The Table of My Ancestors: Week 15 (Spain)

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To read the post that started it all, click here!

This week’s exploration took me to the city of Segovia, northwest of Madrid, in the in the comunidad autónoma (autonomous community) of Castile-León. Segovia is the site of the expansive medieval Alcázar palace and the famous Segovia aqueduct, the city was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1985, and its famous recipe?

Cake.

Not just any cake, though. It’s a cake called ponche segoviano. A special kind of rich vanilla cake that is layered with cream and topped with marzipan and a sugar topping. The topping is then blow-torched into a sort of trellis pattern, which carmelizes the sugar. It’s traditionally made in a rectangle and sold in Segovia. There has even been a war of patents for the authorship of this sweet, which finally won the confectionery El Alcázar as inventors of the product and the texture.

So, yeah. This is no ordinary cake.

A photo of ponche segoviano from bake-street.com

As it turns out, trying to recreate it was no easy task. I didn’t have rectangular cake pans, and I also (go figure) don’t exactly have blowtorches lying around. That said, I’ve learned throughout this project that adaptation is okay, and sometimes we need to focus on doing playing the cards we’re dealt without worrying about what’s in everyone else’s hand. The point of this project was to explore my ancestry through cuisine, and part of the exploration process is learning what does (and doesn’t!) work for me. I’m a unique and complex individual made from unique and complex heritages — and the gift of this project, I think, is that I get to learn from my ancestors while applying everything to my here-and-now context. What a gift.

(Plus, through my research, I learned that ponche segoviano only started to be sold in the mid 1920’s, and my DNA suggests my Spanish ancestry goes back further than that. So the chances of my ancestors having made this particular dessert are slim to none.)

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