With a cheerful yellow hue, a tender crumb, and a flavor that is a cross between tres leches cake and pineapple upside-down cake, Pan de Elote Mexicano (or Mexican Sweet Corn Cake) is the rustic summer dessert you need.

slice of pan de elote (mexican corn cake) on a turquoise plate, topped with a scoop of ice cream, and dusted with cinnamon.

Made with just 11 simple pantry ingredients and only 8 minutes of active prep time, this simple cake skillet will surely become a family favorite. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a drizzle of honey, and a light dusting of cinnamon for an indulgently delectable after-dinner treat!

What is Mexican Corn Cake?

Also known as pastel de elote or panque de elote, this traditional Mexican recipe is sweet without being cloying. In fact, it’s often served for breakfast in Mexico, though it is also hawked by local street vendors all day long. It toes the line between cornbread and cake texture, but with a custardy middle that gives it serious tres leches vibes.

So although this corn-flavored skillet cake might look like a traditional all-American cornbread it’s far from it. This pan de elote recipe yields moist cake-meets-spoonbread that is flecked with sweet corn kernels, sweetened with brown sugar, and moistened with sweetened condensed milk.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

If you’re a fan of corn, you simply must try sweet corn cake. While we often treat corn as a veggie (see Mexican Street Corn (Elote), Elote en Vaso (a.k.a. Esquites), Calabacitas con Elote Recipe, and Creamy Zucchini, Corn, and Poblano Rajas), its naturally sweet flavor profile and slightly starchy consistency make it an ideal ingredient in dessert.

One of the things I love most about this simple recipe is that it is equally at home on a breakfast table, as a side dish for other Mexican favorites like Chicken Fajitas, or even as your sweet treat after dinner.

Aside from being the perfect dessert-breakfast-side dish hybrid, this Mexican corn cake recipe is also:

  • Quick & Easy – You only need to spend less than 10 minutes of active time in the kitchen to get the cake ready for the oven.
  • Made With Only 11 Ingredients – Better yet, they’re ALL pantry staples. This is a great recipe to turn to when you don’t have the energy to make a grocery run!
  • Versatile – Feel free to serve it as a standalone breakfast, as a side alongside your favorite Mexican meals, or turn it into a wildly delicious dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a drizzle of cajeta, dulce de leche, or honey.
ingredients needed for making mexican corn cake (pan de elote) on a white table.

Ingredients & Substitutions

As promised, this delightfully unpretentious skillet cake recipe is made using just a handful of ingredients I’d bet you already have on hand. Here’s what to grab:

  • Canola Oil – For a light texture and tender crumb. Any neutral-flavored oil (e.g. grapeseed, avocado, corn, peanut, or vegetable) will also work marvelously.
  • Canned Whole Kernel Corn – I always keep a few cans of sweet summer corn on hand so I can revel in the flavor all year round. You’re also welcome to use fresh corn or defrosted frozen corn.
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk – This pantry staple is used for making all kinds of delicious treats like Arroz con Leche (Mexican Rice Pudding) or Chocoflan (aka Impossible Cake), so I always have a few cans kicking around. Feel free to swap in an equal amount of your favorite dairy-free alternative.
  • Butter – For buttery-rich flavor. You’re welcome to use a plant-based alternative if you prefer.
  • Light Brown Sugar – For moisture and a hint of molasses-caramel flavor. Feel free to swap in dark brown sugar or a less refined alternative like piloncillo instead.
  • Granulated Sugar – For added sweetness. You can also use coconut sugar or organic cane sugar in its place.
  • Vanilla Extract – For complexity. Feel free to use an equal amount of vanilla paste or vanilla powder, or swap in half as much ground vanilla bean instead.
  • Eggs – For binding and richness. Let them come to room temperature to make it easier to mix them into the batter evenly.
  • All-Purpose Flour – Plain flour is perfect for this rustic cake. While I haven’t tried it myself, reason leads me to believe that you could swap in an equal amount of a cup-for-cup all-purpose gluten-free flour blend or an equal amount of masa harina if needed. If you do, let me know how it turns out in the comments below!
  • Baking Powder – For leavening.
  • Salt – For basic seasoning.

How To Make Sweet Mexican Corn Cake

This sweet corn cake recipe will be in the oven before you know it! Here’s how it’s made:

Step 1: Prep. Preheat the oven and grease a 9-inch iron skillet. Set aside.

Step 2: Blend corn and sweetened condensed milk until kernels are partially chopped but small pieces remain; set aside.

corn and sweetened condensed milk in a blender pitcher.

Step 3: Cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Step 4: Add Wet Ingredients. Add vanilla and eggs to the butter mix, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in corn mixture.

Step 4: Add Dry Ingredients. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to corn mixture, mixing until just combined.

Step 5: Bake. Pour batter into prepared iron skillet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooded toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

pan de elote (mexican corn cake) batter poured into a prepared cast iron skillet.

Step 6: Cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour.

baked pastel de elote Mexican corn cake in a skillet resting on a wooden cutting board.

Step 7: Serve with ice cream, drizzled with honey, and sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

slice of Mexican skillet corn cake (pan de elote) on a turquoise plate with the skillet with the rest of the cake in the background.

Optional Variations & Dietary Adaptations

As much as my family loves this sweet Mexican corn cake recipe just the way it is written, there is plenty of room for you to make it your own. Here are a few variations to consider:

  • Dairy-Free – Swap in vegan butter and oat, soy, or coconut-based sweetened condensed milk.
  • Gluten-Free – As I stated above, I haven’t tried using either a GF flour blend or masa harina in place of the wheat flour, but I *think* either should work. If you opt for a GF flour blend, make sure to let the batter rest for 30 minutes before baking to prevent a grainy texture.
  • Add-Ins – Amp up the warmth by adding some ground cinnamon to the batter. You’re also welcome to fold in orange zest for some citrusy zing.

To serve as breakfast, consider adding:

  • A dollop of Greek Yogurt
  • A scattering of Fresh Berries, Sliced Bananas, or Chopped Pineapple
  • A drizzle of Honey

To serve as dessert, consider adding:

  • A scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream or Freshly Whipped Cream
  • A drizzle of Honey, Dulce de Leche, or Cajeta
  • A light dusting of Ground Cinnamon

Expert Tips

  • Don’t overmix the batter. Once you add the flour to the wet ingredients, make sure to work carefully to incorporate it without using too much force. Once the visible streaks of flour have disappeared, you’re ready to go!
  • Make sure to grease the skillet well, paying especially close attention to the corners.
  • Keep covered at room temperature for up to 3 days. You can also freeze it for up to 2 months!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is corn bread and corn cake the same thing?

Nope! Corn cake is definitely sweeter and moister than cornbread as a result of the addition of sweetened condensed milk.

What’s another name for Mexican corn cake?

It’s also known as pan de elote, panque de elote, or pastel de elote.

How do I know when my corn cake is done baking?

A toothpick inserted in the center should come out *mostly* clean, with only a few crumbs sticking to it.

Can I use white corn to make pan de elote Mexicano?

Absolutely! Just note that the cake itself will come out a little less golden (read: more pale) than if you used yellow corn.

More Cast Iron Skillet Cake Recipes

slice of pan de elote (mexican corn cake) on a turquoise plate, topped with a scoop of ice cream, and dusted with cinnamon.

Pan de Elote Mexicano (Mexican Sweet Corn Cake)

4.43 (7 ratings)
This might look like a traditional all American cornbread but it’s far from it. This is more of a moist cake with the addition of corn, brown sugar, and sweetened condensed milk. The flavors remind me of a pineapple upside-down cake and a tres leches cake combined. It’s sweet, without being overly sweet.

Ingredients

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Grease a 9-inch iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil; set aside.
  • In a blender combine corn and sweetened condensed milk. Cover and blend until kernels are partially chopped but small pieces remain; set aside.
  • In a bowl beat the butter and brown sugar and granulated sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  • Add vanilla, and eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in corn mixture.
  • In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add flour mixture to corn mixture, beating just until combined.
  • Pour batter into prepared iron skillet.
  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooded toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • Transfer to wire rack and cool for about 1 hour or to room temperature.
  • Serve with ice cream, drizzled with honey, and sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

Notes

  • Serve this skillet as a brunch appetizer or top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with honey, and sprinkle with ground cinnamon for a delicious dessert.
Optional Variations:
  • Dairy-Free – Swap in vegan butter and oat, soy, or coconut-based sweetened condensed milk.
  • Gluten-Free – As I stated above, I haven’t tried using either a GF flour blend or masa harina in place of the wheat flour, but I *think* either should work. If you opt for a GF flour blend, make sure to let the batter rest for 30 minutes before baking to prevent a grainy texture.
  • Add-Ins – Amp up the warmth by adding some ground cinnamon to the batter. You’re also welcome to fold in orange zest for some citrusy zing.
Calories: 545kcal, Carbohydrates: 83g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Cholesterol: 109mg, Sodium: 338mg, Potassium: 568mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 53g, Vitamin A: 856IU, Vitamin C: 7mg, Calcium: 210mg, Iron: 2mg

Photography by Jenna Sparks
Originally published: April 2015