after until well into the second hour, at which point I quit and brought it over anyway, if nothing other than to have a solid excuse for making them wait to eat dinner until 10 p.m. (I had had no such effect delaying their wine intake, and they were SO FUNNY when I arrived.)

The cab decimated any parts of the flan that had managed to firm up, leaving us with a final product, so utterly vile-appearing in a dessert dish (we had hope) there will be no pictures of it, ever. I don’t want you to lose your breakfast. But if I am ever to make flan again, and I’d really really like to, I want to know why a recipe that was loved by all of the people who successfully made it before me failed only me. Is it that big of a deal to create a caramel layer the sugar? (I’ve always figured the custard texture came from baking eggs with dairy.) Was there a better approach? Do you have a favorite flan recipe? Aren’t you glad I spared you the nauseating final photo? Let me answer that last one for you: believe me, you are.

flan batter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New here? You might want to check out the comment guidelines before chiming in.

80 comments on flan flop

  1. Jennifer L.

    I have to reply – mostly because I made my never fail, dead easy flan for dessert on Friday. I read your website often, and especially love the photos!

    I make it my flan with vanilla and lemon, and steam it in a huge wok for 45 minutes or so. You can also bake it – my recipe says 150 celcius (I have forgotten how to convert) for 40 minutes in a pan of water.
    This recipe came from my nanny several years ago, and we used it to teach my oldest about cracking eggs. You can sieve the mixture before pouring it the pan, so a few eggshells are fine!

    Leche Flan

    12 large eggs
    1 can condensed milk
    1 can evaporated milk
    1 tsp. vanilla
    grated peel from one lemon (optional)
    1 cup white sugar

    First melt the sugar in a pan until it carmelizes, and pour into the bottom of an 8″ round pan, spreading it evenly before it hardens.

    Next seperate 10 eggs, keeping only the yolks. Add in the last two whole eggs, and all the other ingredients. Whisk for a while. Sieve into pan.

    Once the middle has set, remove from the heat and let it sit for awhile. The longer the flan sits, the more of the caramel soaks in. Loosen the edges and invert onto a plate, keeping in mind that there will be caramel sauce splattering as you do this.
    Serve warm or cold, anytime. Eggs are a breakfast food, right?

    1-I didn’t sieve the last one I made, and found the lemon flavour a bit strong. It seemed better the next day, eaten cold.
    2-Using more than two whole eggs results in a firmer texture. My husband prefers it with three, but since I cook it . . .

  2. Sorry to hear of your failure – I do hope that you try again, because it sounds like a fabulous dish, from reading the recipes! As far as advice as to why they failed? Um … no clue, unfortunately. Sorry!

  3. Caramel Flan

    ¾ cup white sugar
    1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
    5 eggs
    1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
    1 (12 fluid oz) can evaporated milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    1. Preheat oven to 350F
    2. In a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, cook sugar, stirring, until golden. Pour into a 10 inch round baking dish, tilting to coat bottom and sides. Set aside.
    3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Beat in condensed and evaporated milk and vanilla until smooth. Pour into caramel coated pan. Line a roasting pan with a damp kitchen towel. Place baking dish on towel, inside roasting pan, and place roasting pan on oven rack. Fill roasting pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
    4. Bake in preheated oven 50 to 60 minutes, until center is just set. Cool one hour on wire rack, then chill in refrigerator 8 hours or overnight. To unmold, run a knife around edges of pan and invert on a rimmed serving platter.

  4. Jen

    Deb, first off I love your blog and have been reading for quite some time. Second – sorry about the flan. When I take mine out of the oven, it is jiggly, but a knife comes out just clean. I let it cool at room temp for a few hours and then chill it in the refrigerator for several hours. I have a photorecipe from days of yore here when I used to live near sea-level. Now, when I make flan in our current home it has to bake waaaay longer because of the altitude. Hope that helps and I’m sure your next try will be successful (always easier to achieve good results when not under time constraints). Good luck.

  5. c

    Sounds like your egg to liquid ratio was a little off. You might try again using an extra egg or two or using a little less of the flavoring agents.

    My big question, though, is: did you use individual ramekins as called for in the recipe? Since the recipe you were basing this on called for individual ramekins, they (theoretically, at least) could get away with a little less egg because of the great increase in edge-space. That is, each individual ramekin will set easier because the distance from the center to the edge is minimal. If you prepared the same recipe in a large pan, however, there is a much great distance between the edge and the center and your filling will take a much longer cooking time to set. This is a general rule that applies to most custards, as well as plenty of other things with egg in them.

    So, you were probably right on with your desire to combine two recipes — you should just try and combine the basic structure of a flan designed for a large pan with the awesome flavorings in this recipe designed for individual ramekins. Just a thought.

  6. c

    I just realized that, while I am a dedicated lurker, I don’t think I have commented before, so my comments came out sort of abrupt. Let me try again.

    Hi! I love your blog, it is a happy part of my daily Google Reader experience. I am but an enthusiastic amateur, but I guess I’ve logged my fair share of kitchen hours.

    I totally made Hello Dolly bars last night (so quick!) and, yes, they are crack. I will not hide the fact that I ate one for breakfast. Oh, and that tortillas de papas entry was great, too.

    So, now that I have introduced myself, let me offer some totally unprofessional advice on flan. It’s, uh, in that comment above ;)

  7. I have no suggestions, but I feel slightly better about my own failing. I too attempted to make creme caramel this week from a different recipe that promised to be dead simple, and it did not set. An hour beyond the recommended cooking time, I finally gave up. Plus, my custard cups are still being soaked in an attempt to get rid of the rock hard caramel layer.

    I’m usually pretty good at custard based things. Sigh. I’ll stick to creme brulee. Caramel and I don’t mix.

  8. first off i was so glad to see ‘last night’s dinner’ added to your blogroll. well, i’m not sure how long it’s been there – but – i think jennifer’s food is OUTSTANDING and i am in awe of what she cooks on a near daily basis. so as a fan of both of yours – that made me happy.

    i say re: the flan, deb, you gotta do a do-over to vindicate yourself, if only for the self satisfaction. i love flan so… i haven’t made it in years though. above there was a creamcheese version – i’ve made one like that too and as wonderful as it will be, i’m a fan of the more classic version myself.

    isn’t being human interesting? like sometimes we screw up?

  9. I have never made flan either, but I have to say I’ve made some flops too – like the upside down plum cake that was such an irreparable disaster, I was about to throw in the kitchen towel and quit while I was ahead. And remember that pie crust that I made and it was just sooooo not happening? I feel like sometimes things go awry – I’d try again though and see what happens!

  10. sassy

    i am also a dedicated lurker, having only commented once, if that?

    the thing i learned about flan is to temper the eggs – i guess it starts the chain reaction of setting up the protein from the egg into a structure of sorts, and this results in flan or the watery scrambled eggs-brain looking stuff you probably ate…

    the first time i made flan, i made it three times and the third time really worked. slowly increase the heat of the eggs by spooning it in slowly into the other warm ingredients – then put into warm water bath in oven, take out when wobbly, cool overnight – and you will have perfection!!

  11. momdgp

    Funny coincidence. My son asked me just this past evening to make some flan (it’s my 2 boys’ favorite dessert) so I whipped up a batch. It came out great despite almost burning the caramelized sugar; I forgot how fast it can burn and stepped away “just a few secs” to dig out the ring mold.

  12. I’ve been cooking a long, long time and still have occasional total failures. Just yesterday I ruined spaghetti squash. SPAGHETTI SQUASH! Perfect souffles and then all-mush spaghetti squash. It keeps one humble.

  13. Yesenia

    I have never made flan before – but I’ve made creme caramel a million times, and in my experience, its always best to make it in custard cups because the caramel sauce sticks to the cup and the custard that sticks to the cup alone is reason to live.
    It sounds like your flan was set but wasn’t given enough time to cool. I think it’s best to let them set overnight in the fridge, it takes a long time for the custard to cool all the way to the middle. If the photos were really that bad, I’m guessing that your custard was overcooked as well, overcooked custard is barfy.

    If I were going to do this recipe, I’d make caramel and pour it into custard cups like creme caramel and go from there. It doesn’t hurt to strain the mixture while you pour it into the cups. Keep in mind that when the custard is set its pretty jiggly.

  14. Wow, am I the only flan-hater here?

    Sorry I can’t offer any words of wisdom, but I’m glad to know that you too have recipe disasters.

    What an uplifting comment, eh?

  15. Sally

    Love the “dedicated lurker” thing – I am part of the group too :-)

    I’ve had this problem with flans a couple of times, very annoying. It also happened with my creme brullee once – it turned out that the creme brullee was a question of not allowing it to cool long enough – when I make it now, I do it one day before serving. Caramelize the top one hour before serving, stick them back in the fridge – that makes sure the surface underneath has a chance to get hard again in case the heat of the torch melted it down.

    the flan problem, though – I agree with the person who said you might have to adjust the recipe with an extra egg or two, as you were baking it in a larger container.

    I just wish you had posted some photos…. :-)

  16. Sorry it didn’t go well…I find nothing more frustrating than a dish that ultimately doesn’t come out how you intended it to.

    I don’t recall my flan recipe off the top of my head, but I have it at home and will try to get a post up on my blog some time sooner than later (e.g. within a week or so). Its simple and has never given me any trouble…my vague recollection of it is 6 eggs, 1 can evaporated milk, 1 cup sugar (in the batter), 1 cup carmellized sugar set in the pan, and then a handful of spices to bring it all together. If I recall, caramelizing the sugar takes about 10-15 minutes, and I then let that sit in the fridge to harden while getting everything else ready, and then everything is baked together in a water bath for about an hour or so.

    Oh, and another great opportunity for flan disappointment: eating the flan without letting it fully cool off long enough…it will taste like a bizarre omelette.

  17. lemongrass

    I feel your pain on the flan disaster, but it’s good to know even you mess up sometimes! I agree with the comments about adding more eggs. Once you perfect the recipe (as I am sure you will) please do share it! It sounds like it would be fabulous. My most colossal cooking disaster was a squash soup. I’m not sure what went so horribly wrong but even my garbage disposal, I mean husband, wouldn’t eat it. *Sigh* It went into the compost bin.

  18. Jenni

    I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but I did notice that most of the flan recipes don’t have any sugar in the actual flan, only on the bottom/top. Other than that, I’m with the individual ramekin theory.

  19. Hey,
    Long time lurker, first time poster. If I were going to take a stab at why your flan failed, I’d say that getting rid of the commercial caramel topping was your fatal flaw. Most commercial products are going to have some kind of stabilizer in them (gelatin or gum), and I’m guessing that the recipe was counting on that (either that, or there might not be a 1:1 correspondence between the amt of sugar in the caramel product and the amount of sugar you added). Since the custard wasn’t cooked except in the bath, is it possible that the rum messed things up (and hence required a stabilizer in the form of the commercial caramel)?
    Anyway, love the blog, and I’m planning on trying your galette recipes in the near future.

  20. Jen

    I made a coconut flan last spring that turned out pretty well. I cobbled it together out of two recipes, as well. Here’s my version, cut and pasted from my blog:

    1 can of light coconut milk
    1/2 c milk
    4 eggs
    1/2 c + 1/3c sugar (you’ll use them separately)
    bit of dark rum

    Preheat your oven to 325 F.

    First, make the caramel. Put 1/2 c of sugar in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar melts, stirring frequently. Let it brown to a medium color, and pour into your pie dish. You’re supposed to swirl it around, but I wasn’t fast enough and it pretty much stuck where it was. No big deal. Just be sure to NEVER EVER touch hot sugar. Unless you’re not interested in keeping your fingertips, leave it be.

    In a bowl, whisk together four eggs, 1/3 c sugar, and your bit of rum. I had all of a tablespoon left in a nip bottle I bought years ago to make coconut cake, I think, so I just used that. Whisk until most of your sugar has dissolved.

    Measure out 1 1/2 c of coconut milk (most of your can) and add to a saucepan with a 1/2 c of regular milk. Bring to just a boil, and add just a little to your eggs to temper them, whisking away. Add the rest in a steady stream, constantly whisking. Pour into your pie dish.

    Set your pie dish in a roasting pan or deep baking sheet, and pour hot water into that pan, so it comes up halfway on your pie dish. This is called a water bath.

    Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Carefully remove from the oven, and then remove from hot water bath. Allow to cool completely before you pop it in the fridge. Let it chill in there at least a couple of hours. To invert, just loosen the edges with a butter knife, pop your serving dish on top, and flip over. The caramel is liquid, so it’ll all just slide right out. Serve with whatever caramel is left in the dish–I used a spatula to just take it out.Â

  21. My comment’s not all that constructive or helpful in the department of flan. I just wanted to say that I’m tickled by your creation of a category entitled “disasters”. To me, it’s an important category and you’re wise to add it. What sets food blogs most significally apart from cookbooks is their ability to reflect on the recipes that didn’t turn out well at all – that’s where the real value lies. Thanks for sharing your disasters as well as your successes!

  22. Funny, isn’t it — several people have written to tell me that their favorite category on my blog is the one labeled “kitchen disasters.” I guess it’s comforting for people to know that they’re not alone; it happens to EVERYONE — except, of course, for those pitiable souls who exist primarily on takeout. Deb, you always make such gorgeous, inspiring food. This too will come out well on the next try — and I know everyone hopes there will be a next try.

    I’ve actually made a fair number of flans and creme caramels in my time, mostly without too much mishap. But then, I’ve never tried coconut milk, which may or may not behave exactly the same way as dairy. I’m also thinking about the ratio of liquid to egg yolk as part of the problem. I agree with c that what could work in the smaller ramekins might not work well in the larger pan — and even in the original recipe, it’s an unusually long baking time for individual flans, probably because it’s not a very stable custard. I would also suggest using whole eggs next time. The custard is never quite as ethereal as one made with just yolks, but it tends to be far more stable, and have better setting properties. Jen’s ratios in comment #24 sound good.

    The combination of ingredients sounds so damn delicious, I may just try it out myself. I’m sure I would have done as you did on a first go-round, so thanks for the public service of posting your cautionary tale.

  23. PaulM

    I like Daisy Martinez’s recipe.Very simple.

    Daisy Cooks! Flan

    Carmelize 1 cup sugar with 2 T. water, pour in 10 inch pie pan or ramekins.

    Blend 1 can each evap milk, eagle brand milk, nestle’s media crema, 3 eggs, 3 yolks, 1 T. vanilla.
    Add to pie pan.

    Bake in bain marie 35-45 min at 350 degrees.

    Chill 3 hours

  24. Rhi

    This is my no fail easy recipe for flan.
    I make it pretty often, and it hasn’t failed me yet. I’ve never added the cinnamon, nutmeg or salt.



    5 large eggs
    1 can of evaporated milk
    1 can of condensed milk
    3/4 cup of sugar
    1/4 cup of water
    2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
    pinch of nutmeg
    pinch of cinnamon
    pinch of salt


    1- Mix the sugar and water together in a heavy saucepan. Heat over medium-hi heat, without stirring, (only swishing, if necessary) until the syrup is melted and golden in color. (Large bubbles will form right before the syrup is ready). Remove immediately from heat and…

    2- Coat a 2 1/2 quart casserole with the sugar syrup and let it harden (about 10 minutes).

    3- Add the remaining ingredients to a blender and blend approx. 30 seconds. You may do this in two steps if necessary.

    4- Pour this into the casserole.

    5- Place the casserole into a larger rectangular pan that is at least 2 inches deep. Place both of these into an oven that’s been preheated to 350 degrees (F).

    6- Pour hot water into the larger pan to within 1/2 inch of the top of the casserole.

    7- Bake for approximately one hour, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the flan.

    8- Let cool. Refrigerate.

    9- When ready to serve, invert the flan onto a serving platter or plate. The caramel syrup will cover the flan.

    Keep refrigerated. May be served at room temperature.

  25. I dont have any advice for you as I have never made flan, thought with delicate things like custard and flan, its probably something you did/didnt do with the milk. Who knows.

    How did you manage to take that pic of the sugar? It is hands down the best photo I have seen this month. Congrats! At least something was a success.

  26. Miki

    I’m not really a dedicated lurker but I thought maybe we could all benefit and get back to the basics with flan. This is how I learned to make it the other day…
    Caramel –
    150g granulated sugar
    40g water

    70g cream
    265g milk
    1/2 vanilla bean
    2 eggs
    1 egg yolk
    85g of sugar

    first make the caramel by melting the sugar a few spoonfuls at a time in a saucepan, mixing the liquid sugar with the sugar solids until all of it is dissolved. When the caramel is close to the desired color take it off the heat, put a strainer over the pan and pour in the water in 2 or 3 parts (hot caramel may splatter everywhere without the strainer ouch!) Spoon the hot caramel mixture into cups (which I put into a tray with a damp paper towel so all the cups didnt move about) then the whole thing into the fridge so the caramel sets while making the custard.

    Preheat your oven to 100 degrees celsius… boiling… so thats 212F right…?

    To make the custard combine milk, cream and vanilla bean (split down the center and such) and bring to a boil over (medium heat?-i dont pay attention to these parts too much). Just to that point where the mixture bubbles up and looks like it might overflow if ur pot is too small :P Take off the heat. While youre waiting for the milk to do its thing mix up the eggs, yolk and sugar in a large bowl (big enough to accomodate the milk mixture) well, for a minute or two. When the milks done whisk it into the eggs, (a little at a time to temper the mixture- ya know the deal) and take this entire custard mixture and strain into something else to make sure you dont have any lumps and also to take out the vanilla. Then while mixing your mixture a bit ( to make sure everyone gets some vanilla :D) pour it into the cups in the tray. to get rid of those bubbles on top torch them with a blow torch for a split second and they disappear (but if u have a torch u might as well make creme brulee right…) or you can spritz your bubbles with some rubbing alcohol, and they will disappear that way too. Have some boiling water ready … put the tray into the oven and fill it up about half way with the hot water (yes that paper towel is still in there). Bake for about 30 min or until the center is set. (my cups were plastic & 1/3 of a cup in size so I could pick them up and shake them. if they jiggle like those cut out jello shapes, youre pretty good i think) let cool and refrigerate overnight if you have the time. After a few hours the caramel starts melting from some of the liquids that come out of the flan and does the lovely caramel thing when you flip it over onto a plate.

    so… if a 1/3c of flan takes 30 min to bake… how big was yours…. ?

  27. Just my two cents… last time I had something like that I tented it with aluminum foil, put it back for a half hour on the regular heat setting, then pulled it out. Left it tented until serving time and it turned out fine.

  28. Hi There:

    I discovered your website a couple of months ago via another person’s blog and I absolutely LOVE it!! I have made many of your recipes and everything has turned out wonderful and quite delicious. I now tell all of my friends to check your website for interesting, tasty recipes. In regards to the flan, I see many of your readers have sent you lots of variations so I must send you a link to a great flan recipe a friend of mine made recently. I don’t even like flan but I loved this version. Here is the link:,,FOOD_9936_19993,00.html
    Thanks for all the great recipes Deb!!

  29. Flan schman. you’ll get it right next go-round.

    Hell, I’ve screwed up tapioca. Minute tapioca. Same problem … it refused to set. I blamed the phase of the moon.

  30. as an inexperienced “cook” (and yet, one who tries new things a lot), thank you for sharing your successes and your failures. it irritates me to spend the time and the money on something, only to have it turn out half-decent or ruined. i am glad to hear even the most talented home cooks have trouble too!

  31. Mandah

    I had my own mishap this weekend with some Parmesan Catfish that my son specifically requested. I am blaming it on the fact that I had come down with a cold (you can borrow that if you’d like). In any case, I have yet to attempt flan – a friend from Argentina scared me away from it awhile back. But I was happy to see you got to go to M Shanghai – the restaurant or the band? Love the band. Love.

  32. Hi Deb – so sorry to hear about your flan flop, what a drag! I think it must have something to do with the surface area being greater in the small ramekins. There is a lot of liquid in that recipe, if you doubled the eggs you might be able to make it work in the larger pan. You could also swap out some condensed milk for some of the sugar and cream, that would help it firm up.

    I am coming to NYC this week for the Gourmet Institute and I am so excited! I have gotten a few ideas for places to go off of your site. So many places, so little time!

  33. Sorry to hear about the flop. You know, sometimes the flops tastes better than the real deal, like a fluffy cake that turn out mushy. Guess your flan didn’t fall into that category. Get to it again.

  34. Kristin

    Hi, I just had to comment.

    I hate flan. Despise it. Something about it – the texture, flavors, whatever – makes me just gag.

    But then I tried this flan. My dad’s girlfriend made it and I always taste anything anyone has made just to be polite. And I ate 3 pieces! It is the most delicious flan I’ve ever tasted. And I HATE flan.

    The recipe is from Southern Living Magazine.

    Tres Leches Flan

    Prep: 20 min., Cook: 7 min., Bake: 1 hr., Chill: 8 hrs.

    1/2 cup sugar
    1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
    2 large eggs, at room temperature
    2 egg yolks, at room temperature
    1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
    1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
    1 1/2 cups milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Hot water (170° to 175°)

    1. Cook sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 5 to 7 minutes or until melted and medium-brown in color. Quickly pour into a 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch sides. Using oven mitts, tilt cake pan to evenly coat bottom and seal edges.
    2. Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer in a large bowl 1 minute. (Do not overbeat.) Reduce speed to low; add eggs and egg yolks, and beat until well blended. Add sweetened condensed milk and next 3 ingredients, beating at low speed 1 minute. (Mixture should not be foamy and may be slightly lumpy.) Pour milk mixture over sugar in pan. Place cake pan in a roasting pan; add hot water halfway up sides of cake pan.

    3. Bake at 325° for 1 hour or until edges are set. (The middle will not be set.) Remove from oven; remove cake pan from water, and place on a wire rack. Let cool completely. Cover and chill at least 8 hours. Run a knife around edges to loosen, and invert onto a serving platter.

    Note: The flan will continue to set as it cools and will set completely when it is chilled.

    Makes 8 servings

    Southern Living, NOVEMBER 2006

    I’ve made it myself now 5 times and get rave reviews everytime. Good luck! I love your website. You’ve inspired me to cook at least 3 meals a week now.

  35. Sarah

    I have never attempted flan, and I’m new to the smitten kitchen! I made a carrot soup once that was SO horrible that my then new boyfirend (now husband) confessed later that he was worried that I was as bad of a cook as him, and his most recent ex. However, I redeemed myself by making macarnoni and cheese (pulled out of my proverbial a**), and was hailed as the most perfect new girlfriend ever. I think at Apple one of their main motto’s if you don’t fail, you’re not trying.

  36. I am sorry that I do not have time to read all the comments but I will say this:

    custards that will only emulsify (bake) in the oven — their batters (appareil in French) should be made 18-24 hours before they go in the oven. This goes for pot de creme, flan, creme caramel, creme brulee etc.

    Flan might never look completely set in the oven. it is supposed to be somewaht jiggly.

    Flans do better if they have sat in the fridge for 24 hours before eating. this gives the custard time to marry and settle. you will get more caramel, for example, the longer it sits in the fridge.

    if you need better explanations– give me a call!

  37. Sounds like some of my bombs. The worst is the pumpkin bread I was so excited about. We ended up giving it to the dog. Then the dog wouldn’t touch it.

    Then the second dog -a puppy who eats everything, including the crotch of my clothes – wouldn’t touch it! My boyfriend threw it outside. A week later he was laughing hysterically because the puppy chose it as a play toy and kept tossing it around the yard like a football. It never collapsed or tore apart (Scary, right?) The older dog got tired of seeing him having so much fun with it after awhile, and then went and buried it! He guarded the burial hole and growled when the puppy came to dig it back up.

    My poor pumpkin bread =(

  38. Lisa

    I have a whole other take on your flan disappointment….I live in Manhattan, am avid and much-requested cook, have few failures….BUT I am telling you, it was the cab ride that did you in. Every time I have made a great dessert at my place and get in cab….it is a failure by the time I get there. The few exceptions might be when the dessert is a hearty cake or maybe cobbler. ESPECIALLY if you have finished it relatively close to when you have to arrive. You cover a dish (so as not to get city grit in), which adds even a small amount of heat, the shaking….everytime it is a problem. I now either entertain at home, bring something other than dessert, or partly make the dish and finish it there.

  39. sulaih

    hello all!

    Paul thank you so much for Daisy’s recipe. I saw that episode and tried to later get the recipe on her website, but it wasn’t available. I can’t believe I found it here!! I am thrilled and can’t wait to get in the kitchen and see how it turns out. I’m mostly interested in seeing how the “media crema” alters the flan’s flavor. Thanks again!

  40. Rachel

    Ok, so I know this post is a year old but I absolutely adore flan and surprising nailed it on my first try. I went to Spain several years ago and had flan at a little restaurant near our hotel. I was smitten! Since then, I have tried flan at every restaurant possible from the hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint to the finest Spanish restaurants in Kansas City…not one came close to Spain. Finally, I decided to try making it myself.

    I used the recipe from The Joy of Cooking. I know that it may seem a bit amateur, but Joy is the first place I look when making something for the first time. I don’t always follow the recipe, but I do read about the dish and get a general idea. With the flan though, I followed the recipe to a tee. It turned out beautifully; as close to Spain as it can get, I think.

  41. Aparna Somani

    hi. can u show me a pic of “evaporated milk”
    we dont get it here , i think i know what it is and can substitute but need to be sure

  42. Hi,

    I don not have a pic right now. So I went to Wikipedia and found: Evaporated milk is fresh, homogenized milk from which 60 percent of the water has been removed. After the water have been removed, the product is chilled, fortified with vitamins, stabilized, packaged and sterilized. A slightly caramelized flavor results from the high heat process, and it is slightly darker in color than fresh milk. The evaporation process also concentrates the nutrients and the food energy. Thus, for the same weight, undiluted evaporated milk contains more food energy than fresh milk.

    Just Google for images for evaporated milk. I use the Carnation brand (from Nestle), but you know, brands change with the market. As soon as I got an image, I’ll post it.


  43. Fran Cohen

    I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years now, though I’ve never commented. I got to thinking that there are probably MANY MANY people around the world, like me, who you never hear from, but who think of you as a friend and really wish you well. Your site is wonderful. I hope you never tire of it.


  44. Ivy

    Ok so I’m not sure if this has been mentioned because I just skimmed the comments but to the person who said that she made the caramel in another pot and then transfered it over to her pie dish and said it set too quickly – I would suggest putting the pie pan in the oven first so it’s nice and hot and won’t cool the caramel.

    Secondly I would like to point out that most of those steps commented are a little bit much. I’ve always just put 1 can of evaporated milk, 1 can of condensed milk, 6 eggs, 1 cup of sugar, and 2 tablespoons of vanilla into a blender and then pour it into the pan with the caramel and stick it in the oven.

    And I’m not sure about where you are from but where I’m from that is flan. Adding any other flavors or ingredients automatically makes it “flan de _____” for example adding cream cheese would make it “flan de queso” or coconut would make it “flan de coco” but of course the names of things change from region to region.

    Also a really good trick to do around the holidays is to add one cup of the pumkin pie mix from a can (the one you have to add an egg and milk to) and it tastes like the perfect combination of pumkin pie and flan…. oh so yummy! and that would be called “flan de calabasa”

    ok so I know that this post is old and the comment is long but I thought I would clear up some things that might be easier for some people. Everyone has their own way of doing things so I thought I would put mine up in case it’s easier for someone else. GB!!!

  45. I’ve skimmed the comments here, so I’m not sure who I’m repeating (but I’m more likely than not repeating SOMEone) but I agree with Ivy right above me: I don’t think flan is one of those dishes you want to fancy up too much. The ingredient list should be simple and to the point. Egg yolks, milk (condensed and evaporated), vanilla, sugar and water. One of my mother’s legendary desserts is her flan, and it’s the simplest thing to make. A caramel base poured into the baking dish, and a custard that’s thrown together in a blender. (My mother might have the same recipe as you, Ivy.) This is heaven. And I feel bad, because I actually don’t have the exact recipe in front of me. It’s one of those dishes that I feel if my mother doesn’t make it, it can’t exist. As soon as I remember to ask her for it I’ll post it here, or on my own little blog! =)

  46. Tested

    Would be very interested in you revisiting this topic. After many cycles of aversion & flops, the creme caramel by America’s Test Kitchen did work. While it is a fussy recipe, the efforts resulted in a delicate delight. Following every step for one large dessert, I made it at night, chilled overnight & served the next day. Meanwhile, flan from a can (or technically two) seems to be the go-to approach for something more consistent & reliable. That said, they always seem much too sweet. Overall, a good topic to explore… thanks.

  47. Daniella

    Okay so this is the Cuban version of flan I’ve always known. My grandmother’s recipe pretty much follows Jennifer L.’s, but has a few changes. Instead of 12 eggs my grandmother uses 10. After that she blends together the can of condensed milk, evaporated milk, vanilla, and 8 oz. of cream cheese. The sugar then follows. (she doesn’t measure anything, and I’ve learned to make it without measuring either, but I would say about half a cup) After that she makes the caramel, like you did, let’s it cool, and pours the filling. She places the dish in a large pan filled with water so that it comes up about halfway or more to the side of the dish. (known as “Baño Maria”) Then she bakes it for about an hour at 350 degrees.

    Like Ivy said above, flan is so simple to make, and really only needs about 5 ingredients. Hope this helped!

  48. julidoodle

    What I love about this entry is the rich and varied commentary that follows from people who love your ideas and your cooking!!
    I may be making my very first flan this weekend, so I am soaking up the recommendations. What pan (shape, size) to use, how to set up the bain marie, letting the caramel cool before adding the batter,…
    Good stuff!

  49. Vero

    Why Flan fails: Is typically about the water bath. Specifically, the amount of water & the water’s initial temperature. If you use water that is much colder than 180 F, it may take a very long time for the water in the bath to heat up and the flan will take hours to set. With the oven at 350 F, it eventually will, but may take hours. Think how long takes to bring water for pasta to a boil on the stove top. And that is with direct heat! The heat capacity of water is HUGE.

    The effect is even worse if you use a very large water bath, both because the water mass to heat up is larger and because the depth of the flan under water is higher. The top of the flan may be exposed to the oven’s air at 350 F, but the flan’s sides, immersed in the water bath, are actually being “cooled” by the water.

    If the water is hot enough, you should see very small steam bubbles forming all over the bottom of the water pan after a few minutes in the oven.
    I followed once a recipe that asked for the oven to be set at 250 F. In theory, that’s still over boiling T, so it should be fine. The bath’s initial temperature was 160 F. An hour later, it was only ~ 178! The flan never set, even after 90+ minutes. I got tired and set the oven at 350 F and the flan set in 20 minutes. But without the initial pre-cooking it might take 60 min or so.

    Love the blog!

  50. Song

    Hi Deb,
    I hope someday you try it again, another recipe. I was determined to make a flan tonight(since our chickens are producing ever so many eggs, and I have to do something with them!) but since you don’t have a recipe that works for you, I will skip it. I have had such good luck and fun with everything I’ve made from your site, and had so so many fails from using other recipe sites, that I think it better to find a custard or something else eggy from your site than to risk it ‘out there’.
    Thank you for re-awakening my love of cooking.

  51. Jennifer

    Love your blog. I am experiencing the exact same situation as I type this. After 60-70 min, the flan is nowhere near to being set. I didn’t know if using the blender to mix versus hand mixing could have done something to the egg (doubt it after reading a ton of other recipes that recommend it). I think I found the solution. I removed the foil off the flan and made it into a small disc that fit lightly over the top (kind of like covering pie crust edges while baking). I upped the temp on the oven to 360. 10 mins later I saw a huge difference. My theory is the way I had wrapped the foil on was trapping too much moisture in the flan and not learning it breathe enough during baking? It’s almost completely set up now, but the final end results are still questionable. :)
    Recipe I used:
    1 can condensed milk
    1 can sweetened condensed milk
    5 large eggs
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/4 tsp salt

    Caramel: 1 cup of sugar, melted

  52. Jennifer

    Ugh…it’s the water bath temp. I put boiling water in the outer casserole at the beginning. When I pulled the flan out (still not done), water bath temp was at 185.

  53. Lissa

    No Flop Flan: Our favorite flan recipe is tweaked from Rick Bayless’s Authentic Mexican, p.281. Reducing the milk is key to getting the texture we like. (We reduce 1 1/2 qts whole milk to 1 qt, and use 8 whole eggs.) Making the caramel in the microwave (Shirley Corriher’s Cookwise, p. 425) makes it Way Easy. We also cook it in individual pyrex dishes, which is faster and makes the flans easier to eat on the fly!

  54. Victoria

    Ha! I had a terrible flan flop last night! I was determined to make it work because it was Cinco de Mayo…so after 2 hours it finally came out of the oven so it could start cooling. After 3 bites, the entire batch went into the trash. This morning I am even more determined to get it right…so I jumped on your site hoping you would have an amazing recipe. Your post made me laugh and I has helped me walk away from it.

  55. I have made choco flan many times and it has become a favorite of family and friends so when I was asked to make it for a group of 100 it never occurred to me that it might flop as it has never been an issue in the past. Whoops! I live in an high altitude and it was a very rainy day. Defiantly not the day to make flan. After the third cake of liquid mush I moved on and changed to a 5 layered mousse and called it good. Some times you must cut your losses and try again another day.

  56. Shesha

    The southern cone of South America has a fail safe flan recipe. 2 cans sweet and condensed milk into in a bowl, add 6 large to extra large eggs. Refil your sweet and condensed milk cans with regular milk and dump it into the bowl. Add a generous tsp of vanilla. Blend with an immersion blender or regular blender. In a sauce pan melt 2/3 c of sugar. Don’t stir. Don’t add water. Just shake the sauce pan when necessary to move the sugar around until it’s all melted. Pour into a bundt pan or angel food cake pan and try to coat the bottoms, middle and bottom sides up a a couple to few inches. Don’t worry about this part too much. Pour in your flan. Put in a water bath (I use a pie plate) and bake 55-70 mins at 325. It should jiggle akin to pecan pie in the center when you take it out. Leave it to cool at least 6 hours in the fridge before flipping it out. If the center is too soft adjust your cooking time the next time, if the texture is rubbery or is no longer smooth it’s been over cooked, a you’ve maybe already found a flan recipe you love since this post is old but this is a flan to try no matter what! Can be adjusted to be egg nog flan, or coconut or dulce de leche etc once you’re used to the regular. My favorite it making it into a coconut flan with plum sauce.

  57. Annice

    I have just had a flan flop too. I have not read all the posts above so forgive if this is repetitive. Creme caramel/flan seem to work for some who use only yolks, seems to work for others if they use whole eggs and some use whole eggs with added yolks. I only used yolks…it was a flop. I will use individual ramekins next time. Will try whole eggs plus yolks and less sugar. I too could not take a picture.

  58. Taimy

    I had been making flan a few times already – or more. ;) -. People seem to like them but being a perfectionist freak myself I usually end up disappointed. I haven’t achieved the perfect flan yet. My favorite flans so far are vanilla and coconut. I do pumpkin flan too which my daughter loves. I tried orange flan but failed horribly. I will try again soon. In the future I will love to try new flan flavors like cheese, coffee or chocolate. I want to become a flan expert some day. Lol

  59. C

    I made the Cook’s Illustrated Latin flan (Nov 2014 issue, I think), and it worked well. Someone told me it was the best flan she’d ever had. I didn’t get all of the caramel out of the pan, but otherwise no complaints–it definitely set up well.


    I tried to make a flan last night and it was a horrible flop! I just came to visit your site to see if you’ve made one that I could try and found this post. Ha! Did you try again?

  61. Vanessa Kishun

    Hey everyone! Would you guys happen to know if I am able to flip my flan the next day? I made a cream cheese based flan. With caramel top of course?

  62. Sonia

    Hi Deb, please help! Just made the olive oil shortbread with rosemary and it did not turn out at all. I have gone over the recipe 3 times and all my measuring has been correct. There is not enough moisture in 1/2 cup of olive oil for all the dry stuff so mine was very crumbly, I baked it anyways. It looks like and tast like roasted flour in olive oil! What went wrong?

  63. Alice

    This comment is really just a “vent”. I am constantly annoyed by people (like one who responded in the comments section here) who confuse
    evaporated milk
    condensed milk
    sweetened condensed milk

    Evaporated milk and condensed milk are the same thing … the milk is condensed by letting water evaporate from it. Sweetened condensed milk (notably, for many years available ONLY as Eagle Brand) is an entirely different animal!!!!! Get it right, please!

  64. Linda Grimes

    Hi Deb,

    I know this is an old post, but it popped up this morning in the “surprise me” and since I just made flan last week-end I thought I’d make a comment. We had friends over and made a paella, so flan was definitely a must for dessert. The best flan recipe I’ve found is The Perfect Flan from Epicurious. Have been making it for years and it’s delicious. It’s classic flan, not flavored, so that might not be what you’re looking for. The recipe does not use evaporated or condensed milk, but rather whipping cream and whole milk. I make it in individual ramekins…it should make 6 or 7 depending on the size of your dishes. Actually, there’s one left in the fridge…think that would go well with my morning coffee!

    Love your website and your humor…AND your recipes!

  65. Mayim

    When I lived in France for a year, I ordered crème caramel whenever I saw it on a menu. That wasn’t an option when I came home. First try was from the then-new edition of the Fannie Farmer cookbook and it was a success. I’ve used that recipe ever since. Caramelize sugar in a stainless steel skillet, quickly pour it into an oven-safe baking dish (I use a soufflé dish with an unglazed bottom), and pour egg and warm milk custard mix over that. Bake in a bain-marie at 350°F, uncovered. Cool, then refrigerate it overnight. Water from the custard slowly melts the caramelized sugar, making your caramel sauce. I’ve offered it up as flan and no one disagrees.