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Milk Street Bowtie Mexican Sweet Corn Cake

Mexican Sweet Corn Cake

8-10 Servings

1¼ hours (25 minutes active) plus cooling

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This simple baked treat is ubiquitous in Mexican food markets, street stalls and restaurants. Called panqué de elote, pan de elote or pastel de elote, its texture lands somewhere between cake and cornbread while hinting at custard. In Mexico City, we had it for breakfast, as it’s commonly served, but finished with a dusting of powdered sugar, we think it also makes a casual, homey dessert. Cornmeal is not a typical ingredient in panqué de elote; we add a small amount to account for the fact that fresh Mexican corn used for making this type of cake is starchier and drier than the fresh corn available in the U.S. If you have more than 250 grams (1½ cups) corn after cutting the kernels from the ears, it’s best to save the extra for another use rather than use it in this recipe; the additional moisture may make the cake too wet. Yellow corn yields a cake with a warm golden hue, but white corn also works.

8-10

Servings

Tip

Don’t use frozen corn kernels—it results in a dense, gummy texture. Made with fresh corn, the cake’s crumb is much lighter and softer. After adding the flour mixture to the corn puree, don’t whisk vigorously. Gentle mixing, just until no pockets of flour remain, will minimize gluten development so the cake bakes up tender.

1¼ hours (25 minutes active)

plus cooling

3 medium ears fresh corn, preferably yellow, husked
36 grams (¼ cup) fine yellow cornmeal
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
57 grams (¼ cup) plain whole-milk yogurt
165 grams (1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
½ cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
Powdered sugar, to serve
Ingredients
  • 3

    medium ears fresh corn, preferably yellow, husked

  • 36

    grams (¼ cup) fine yellow cornmeal

  • 14

    ounce can sweetened condensed milk

  • 57

    grams (¼ cup) plain whole-milk yogurt

  • 165

    grams (1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour

  • 2

    tablespoons cornstarch

  • 2

    teaspoons baking powder

  • ¼

    teaspoon table salt

  • 2

    large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks

  • ½

    cup grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • Powdered sugar, to serve

Directions

Mexican Sweet Corn Cake

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Reviews
Chris B.
August 23, 2022
Delicious
Great cake. My new go-to recipe when I get fresh sweet corn.
Mark R.

Delicious! Easy to make, light and not too sweet.

Brendan H.

Can you use canned corn?

Janelle C.

Hi Brendan,

Fresh corn produces the best results as it is essential to the cake's light and soft texture. Avoid using canned corn if you can.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Lucy N.

Can I use greek yogurt? I am having trouble finding anything other than greek yogurt at my local supermarket.

Travis T.

Middle-Eastern markets usually have it. However, it's shockingly easy to just make your own! You can look it up, but in short:
1. Heat a cup of whole milk to at least 180°F
2. Cool it to 115°F, then add a spoonful of store-bought yogurt
3. Maintain at 110-115° for 6-8 hours
4. You're done!

Elizabeth P.

So is the Milk Street reply actually just no to using Greek Yogurt? Because news flash, Middle Eastern grocery stores aren’t available in a lot of the country, and your “shockingly easy” recipe isn’t when it comes to the real life. Plus, I couldn’t begin to “maintain a recipe at that temperature range for such a long period. Some people work in jobs that aren’t for a cooking magazine TV show. So, yes or no to using Greek yogurt?

Lynn C.

Hi Elizabeth -

I think Travis T. was just trying to be a helpful fellow reader, he is not a Milk Street representative. Thank you for your comments, Travis!

We haven't tested this with Greek-style plain whole milk yogurt. Greek-style yogurt is generally thicker than plain traditional-style yogurt and, therefore, could yield a slightly more dense final cake. You can thin it with a little milk to achieve the same texture as traditional-style.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

John M.

Elizabeth,
I'm was in the same quandary as you in that I couldn't find plain yogurt outside of quart sizes. So I used plain Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of milk and it was a complete success. I tried to respond to your comment on July 31, but it remains 'currently under moderation'.

John M.

Elizabeth,
I'm was in the same quandary as you in that I couldn't find plain yogurt outside of quart sizes. So I used plain Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of milk and it was a complete success. I tried to respond to your comment on July 31, but it remains 'currently under moderation'.

Lynn C.

Hi Elizabeth -

I think Travis T. was just trying to be a helpful fellow reader, he is not a Milk Street representative. Thank you for your comments, Travis!

We haven't tested this with Greek-style plain whole milk yogurt. Greek-style yogurt is generally thicker than plain traditional-style yogurt and, therefore, could yield a slightly more dense final cake. You can thin it with a little milk to achieve the same texture as traditional-style.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

John M.

Elizabeth,
I'm was in the same quandary as you in that I couldn't find plain yogurt outside of quart sizes. So I used plain Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of milk and it was a complete success. I tried to respond to your comment on July 31, but it remains 'currently under moderation'.

John M.

Elizabeth,
I'm was in the same quandary as you in that I couldn't find plain yogurt outside of quart sizes. So I used plain Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of milk and it was a complete success. I tried to respond to your comment on July 31, but it remains 'currently under moderation'.

Elizabeth P.

So is the Milk Street reply actually just no to using Greek Yogurt? Because news flash, Middle Eastern grocery stores aren’t available in a lot of the country, and your “shockingly easy” recipe isn’t when it comes to the real life. Plus, I couldn’t begin to “maintain a recipe at that temperature range for such a long period. Some people work in jobs that aren’t for a cooking magazine TV show. So, yes or no to using Greek yogurt?

Lynn C.

Hi Elizabeth -

I think Travis T. was just trying to be a helpful fellow reader, he is not a Milk Street representative. Thank you for your comments, Travis!

We haven't tested this with Greek-style plain whole milk yogurt. Greek-style yogurt is generally thicker than plain traditional-style yogurt and, therefore, could yield a slightly more dense final cake. You can thin it with a little milk to achieve the same texture as traditional-style.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

John M.

Elizabeth,
I'm was in the same quandary as you in that I couldn't find plain yogurt outside of quart sizes. So I used plain Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of milk and it was a complete success. I tried to respond to your comment on July 31, but it remains 'currently under moderation'.

John M.

Elizabeth,
I'm was in the same quandary as you in that I couldn't find plain yogurt outside of quart sizes. So I used plain Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of milk and it was a complete success. I tried to respond to your comment on July 31, but it remains 'currently under moderation'.

Lynn C.

Hi Elizabeth -

I think Travis T. was just trying to be a helpful fellow reader, he is not a Milk Street representative. Thank you for your comments, Travis!

We haven't tested this with Greek-style plain whole milk yogurt. Greek-style yogurt is generally thicker than plain traditional-style yogurt and, therefore, could yield a slightly more dense final cake. You can thin it with a little milk to achieve the same texture as traditional-style.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

John M.

Elizabeth,
I'm was in the same quandary as you in that I couldn't find plain yogurt outside of quart sizes. So I used plain Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of milk and it was a complete success. I tried to respond to your comment on July 31, but it remains 'currently under moderation'.

John M.

Elizabeth,
I'm was in the same quandary as you in that I couldn't find plain yogurt outside of quart sizes. So I used plain Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of milk and it was a complete success. I tried to respond to your comment on July 31, but it remains 'currently under moderation'.

Lisa D.

Can you use almond flour instead of all- purpose? How will that affect it?

Janelle C.

Hi Lisa,

In this case, we'd recommend using gluten-free all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour is a great brand) and xanthan gum (1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum for every 1 cup of flour). Almond flour, in most cases, is another excellent substitution but may add an unwanted nutty flavor to the cake. It will also alter the texture of the cake.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Miriam T.

Are you recommending 1/4 tsp xanthum gum whenever you use GF all purpose flour to cakes, or just for this cake?

Janelle C.

Consider this a general rule for all cakes, but as stated almond flour is also a great substitution, but not for this particular cake.

Janelle C.

Consider this a general rule for all cakes, but as stated almond flour is also a great substitution, but not for this particular cake.

Miriam T.

Are you recommending 1/4 tsp xanthum gum whenever you use GF all purpose flour to cakes, or just for this cake?

Janelle C.

Consider this a general rule for all cakes, but as stated almond flour is also a great substitution, but not for this particular cake.

Janelle C.

Consider this a general rule for all cakes, but as stated almond flour is also a great substitution, but not for this particular cake.

Cheryl C.

When I was a kid growing up in Texas, I remember our mother dragging my sister and me out to pick what was called “field corn”. The field corn was what you describe as cow corn. It was drier and never gummy as you now find in the supermarket. She was a woman before her time in appreciating those finer nuances of our flavor world. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

Jane L.

Made this with Maryland sweet, fresh corn. Sliced a wedge horizontally, buttered, then placed buttered side down in a preheated cast iron skillet. Toasted until lightly golden. Heaven.

Kimbery W.

The flavor of this bread was wonderful. However it was denser than I anticipated. I am wondering if it was the grapeseed oil that contributed to this. If you used less oil, would that make it less dense? Or could you use butter as a substitute?

Lynn C.

Hi Kimbery -

This is meant to be sort of a cross between cake and cornbread so the texture is not as light and fluff as, say, a layer cake. I don't think the oil is making it dense and melted butter would have a similar effect on the texture. Reducing the oil would likely yield a dry cake. Two things to keep in mind - 1. make sure you are using fresh corn kernels, not frozen - they add too much additional moisture and 2. whisk gently and mix just until there are no pockets of flour remaining - this will minimize gluten development and keep the cake tender.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Teresa L.

My partner loooooved this when it first came out of the oven. Unfortunately I ate it the day after and thought it was super dense and not that much of a departure from a typical cornbread recipe, especially given the effort. So perhaps make this for a large group where the cake can immediately be served and eaten.

Elizabeth P.

What would freezing instructions be for this recipe (how to wrap,how long it a stay frozen, and thawing instructions)?

Lynn C.

Hi Elizabeth -

We haven't tested freezing this particular cake but, if you do, we recommend wrapping in plastic, then foil, and then sealing in an airtight container or freezer zipper-lock bag.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Celia O.

This recipe is aptly called a cake. Expect the consistency of such. I have always loved cake. We thought it had great flavor but too much sweetness for us. That is a function of the sweetened condensed milk. Therefore the recipe cannot be adjusted to be less sweet.

David S.

I have made this cake 3 times... it is excellent...
Today I added about 2 tablespoons of rather coarsely grated cotija cheese.. incredible little bits of salty funkiness spread throughout the cake...
Highly recommended..

Laszlo P.

Can one use an 8 inch spring form pan? For corn cake.

Lynn C.

Hi Laszlo -

I wouldn't recommend using a springform pan. This batter is very loose and would likely leak through the bottom of a springform.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Bonnie A.

I have a love-hate relationship with this recipe. I actually find it a little bit tedious (shucking, getting out the blender), etc., and I consistently have a problem with bit of unmixed flour showing up as a white ridge in the finished cake. This is despite my efforts to incorporate it longer. I guess it's me! Maybe sifting would help?

Regine C.

I almost had this problem but I ended up whisking batter vigorously and it worked.

Regine C.

Excellent. Much lighter texture than regular cornbread. Wow. I did not expect it to have such a light texture, like a cross between a sponge cake and a cornbread. Good as a snack with coffee or tea, or breakfast (topped with butter ». Or use it for a strawberry shortcake.

Nancy V.

What can we use when fresh corn is not available? You said not to use either frozen corn or canned corn. Thanks

Lynn C.

Hi Nancy -

Although, yes, we think fresh corn would be best, I think frozen whole ears of corn or frozen kernels that have been thawed and dried could work, you just may not get the lightness we expect in the cake. When drying the kernels, I would lay them out on a paper-towel lined sheet and pat dry with more towels or allow them to air dry for a few hours, changing out the paper towels if they get soaked through. That should eliminate a fair amount of the excess moisture that can make the cake gummy. Hope that helps!

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Diana L.

I made this in the summer with real corn and it was DELICIOUS. I have decided to make it today. The store(s) I go to did not have a fresh corn. So I made it with frozen corn, even so it said not to. I can tell you that the cake came out really good with a frozen corn. No issues with the texture. Its fluffy just like the one I made before. I have used organic frozen corn (which tends to be sweeter than none organic). Thanks for the recipe.

April D.

I'm glad you had success with frozen, Diana! Thank you for sharing your experience!

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Laura H.

Thanks, Diana! Were there *any* differences between the cakes made with fresh vs. frozen corn?

Cindy O.

Hello Milk Street Team, can this be made with gluten free flour? I am gluten free & my experience in baking with GF flour is it turns out totally different. Thank you!

Lynn C.

Hi Cindy -

Unfortunately we haven't tested this with gluten-free flour. If you try it please report back and let us know how it turned out!

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Albert I.

If I substituted masa harina for the fine cornmeal, what adjustment should I make? I am always trying to find ways to use masa harina because I can only find it in five pound bags so I always have a lot. Also, to chime in on the yogurt front, where I live in Sonoma CA, the only non-Greek (and non-Icelandic-style) plain yogurt I can find in small containers is brand called "Fage" that comes in 7-oz. tubs.

Gemia P.

There are only 2 in my household. Do you think there would be a chance of cutting it in half if it doesn’t save well for more than 24 hours?
Also, Trader Joe’s usually has smaller containers of yogurt.

Lynn C.

Hi Gemia -

As with most baked goods we don't recommend halving the recipe since so many variables change we can't guarantee success with the recipe. We do, however, think this cake would freeze well, so we would recommend making it full-size and freezing the leftovers.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Leanne M.

Hi! I signed up because of this recipe and was sssoooooo excited to make it today. Ugh, it turned out awful; very dense and gooey! I followed directions to the “T”, even pulled out my scale and weighed ingredients! Any ideas what could have gone wrong???

Lynn C.

Hi Leanne -

It's hard for us to know for sure what may have gone wrong without having seen you make the cake. Two key points for success in a lighter texture are to make sure to use fresh, not frozen, corn and to make sure not to overmix when adding the corn puree to the flour. Underbaking could also be the cause of gumminess. Make sure to follow the visual clue - a toothpick inserted comes out clean - rather than the timing. Since everyone's oven heats slightly differently timing can be quite different from one oven to the next.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Jon S.

I've made this a couple of times for guests. A big hit w/ everybody, especially those of us who don't necessarily want something super sweet.

Lorena G.

I've had great success with this recipe just as it is! My family loves it and it's pretty easy to make, so I made it weekly while fresh corn was available at our supermarket. This recipe is a keeper!