Updated: Jan 14, 2021
If you're going to a Cuban birthday party, specifically a children's birthday party, you *must* have a Cuban keke "mas grande que el niño." This is a tradition that started on the island and continues in the diaspora. In Miami, most cuban bakeries will offer up these cakes for purchase.
Whether you're a nostalgic Cuban or a non-Cuban with a sweet tooth and knack for baking, teikirisi has your back. We've got a recipe that will blow your mind, courtesy of Fryda's mom, grandmother, great-grandmother, and who knows how far back this recipe goes.
How to make a Cuban Panetela
*a note: the cuban panetela is slightly different from the keke, or cakes, sold at bakeries. a panetela typically has a more dense and flavorful masa. the recipe below is for a panetela, not a keke, though both look a lot alike*
2 cups of flour
2 cups of white sugar
3 egg whites
pinch of baking powder
1 tsp of vanilla extract
(optional) guava or coconut marmalade filling
Preheat oven at 350 F. Oil a cake baking pan and powder with flour, leaving a thin layer of flour on the pan.
In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of flour with 1 cup of sugar and a punch of baking powder. Mix very well until uniform.
Separate 5 egg whites from the yolks. Place the egg whites in a large bowl and use an egg beater to make merengue "a punto de nieve" until stiff peaks form.
Add 1/2 cup of sugar and vanilla extract to the merengue and blend some more.
Incorporate the 5 egg yolks into the merengue and blend, but not too hard. You want the egg yolks and egg whites to mix, but you don't want to loose the airiness of the merengue.
Fold the dry ingredients into the merengue.
Pour the mix into the baking pan and place in the oven for about 1 hour. Once you start to smell the panetela, you have about 5 minutes before it's time to take it out. You can always test that a clean knife or toothpick comes out of the center of the cake before removing from the oven.
While the cake is baking, prepare the "almibar" or syrup. Mix 1/2 cup of water with 1/2 cup of sugar and lime zest in a saucepan. Boil. Let cool.
While the cake is baking, you can also prepare the merengue frosting. By beating 3 egg whites until peaks form. Add sugar to taste. Feel free to add food coloring!
Once the cake is baked, remove from oven and let cool.
Then slice off a thin layer of the top of the cake. At this time, you can either slice the cake lengthwise to split into two layers. You can add a filling in the center.
Either way, pour the almibar on top of the cake evenly. Let sit for a few minutes until the cake has soaked up the almibar.
Coat the cake with merengue.
Decorate to your hearts content!