Nov 25, 2019

Recipe: Panetela Borracha
(Drunken Sponge Cake)

 Warning: this very rich sponge cake soaked in sugar syrup is addictive! You know from its weight on your plate that it is hundreds of calories per forkful, yet you always go back for seconds—and find the serving pan empty because everyone else has beat you to it. With ten eggs and five cups of sugar in the recipe, what’s not to like?

Panetela Borracha
Elia Rodríguez, Mariana M. Prats’ mother, made this crowd-pleaser for family get-togethers in Maryland and she called it “Panetela Dulce Maria.” Desert making is a Martínez tradition. dating back to Mariana’s great aunts, and Dulce Maria Martínez Álvarez—Mariana’s cousin,  friend and contemporary—lived nearby and had the run of the Martínez-Rodríguez house on República street in Camagüey, where the great aunts lorded over the kitchen. After Dulce Maria emigrated to California she wrote down this recipe and gave it to Elia.

We of the Maryland Prats Clan know it as Panetela Borracha, and versions with this name are island-wide Cuban pastry classics. After Elia’s death, her husband Ventura Martínez continued the tradition, bringing this and other of her deserts to Prats and López gatherings and parties. After his passing it was Mariana’s and her sisters’ turn.

For the sponge cake
10 whole eggs
pinch of salt
2 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of flour
3 teaspoons of Royal (baking powder)
¼ lbs (one stick) butter, melted

For the syrup
5 cups water
3 cups sugar
a long piece of lime peel
¼ teaspoon of lime juice
½ cinnamon stick (optional)
¼ cup of good rum (optional)

 Preheat oven to 325°. Butter a 10 x 14 x 2 aluminum baking pan. Stir or sift the Royal into the flour and set aside.

Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt until they whiten (about 15 minutes by hand, says  her recipe, but I would use an electric mixer), then mix in the sugar and vanilla extract.  Add the flour mixture little-by-little alternating with the melted butter. Pour into the greased pan and bake for 40 minutes, more or less. Let it bake until you see the deep golden color top you see in the photograph. 

While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Heat the water, sugar, lime peel, and cinnamon stick. Boil gently for a few minutes, stirring until the crystals dissolve and the syrup looks clear. Remove from heat, discard the peel and stick, and add the lime juice, and optionally the rum. Stir well and set aside.

Panetela Borracha
This cake was cut into 28 portions. Four instead of three
long cuts gets you 35 portions. 
Let cake cool until it can be cut easily. Do not unmold. Cut the cake into 2 x 2 inch serving portions in the pan and pour the syrup over it. Cool to room temperature then tightly seal with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight for the syrup to complete wicking itself into the sponge.

Should serve 18 or more. If you cut the cake into 2 inch squares, you should have 35 portions. When serving, ask each person if they want one or two portions on their plate. Spoon up syrup from the bottom of the pan to add to each serving.

I will note that the liquor called for in the recipe always stayed optional at Prats family gatherings. The Martinez were for the most part teetotalers (by personal choice, not by zealotry) and our drunken spongecake was never found to be inebriated.