Classic Spanish Flan

Yield: 6 individual crème caramel
Recipe: 141/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 194

   It has been more than a month that I have baked something from the cookbook. I recently made the now famous oatmeal and raisins cookies which I do once in a while, but no new recipe since early February. I blame it on the pandemic-altered space-time continuum. In any case, I finally gathered up ingredients that I had in my fridge to make the classic Spanish flan. This is a recipe that I have been delaying making for a while since I am usually not a fan of the texture of flans and custards in general. Alas, as part of the cookbook, I would have to make it one day or another for this long-term project of mine so I thought why not during the weekend while I have some time!

    As a result of what I call pandemic baking where most of my baking stuff is back home in Canada, I did not have the proper pots and pans to bake these flans (that sounds like a Dr. Seuss line). More specifically, I do not have ramekins here nor any similar-looking vessel that could replace it. I opted instead to go rogue and use a muffin pan to bake them. I realized too late, once the caramel had already been poured in the pan, that due to the size of the muffin pan I would not be able to place it in a larger pan surrounded by boiling water like is required for this recipe to obtain the classic velvety texture of the flan. Alas, at this point there was no going back so I decided to just roll with it and see how it turned out. Once the muffin tins were filled with the caramel and custard mixture, I put the whole pan in the oven as is without boiling water. I was definitely expecting to be disappointed by this bake, due purely to my lack of proper equipment.


  • ½ cup + ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups half-and-half (10%) or light cream (5%)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch ground cinnamon

    Unfortunately, I was not wrong. I opened the oven once in the middle of the bake and tried to forget what I saw. It looked like some mutant dessert was boiling away in my oven. I nonetheless continued to bake it and took it out when I thought it would be well-baked inside. I was very eager, and a bit wary, to unmold these flans. I had to wait a few hours of course, and the result was simultaneously what I had expected and not as bad.

   They definitely do not look very good and the outside of the flan looks positively revolting, kind of bumpy and like scramble eggs. This is not too surprising since it baked with the direct heat from the oven in a metal pan, not protected by a cushion of water. However, the caramel does look quite nice and the flans held up their shape pretty well. To my surprise they also tasted very good, as you would expect a properly-baked flan to taste like, and the texture inside was better than their outside appearance. Overall, this dessert would have been great if I had had my little ramekins, but I think I still managed pretty well and they are enjoyable regardless! You just have to not eat with your eyes, just this once. Success at pandemic baking, I’d say!


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease six 6-ounce ramekins and place them into a baking dish that comes up as high as the ramekins do.
  2. To prepare the caramel layer, pour 2 tablespoons of water into a saucepot and add ½ cup of the sugar and the lemon juice. Bring the sugar to a boil, without stirring. Boil the sugar until it caramelizes, about 4 minutes. As it cooks, occasionally brush down the sides of the pot with cool water. Carefully spoon this into the prepared ramekins and let cool for 15 minutes.
  3. To prepare the custard, whisk together the eggs with the remaining ⅓ cup of sugar. Whisk in the cream, vanilla extract and cinnamon. Pour this into the prepared ramekins. The cinnamon will likely float to the top.
  4. Pour boiling water around the ramekins so that the water comes at least halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the custards are set at the edges but still jiggle in the middle.
  5. Let the custards cool for 20 minutes in the pan, trans carefully remove the ramekins to cool to room temperature before chilling for at least 3 hours.
  6. To serve, run a knife or palette knife around the inside edge of each ramekin to loosen the custard. Place a plate overtop the ramekin and confidently invert. Lift away the ramekin and serve. The custards will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.