Spiced Pumpkin Flan


Nik Sharma

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Spiced Pumpkin Flan

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Flan or creme caramel is a childhood dessert that’s continued to remain a favorite no matter how old I get. This pumpkin flan is golden and carries a delicate warm scent of spices making it a favorite at home as well as a popular alternative to pumpkin pie at our Thanksgiving dinners. The flan can be made ahead of time making it a fantastic choice for a dinner party.

  • Yield: One 8 in/20 cm circular flan


For the caramel

¼ cup/60 ml water

⅛ tsp cream of tartar

¾ cup/150 g sugar

For the Flan

One 14 oz/400 g can sweetened condensed milk

One 12 oz/340 g can unsweetened evaporated milk

1 cup/240 ml whole millk

One 2 in/5 cm piece cinnamon stick

4 green cardamom pods, cracked

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground turmeric

3 large eggs

7 ¼ oz/210 g pumpkin purée


  • First, prepare the caramel. Combine the water, and cream of tartar in a small saucepan. Pour the sugar into the center of the saucepan. Cook without stirring over medium heat until the sugar starts to caramelize and turn dark amber brown, 6 to 8 minutes. The caramel should start to turn color at 290F/143C. Pour the hot liquid into an 8 in/20 cm circular cake pan. The caramel cools fast and hot, so carefully and quickly rotate the pan to help the caramel coat the surface. Keep aside until ready to use. The caramel can be made a day ahead of time. Wrap the pan with cling film or a lid and leave it at room temperature.
  • Prepare the custard base. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk. Stir with a silicone spatula. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, and turmeric and cook until the milk reaches 180F/82C. Remove from the heat and let sit covered for 30 minutes or until cooled to room temperature. This mixture can be prepared a day ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. There is no need to warm it before use. Remove and discard the spices.
  • Preheat the oven to 325F/165C.
  • While the oven preheats, crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Break the yolks using a silicone spatula. Slowly stir the eggs so they combine but avoid stirring aggressively, or air will get trapped. Stir in the pumpkin purée. Add 1 cup of the milk mixture and stir gently until combined. Pour the egg mixture into the milk and stir with the spatula until combined. Hold the flat end of the silicone spatula right over the layer of caramel in the prepared baking pan. Set a fine mesh strainer over the spatula and slowly pour the custard base into the pan.
  • Place a deep, wide baking dish that can easily fit the cake pan in the preheated oven. Place a circular wire rack inside the dish or make a thick, 8 in/20 cm ring with aluminum foil to prevent the pan from touching the base of the baking dish. Carefully place the baking dish over the rack or ring in the center of the larger dish. Pour boiling water from the kettle into the space between the baking pan and the large dish and fill it to at least 2 in/5 cm of boiling water. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the sides of the flan are firm and the center is still slightly tender and jiggly; the internal temperature should read 170F/77C. Remove the cake pan from the baking dish. Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool to room temperature. Cover the cake pan with a plate or plastic wrap and leave it in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, to chill and set.
  • When ready to serve, run a small knife along the inside edges of the pan. Place a large serving plate over the baking pan. Holding them tightly, flip the pan and the plate, and tap gently to release the flan onto the plate. Pour any remaining caramel from the pan over the flan. Serve chilled or cold. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 to 4 days.


  • Cream of tartar prevents the caramel from crystallizing and hardening as it cooks, making the syrup easier to handle.
  • The cake pan I used here is 8 in/20 cm wide and 3 in/ cm tall, allowing me to use 2 in/5 cm of boiling water in the water bath. If your pan is shallower, use the lower limit of ½ in/ 12 mm listed in the instructions.
  • Be careful when working with the caramel; it’s very hot and can cause severe burns.
  • Both the caramel and milk mixture can be prepared a day ahead of time.
  • For a more robust flavor, leave the milk with the spices overnight in the refrigerator to infuse. There’s a second advantage to leaving the milk overnight, it helps degas the liquid, and consequently, there’s a lower chance of air bubbles in the flan. Warm the milk to room temperature before using it.

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