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Mexican Sweet Corn Cake (Chi-Chi’s Copycat Recipe)

This delicious Mexican sweet corn cake is a copycat of my favorite yummy side that used to be served at Chi-Chi’s! Also known as pan de elote, this scoopable buttery corn cake straddles the line between a warm corn pudding and cornbread perfectly…

mexican sweet corn cake in an orange and white bowl with a ceramic baking dish in the background

Chi-Chi’s Mexican Sweet Corn Cake

I’m probably dating myself here, but one of the saddest days of my life was the day Chi-Chi’s shut down their restaurants. I have SO many fun memories of celebrating birthdays, graduations, and even no special occasion at all while wearing one of their big sparkly and colorful sombreros and digging into a Mexican fried ice cream smothered in hot fudge sauce…

Before we had kids, it was our Friday night hotspot on the regular. My favorite meal consisted of a small dish of cheese con queso as an appetizer, followed by a beef chimichanga with extra Mexican sweet corn cake on the side (please and thank you!), all washed down with one of their amazing frozen wild berry margaritas. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

I have yet to recreate Chi-Chi’s delicious wild berry margarita, and honestly the chimichangas just seem like WAY too much effort to try at home… But I did happen on a copycat Chi-Chi’s corn cake recipe a couple of years ago.

Overall, it’s a pretty simple and easy recipe — although it does take about an hour to bake, which makes it more of a special occasion side dish in my book. (Note: If you’re looking for a somewhat faster method, pick up this Chi-Chi’s Sweet Corn Cake Mix, which gets mixed with water, butter, and cream-style corn!)

But since today is Cinco de Mayo and we’re all stuck at home, this seems like a special-enough occasion… Who’s with me?!


bag of masa harina on counter for Chi-Chi's corn cake

Masa Harina for Chi-Chi’s Corn Cake

You probably have most of the ingredients for Chi-Chi’s corn cake in your pantry and refrigerator already. Maybe not the heavy cream, but whole milk should work fine in a pinch. However, one you’ll likely need to pick up is masa harina, i.e. instant corn flour. The goods news is Walmart carries it in the Hispanic section, so you really shouldn’t have any trouble tracking it down.

If you’re not familiar with masa harina, it’s a corn flour that’s made from ground nixtamalized corn. Yeah, that’s a pretty fancy word, but it basically means it’s made with corn that has been soaked and cooked in limewater, giving it a very distinctive flavor. You’ll recognize the taste as being much like a corn tortilla, which makes sense because masa harina is most often used for making corn tortillas.

You only need a small amount for this recipe, so homemade corn tortillas would be an awesome way to put the rest of the bag to good use. But I’m also working on a tasty masa harina cornbread recipe, which will help use it up. So stay tuned for that… Either way, don’t skip the masa harina — the flavor profile it gives is what makes this sweet corn cake so good!

sweet corn cake in a white ceramic baking dish ready to go in the oven

How To Make Mexican Corn Cake Like Chi-Chi’s

Okay, so we’ll never know if this is exactly how Chi-Chi’s made their corn cake, but the flavor and texture are spot on. If you never had the pleasure of eating at Chi-Chi’s, the easiest way for me to describe it is that it’s a very tender and scoopable slightly sweet buttery corn cake, which straddles the line between a warm corn pudding casserole and cornbread perfectly… That’s a mouthful, but the condensed version is IT’S DELICIOSO!

As far as actually making Chi-Chi’s corn cake goes, essentially you just blend all of the ingredients together. The batter will be very thick, so just spread it out in an even layer in an 8×8″ ceramic baking dish. No need to grease the dish — the butter in the recipe will keep it from sticking, as will the next step…

covered baking dish with sweet corn cake recipe inside a larger dish filled partially with water for a water bath

Water Bath for Sweet Corn Cake Recipe

The key to the tender texture is baking the corn cake batter in a water bath. Don’t be intimidated — it’s really super simple. As I mentioned, you just need to spread the batter in an 8×8″ ceramic baking dish, and then cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Place the 8×8″ dish inside a 9×13″ baking dish, and pour about three cups of water around it.

This keeps the cooking environment very moist, while also baking the sweet corn cake batter slowly and evenly. When it’s done baking, allow the Mexican corn cake to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Mexican corn cake scooped into an orange and white bowl with a colorful towel underneath and silver spoon

I like to use my medium cookie scoop to serve up cute little corn cake balls, a la Chi-Chi’s. You’ll get about 9-ish small side servings of 2-3 scoops each from this recipe!


Chi-Chi's corn cake recipe scooped into an orange and white bowl with a silver spoon next to it

Mexican Sweet Corn Cake (Chi-Chi's Copycat Recipe)

Yield: 9 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

This delicious Mexican sweet corn cake is a copycat of my favorite yummy side that used to be served at Chi-Chi's! Also known as pan de elote, this scoopable buttery corn cake straddles the line between a warm corn pudding and cornbread perfectly...


  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup masa harina
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Whip the butter with a hand mixer until creamy. Add masa harina and water and blend well until thoroughly combined.
  3. Place the thawed corn in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times. Personally, I prefer a blender for this, but either way, do not overprocess it. You still want to have some whole chunks of corn left. Add the chopped corn and cornmeal to the masa harina mixture and mix together well.
  4. In a separate bowl combine sugar, cream, salt and baking powder. Pour this mixture into the corn mixture and blend thoroughly.
  5. Spread the mixture evenly in an 8x8" baking dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place this dish inside a 9x13" baking dish. Pour about 3 cups of water into the larger baking dish to form a water bath.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 50-55 minutes, until the corn cake is cooked through. Remove from the oven and remove the smaller dish from the larger one. Let the corn cake stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Adapted from Top Secret Restaurant Recipes.

Note: If you're looking for a somewhat faster method, try this Chi-Chi's Sweet Corn Cake Mix, which gets mixed with water, butter, and cream-style corn.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 9 Serving Size: 3 medium cookie scoops
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 178Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 171mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 9gProtein: 2g

Have you tried this recipe?

Leave a comment below and share a photo on Instagram. Tag it @unsophisticook and hashtag it #unsophisticook!

If you like this Mexican corn cake recipe, you might also enjoy these other Mexican-inspired recipes:

Or if you just really love corn casseroles, check these out. Both versions are delicious!

Did you make this recipe?
Tag @unsophisticook on Instagram and hashtag it #unsophisticook.


Wednesday 20th of December 2023

Is this still good if made day before and reheated day of brunch?

Tara Kuczykowski

Wednesday 20th of December 2023

Yes, it's still very good reheated!


Monday 18th of December 2023

Just made this and yum! Never had chi chi’s but this is definitely going to be a hit with my family!

Tara Kuczykowski

Tuesday 19th of December 2023

So happy you loved it!


Tuesday 3rd of October 2023

Can brown sugar be A replacement if you don’t have white sugar?

Tara Kuczykowski

Wednesday 4th of October 2023

Hi Raquel! I haven't tried this substitution, but I don't think I'd recommend it. Though it would provide the same sweetness, brown sugar contains molasses, which would affect the flavor. The additional moisture content could affect the texture, as well.


Monday 12th of June 2023

Hello! I just made this corn cake and I left it in the oven for about 54 minutes but it didn't set. When I started scooping it out, it just crumbled and didn't hold its shape. Any recommendations?


Thursday 22nd of June 2023

@Tara Kuczykowski, hi tara! Nope I didn’t change anything and I definitely used the water bath :(

Tara Kuczykowski

Tuesday 13th of June 2023

Hi Tina - I have not encountered this issue. Did you use a water bath when baking it? Or did you make any changes to the ingredients?


Tuesday 1st of November 2022

Can this be made in a slow cooker?

Tara Kuczykowski

Tuesday 1st of November 2022

Hi Gia! I've never tried it, but it seems like it should work. However, the water bath is important to the final texture. So you'll need to have a shallow ceramic dish that fits inside the slow cooker insert and allows you to pour water in around it.

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