I have referred to Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés in other posts, not only because he led the ruction and conquest of the Mexica (Aztec) Empire in the 16th Century, but also for his influence in shaping Mexico’s cultural and gastronomic profile. As part of his post-conquest bounty, he was named Governor of the new colonies, and received the title of “Marqués del valle de Oaxaca” – Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca. The name “Marquesote” is the augmentative form of the title of Marqués, translating as “the big Marquis”, and the cake of this name is said to have been named in Oaxaca after Hernán Cortés, although it is not completely clear if it was a true homage, or more of a shibboleth, since an archaic interpretation of the augmentative “marquesote” denoted a derogatory tone.
Marquesote cake is prepared with very few ingredients, starting with plenty of eggs and some sugar. Depending on the region, wheat flour is used, or it may be gluten free, with some of the most ancient recipes calling for pinole (roasted and ground maize), and others using corn starch. The batter may or may not contain butter (the latter version resembling more of an Angel Food cake.) Sometimes it is sprinkled with sesame seed before baking, but often left plain. Because the crumb is porous and readily absorbs liquids, when the cake is soaked in syrup receives the name of “mamón”, which means ”sucker.” For this property, as well as for its neutral flavour, it serves as the base for many desserts, such as Antes (layered cakes with syrup and fruit preserves), Chimbos (squares of marquesote with a cinnamon and anise flavoured syrup, from the state of Chiapas), Sopa de vino – Wine Soup (as the name indicates, the soaking medium includes wine, a dessert from the state of Guerrero), and even for the well-known pastel de tres leches (three-milk cake.)
For this recipe, I am using corn starch, and including butter, but skipping the sesame seed. I could not make up my mind about what flavourings to add, so I decided to slice one marquesote into individual portions, leaving a few plain, to appreciate the original flavour (in brown paper cups, in the photo at the top of the post), plus a few with syrup (mamones, in white cups), others with apricot preserves (ante de chabacano, in yellow cups), and also made some with cajeta (goat’s milk caramel, in pink cups) and soaked in tres leches (three milks: cream, evaporated and condensed milk, in patterned cups).
Ingredients (for two 8×8 inch cakes)
8 eggs; whites and yolks separated
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups corn starch (the white fine powder, also known as corn flour in the UK)
1 tbsp baking powder
½ cup butter, plus a little more, for greasing the pans
Cinnamon Simple Syrup
Ingredients (enough to soak two 8x8inch marquesotes)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 stick cinnamon, preferably Mexican (Ceylon)
Additional Flavourings (optional)
Ingredients (quantities, to taste)
Apricot Ante – Ante de chabacano
Cinnamon simple syrup (from above)
Peeled and slivered almonds
Goat’s Milk Caramel – Cajeta (try my recipe, or from jar)
Equal parts of whipping cream, evaporated milk and condensed milk; mixed
Use parchment paper to line two 8x8inch baking pans (or one 9x13inch pan works, as well); grease with a bit of butter and reserve. Turn on oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
Melt butter in a small pot on the stove at low temperature, or in a bowl in the microwave oven. Reserve, allowing to reach room temperature.
Place the egg whites in a perfectly clean and dry mixing bowl, and beat until they turn white and form peaks (photo below, left). Continue beating vigorously while adding the egg yolks, one at a time (photo below, right):
Continue beating until ribbons of the egg mix traced on the surface remain for a while (photo below, left). Sift sugar, corn starch and baking powder through a fine mesh, onto the egg batter, and fold gently to incorporate (photo below, right):
Finally, pour in melted and cooled-down butter, mixing gently, but thoroughly, until uniform and smooth (photo below, left). Divide batter between the lined 8x8inch pans, or pour into one 9x13inch pan (photo below, right):
Bake in pre-heated oven for approximately thirty minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean after inserting at the centre of the cake(s). Remove from oven, and allow to cool down in the mould (cake will be very brittle); as it cools, the cake will shrink a little, forming a pattern on the top, as seen below, left. Take the cake(s) with parchment paper out of the mould, then gently pull the paper away from the cake and remove. Trim the edges of the cake with a serrated knife. I further sliced one of marquesotes into a grid with sixteen portions (photo below, right):
The marquesote may be served as it is. I placed three portions in brown paper cups:
To make mamón and ante, prepare cinnamon simple syrup. Place sugar, water and cinnamon stick in a pot over medium-high heat (photo below, left). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, and continue until the liquid starts to boil and thickens just slightly (photo below, right):
Remove from heat, and allow to cool down. It should remain clear, but might have a slightly yellow coloration from the cinnamon. Once cooled down, remove and discard cinnamon stick.
For mamón, slice off a thin layer from the bottom of the cake (photo below, left). For ante, slice in half horizontally, to form two layers (photo below, right):
Place cake slices, cut sides facing up, in a dish with rim. I had three pieces for mamón, and six halves for ante. Pour syrup generously over each cut surface:
Allow cake to absorb syrup. For mamón, turn cakes to face up; I flipped them onto white paper cups:
For the ante pieces, I placed the bottom halves, cut side up, in yellow paper cups, then topped each with apricot jam. The top halves are placed on top, cut side down, and more jam is added on top. Finish with a few almond slivers, as decorations:
I sliced three more pieces in half, horizontally, and filled and topped with cajeta, placed in pink paper cups:
Finally, for the tres leches flavour, slice the crispy top of the cake off (I used the last four pieces). Place in a dish with rim, and pour the mix of the three milks over:
Allow the cake to soak until most of the three-milk mix is absorbed. Transfer to serving plate (I placed them in patterned paper cups) and decorate with whipped cream and maraschino cherries:
I arranged a few of the mini cakes in a serving tray, as shown at the top of the post, and below, to enjoy with coffee, and pretty enough for an afternoon tea:
Nobody could resist trying at least a couple of the flavours in the spread; my husband liked the syrupy mamón, while my daughter favoured the cajeta. I liked them all, even the plain marquesote, but especially enjoyed the ante; I might use the other marquesote to make a full-size ante. Plain marquesote and mamón will keep in a container with lid for a few days, even at room temperature; any other leftovers are better kept in the fridge for just one or two days.
I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #499, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.