Origin of the Name: The name comes from the Old French word, “flaon,” from the Late Latin word, “fladon,” which is derived from the Old High German word “flado,” which means a flat cake or object.
Like many desserts (including our beloved cheesecake), flan’s existence began during the Roman Empire. The Romans were the first to domesticate chickens and they found themselves in the middle of an egg surplus. So they used techniques they stole learned from the Greeks to develop new egg-based recipes. These recipes, as you can imagine, resulted in loads of dishes and desserts, including flan.
Back then, most versions of the dessert were savory rather than sweet and included flavors like eel sprinkled with pepper. But a few early recorded recipes contained the only sweetener of the day: honey. And as the Romans conquered basically all of Europe, their customs, beliefs, and recipes went with them. The sweet variety of flan gripped the newly vanquished lands and when the Empire fell in 476 CE, flan survived.
Of all the peoples introduced to this dessert, the Spanish were particularly taken with it (and were the first to top it with a sweet caramel sauce). Like the Romans before them, the Spaniards brought flan to new lands, when in 1518, the famous conquistador Hernán Cortés landed in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
The Mexicans took flan to a whole new level. They created coffee, chocolate, and even coconut flavors and the recipes became popular not only in Mexico, but the rest of Latin America.