Not So Traditional Flan

Many years ago, I had lunch at a friend’s house and this was the dessert she served. Flan is a dessert which dates back hundreds of years and the recipe has varied throughout many countries and cultures.  It ended up in Cuba via Spain, where 3 out of 4 of my grandparents were from.  It is a custard typically made with:  condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs, vanilla and of course…caramelized sugar.  This traditional recipe is delicious and it can also be prepared a lot of different ways.

When you look up “recipe for Cuban style flan,” you will get many variations; guava, coconut, pumpkin and cream cheese just to name a few.  Since it’s a custard, you can get creative.  It’s always delicious, however, the recipe for this flan has a little surprise….rum!  There are a ton of recipes you will find online, and every one is different.  Some of them require up to 12 egg yolks!  That’s so unnecessary.  What I love about this recipe is that it’s not only easy to make and to prepare but the ingredients list is short.

So, at my friend’s house that day, I expected her flan to taste much like all the others I had tried through out the years, but much to my surprise, it was amazing and not traditional.  I had never tried flan with rum!  Of course, I asked her for the recipe and sadly, by the time I was going to try making it, I couldn’t find it, so from memory I came up with my own version.  I had a few mishaps at first, but a few tries later, I made a delicious flan that is always a crowd-pleaser.  It does require a few special techniques, but, if you’ve never tried making this dessert, follow the instructions carefully and you’ll have success!  This recipe is super rich, super good, extremely easy and very special.  We serve it every holiday and on special occasions.

Serves 8-10


  • 2  15 oz. cans condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 2 Tablespoons of half and half
  • 2 Tablespoons golden rum (or more)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups white sugar

You will need:

One 8″ aluminum baking pan, a roasting pan or other pan (it can be glass) that is large enough to fit the 8″ pan plus approximately 4 cups of water and is oven safe, and a blender. I use my stainless steel roasting pan that is 16 3/4″ x 13 3/4″ x 2 1/2.”  You will also need a pan to melt the sugar…I use a non stick skillet.


  1. Heat the oven to 350º.
  2. Rinse and dry the tops of the cans!  It’s very important to always do this to any can…you don’t know what’s crawled over the cans that have sat on the grocery store’s shelves!
  3. Place the 8″ pan inside the roasting pan and set it aside.
  4. In a non stick skillet or other pan, melt 1 to 1 1/2 cups white sugar.  To melt the sugar, set heat to medium/high.  You will have to stay with this…no answering the phone or texting at this time! With a wooden spoon (I use a wooden spoon because as the sugar melts, it gets very hot and a metal spoon will absorb that heat), you can also use a whisk that has a silicone or wooden handle.  Move the sugar around as it melts and watch over it at every moment.  If you feel like it smells burnt or starts smoking, raise the pan off the heat and lower the heat to medium.  It takes sugar a little while to start melting, however, once it starts…it melts rather quickly and if you are not attentive, it could burn.  The goal is to have light golden/honey colored caramelized sugar.  When you see that all the sugar crystals are dissolved, remove it from the heat immediately.
  5. Carefully pour the melted sugar in the 8″ pan, and using a pot holder lift the pan and swirl the melted sugar so it coats the sides of the pan about 1/2″ up and around.  Place the 8″ pan back into the roasting pan.  Set it aside to cool. Be patient, the caramel has to cool and harden before you add the liquid.
  6. Add all the remaining ingredients to the jar of a blender and blend until well incorporated.  Gently pour the liquid into the 8″ pan over the cooled caramelized sugar.  You may hear some crackling sounds when the cool mixture comes in contact with caramel.  Place the entire thing in the oven.  Oven rack should be in the middle.  Pour about four cups of very warm water into the roasting pan so that it covers the flan pan about 1/2 up the sides.  This is called bain-marie, technically it’s a double boiler for your oven (please read notes below for important tips).  Cook the flan for about 1 to 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on your oven.  The top should be light golden.  If  you notice it is turning too dark, you may want to remove it.  It may be a little soft as it comes out of the oven, this is fine because it will set in the fridge.
  7. Once the flan is out of the oven, place it on a cooling rack until it is room temperature or close to it.  Then cover it with plastic wrap or foil and place it in the fridge for no less than 8 hours.  I usually make mine the day before it’s going to be served.  Just before you serve it, separate the flan from the pan by running a table knife all around the edge.  Place a plate on top of your flan pan and turn the whole thing over.  Use a plate with a rim because that delicious caramel will pour all over.  Sometimes it needs a few seconds to come loose from the bottom….be patient.  Scrape as much of the caramel liquid over the flan.  Some hard shell will remain at the bottom…simply soak in hot, soapy water to clean.


I like to add the water when the flan is already on the rack in the oven because it gets quite heavy and you don’t want a messy accident in your kitchen.  Also, when removing the flan after it’s cooked, I only take the flan pan out and leave the larger pan holding the water in the oven until it cools.  Less chance you’ll spill scalding water on yourself.  Once the oven has cooled, you can simply throw the water in the sink.  Unfortunately, what has happened to me is I have forgotten the pan is in the oven cooling; then I’ve found the pan in the oven the next day!  Put a post it note on the oven door so you don’t forget.


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