On encountering this delicious dessert for the first time one would be intrigued how a layer of leche flan, or caramel custard, managed to land on top of a chiffon cake. It might look complicated but it’s actually quite simple to make this truly unique and luscious cake.
Leche flan caramel custard chiffon cake can be made ahead of time as it needs to chill in the fridge overnight before the cake is turned out of the pan. It’s great as you can make it a day or two before you plan to serve it.
Caramel syrup gives a nice amber color on the custard. The custard takes the place of traditional frosting on the light and fluffy chiffon cake.
Once the cake is removed from the pan the caramel syrup will skim over the custard and cascade onto the cake, giving a glassy effect to the custard and adding to the lushness of the chiffon cake. I made a couple more cakes since my glass tube pan intrigued me no end.
You can either bake everything in one tube pan or divide the batter among several glass oven-proof pyrex dishes, if you prefer. An 8-inch cake pan will also work so long as it’s no deeper than 2.5 inches; then bake any excess in small individual glass dishes.
The custard and the cake have to be done at the same time so a pan or dish as deep as 3 inches needs a tube in the center to help the custard set. It should be a one-piece tube pan and not the type that has a removable bottom.
Here’s a view from the top.
Place the rack on the lowest level just above the heating element and bake the cake in a water bath or bain marie.
Following is an outline of the steps to making this caramel custard chiffon cake.
There are three parts to this caramel custard chiffon cake: the caramel syrup, the custard and the chiffon cake.
Caramel syrup. A syrup that’s so simple to make, all you need to do is place sugar and water in a small sauce pot. Don’t stir. Turn the heat to medium high and wait for the sugar to dissolve and turn a light golden amber. Pour the syrup into your pan (or pans if using small ones) and swirl immediately before it hardens to completely coat the surface.
Custard. Involves merely whisking two kinds of milk and eggs in a bowl.
Chiffon cake. The first part is the base that’s made of egg yolks whisked with sugar, water, lemon juice, light vegetable oil, vanilla extract, cake flour, baking powder and salt. The second part is the meringue made of egg whites whipped with sugar and cream of tartar. The meringue is then folded into the base so you have a light and fluffy batter.
Baking pan. I wanted to bake all of the batter in one baking pan so I used a fairly deep tube pan. I didn’t grease the pan as the chiffon cake, once it’s completely cool, will naturally retract from the sides of the pan. Again, you can divide the batter among several shallow dishes or pans if you prefer.
Water bath or bain marie. The cake is baked in a water bath on the lowest level of the oven just above the heating element. Pour enough water so that it reaches to around the same height as the custard.
Bake time and temperature. The cake baked in the tube pan took about 55 minutes at 350°F. If you spread the batter among several dishes, it won’t take as long. The cue is to start watching the cake once you smell the sweet fragrance. The color should be evenly brown. I’ve also tried baking the cake at 325°F and it also worked but took a little longer to bake. So if your oven tends to run on the hot side, you can scale down the temperature but extend the bake time.
Depanning the cake. To turn out or remove the cake, let it cool completely in the pan. Once cool, cover the cake still in the pan with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge overnight. The next day, slide a knife just around the top edge of the center tube and top edges around the cake. Then with your fingers, gently pull the sides of the cake away from the pan. Next, soak a kitchen towel in warm water. Squeeze out the excess water, then apply the towel on the underside of the pan and right around where the custard is. Place a cake plate on the pan and flip the cake over onto the plate. If the cake doesn’t release immediately, simply apply the warm towel on the top (formerly the bottom) of the pan. Just let it hang and it will eventually slide when gravity pulls it down.
Here’s an expanded and more detailed view of the steps. Detailed measurements are in the recipe box at the end of this post.
Cover any remaining cake and store in the fridge.
The interplay of two different textures—the smooth, silky caramel custard against the light and fluffy chiffon cake makes for a wonderful and unique cake.
I’m not quite sure of the origins of this cake, but I do remember having it the first time as a kid growing up in the Philippines and marveling at how two completely different treats—leche flan caramel custard and chiffon cake, could be made together as one.
Give this unique recipe a try for your next get together.
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 g)
- ½ cup water (108 g)
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 egg yolk (add the egg white to the meringue for the cake)
- 1 cup evaporated milk (240 g)
- 1 can condensed milk (390 g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 g)
- 4 egg yolks
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (52 g)
- ¼ cup water (65 g)
- 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice (20 g)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (10 g)
- 1 ¼ cups cake flour (147 g)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (8 g)
- ½ teaspoon salt (3 g)
- ¼ cup canola oil or any light vegetable oil (62 g)
- 5 egg whites (3/4 cup / 197 g)
- ½ cup sugar (100 g)
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar (2 g)
- One 9-inch tube pan or use any oven-proof baking dish (square or round but no deeper than 2 ½ inches) plus two or three small oven-proof baking dishes.
- Water bath (bain marie) – baking dish or pan large enough to hold the cake pan to be filled with hot water
Place baking rack at the lowest level just above the heating element. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare an ungreased tube pan or 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan plus two or three small oven-proof glass baking dishes.
For the caramel, place the sugar in the center of a small sauce pan, avoiding the sides as much as possible. Pour water all around the edges of the sugar ending towards the center to dampen the sugar all throughout. Do not stir. Turn on the heat to medium high and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup has turned light golden amber. Pour the syrup into the baking pan and swirl to completely cover the surface. Set aside.
For the custard, whisk the eggs and egg yolk together. Whisk in the condensed milk, then the evaporated milk. Add the vanilla extract and continue whisking until the mixture is well blended. Set aside.
For the chiffon cake, make the base by whisking together the egg yolks and granulated sugar. Whisk in the water and lemon juice stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Blend in the vanilla extract.
Sift or whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Add these sifted dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients, then add the canola oil stirring until completely smooth. Set aside.
Place the egg whites in a clean mixing bowl that has no trace of oil, grease or water. With the wire attachment, turn on mixer to medium low and whip the egg whites until foamy, then add the cream of tartar. Continue whipping for a few minutes until the meringue turns white and starts to take shape. Gradually add the sugar then increase speed to medium or medium high. Whip until the meringue has turned glossy with stiff peaks.
While waiting for the meringue to reach stiff peaks, ladle the custard mixture into the baking pan over the caramel syrup.
With a spatula fold a small amount of the meringue into the cake base to lighten the batter. Then fold in the rest of the meringue in two or three parts until well blended taking care not to deflate the egg whites. The batter should be very light and fluffy.
Pour the cake batter over the custard mixture. The cake batter will float as it is light and airy. Run a knife lightly in the batter to disperse any large air pockets. Level the batter with an offset spatula.
Place the baking pan into the holding dish for the water bath. Place both in the oven and pour the hot water into the holding dish, until the water reaches about the same height as the custard. Bake until evenly brown (around 50 – 55 minutes for a tube pan) and the cake springs back when lightly touched. Remove from the oven and take the cake out of the water bath and let it cool completely. The edges of the cake will separate from the pan once cool. Chill the cake in the pan overnight before turning out.
To turn out the cake, gently run a knife around the top edge of the center tube as well as just around the top outer edges of the cake. Then with your fingers, gently pull the sides of the cake away from the pan. Soak a kitchen towel in warm water, squeeze out the excess water and apply the towel briefly to the bottom and lower sides of the pan, right around where the caramel custard is. Hold the pan so that it is standing on its side and you will feel the cake dislodge from the pan. Keep turning the pan on its side to loosen the cake all around. Flip the cake onto a cake plate. If the cake doesn’t come out immediately, just let it hang and apply the warm towel again on the caramel custard and it will eventually slide out.
If your oven tends to run on the hot side, you can scale down the temperature to 325°F but you'll have to extend the bake time.
If you want to bake all the batter in one pan, use a tube pan. Bake time will be 50 – 55 minutes. You can also divide the caramel, custard and cake batter among several shallow pans or baking dishes. Bake time will depend on pan size, so just watch it after 30 minutes; the cue is once the cake is evenly brown and fragrant, it’s close to done.
Leche Flan Caramel Custard Chiffon Cake