Pastel Impossible

This week’s Sunday recipe comes to us from the NOURISHED: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love (with Recipes) Copyright © 2017 by Lia Huber. Published by Convergent, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. A powerful story that chronicles Huber’s world-roaming search—from Greece, Costa Rica, Mexico, New York, France, San Francisco, and all of the culinary adventures in between—for sustenance that healed her body, shaped her faith, and defined her life’s calling.


Lia’s quest begins with an unforgettable “Anthony Bourdain” moment in a Guatemalan village—a story that surprisingly shifts gears with a bowl of soup. From there, Huber takes readers back to the beginning of her journey, to the Greek island of Corfu where she learns the joy of simple foods and the power of unconditional love; to a Costa Rican jungle house (by way of an 8,000-mile road trip in a Ford Explorer named Rex) where she finds hope and healing in the kitchen; and finally to the bucolic hills of California’s wine country where she discovers her calling to nourish others. Huber introduces us to many amazing characters throughout each life adventure, including Mama Kourtesi, who introduced Huber to her first food epiphany (concerning a fried egg) on Corfu; Rosanna and Fausto, two former professional ballet dancers who owned their own Italian restaurant in Costa Rica; and Giampero, a large Italian chef with an even larger personality in Umbria.

Throughout, Huber treats us to scrumptious meals (through both the narrative and recipes paired with each chapter) while sharing the vulnerable, tender roller coaster of emotions and self-exploration that define true love and deep faith. Her story spans twenty years as Huber takes us along to pasta lessons in Bologna with Francesca; the “right place, right time” moment at the farmers’ market that helped her break into food writing; and the harrowing lengths she went to obtain a yucca flower for dinner!

Using the growth of a tomato plant as a metaphor for her personal growth, NOURISHED is divided into four parts: Seeds, Roots, Starts, and Fruit. In her early years, Huber was a self-confessed “meat and potatoes girl,” fighting with her body and on a perpetual low-fat diet. But as she pushed the limits of life and was thrown challenging curveballs with regards to her health, she eventually found an ally in wholesome, real food.

“For me, food went from something I didn’t think about to becoming a pivotal part of my life,” Huber says. “It was what brought me joy. It was how I healed my body when doctors couldn’t. It was how I related to people and gained deeper insight into my life’s purpose and the way I serve the world.”

At the close of each chapter, Huber provides mouthwatering recipes that translate that period of her life to the plate, such as this recipe for Pastel Impossible adapted from a Rancho Cuernavaca cooking class.

Pastel Imposible credit Alison Ashton
Photo credit: Alison Ashton


  • Butter for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup cajeta (or dulce de leche)
    • Cajeta is a sort of Mexican caramel made from goat’s milk; you can find it at Mexican markets.
  • Chocolate Cake Batter
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk

For the Flan Batter

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Grease a 10-inch round 3-inch deep cake pan with butter, all the way up the sides. Spread cajeta evenly on the bottom of the pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Start by making the chocolate cake batter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy and light. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
  4. Reduce the speed to low and add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk, just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in half of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk and the rest of the flour mixture, just until combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  5. Next make the flan batter. In a blender, combine the eggs, evapo-rated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla and blend until smooth. Pour the flan batter on top of the chocolate cake batter.
  6. Place the pan in a large roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with enough hot water to reach halfway up the cake pan.
  7. Bake for 60 to 90 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven, run a sharp knife around the edge, and let cool completely on a cake rack. Refrigerate until set and cold.
  9. To serve, place the cake pan on the stove for a few seconds to melt the cajeta slightly. Run a knife around the edge once more, then invert the cake onto a platter. Serve with cajeta spooned over the top.



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