Being married to Carlos over these past 15 years, one thing I’ve learned is that American birthday cake and Salvadoran birthday cake are very different.
Carlos will eat American birthday cake, but he doesn’t really like it.
Today was Carlos’s birthday and for the past few weeks, all he’s been talking about is Salvadoran birthday cake. I got the hint and asked him plenty of questions about it so I could make him one. Carlos says that growing up in El Salvador he always got a cake from a bakery called Flor de Trigo on his birthday. The cake part was moist but didn’t have a strong flavor, the frosting was only very slightly sweet. The cakes were usually layer cakes with fruit decorating the top.
I did some research, (even found the Flor de Trigo website!) and this is what I came up with.
The cake is a white cake (from a box mix just to save some time), and the “frosting” is a homemade whipped cream. Sliced almonds decorate the sides, and the fruits I chose were strawberries and apricot. Carlos gave me muchos besos and said it’s just like a Salvadoran birthday cake. Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try!
Salvadoran-style Birthday Cake
1 box white cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Classic White)
1 quart heavy whipping cream
1/2 to 3/4 cup white sugar (more if you prefer sweeter)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 cups sliced almonds
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
1 can apricot halves, drained and sliced
1 can (12 oz.) “apricot cake & pastry filling” (I used “Solo” brand)
1. Make cake according to package directions. If you have two round pans, use those. If not, you can do what I did – Put it all in a well greased 13 x 9 glass baking dish. Once baked and cooled, carefully turn onto a clean surface and slice in half to create 2 square layers. (Since the edges get browned while baking, slice those off so it’s uniform on all sides.)
2. This is how you make homemade whipped cream. (I recommend making this and assembling the cake the same day you plan to eat it.) First, it’s best if you have a large stainless steel bowl, but a plastic mixing bowl will work. Metal is better because you can get it nice and cold. Cold is your friend when making whipped cream! … Whichever bowl you’re using, stick it in the freezer along with the metal beater(s) from your electric mixer. The heavy whipping cream should be kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. To make the whipped cream – pour the quart of whipping cream into the bowl. Turn your mixer on high and beat until stiff peaks form. Add a 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and sugar according to your tastes, (1/2 cup to 3/4 cups makes it just barely sweet by American standards.)
3. Put one cake layer on a base – this will be the bottom layer. (Ideally your base would be the bottom of a cake container which you can cover with a dome lid.) Spread the can of “apricot cake & pastry filling” on the top of the bottom cake layer. On top of the “apricot cake & pastry filling”, spread a layer of whipped cream. Top with the top cake layer.
4. Frost the entire outside of the cake with the whipped cream. Carefully toss the sliced almonds onto the sides of the cake.
5. Decorate the top of the cake with the sliced apricots and strawberries. (This recipe will work great if you decide to use different fruits or a different “cake & pastry filling” – so get creative! Other options include fresh or canned pineapple, fresh kiwi, canned fruit cocktail, and other kinds of berries.)
6. Cover cake and refrigerate for a couple hours then serve!
¡Feliz Cumpleaños! (or as I like to say, “Sapo Verde!“)
Taking photos at Fiesta DC this past Sunday was a challenge for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons was the sheer number of other people trying to photograph and video tape the event. At times I felt like I was in a group of paparazzi fighting for position – and then when I would finally frame the perfect shot, someone would inevitably ruin it by running across with a video camera or sticking their iPhone in front of me.
Some of the people were amateur or hobbyist photographers like me, some were obviously freelance professionals or working for media – And then there were young males, usually equipped with cellphone cameras, who were just trying to photograph the nalgas of the cachiporras to share on their Facebook.
Anyway, here are my favorite shots which I had some fun editing and a video of the general atmosphere.
By the way, speaking of nalgas, at one point during the parade a woman with a very generous backside stood in front of us. Carlos, to his credit, didn’t even seem to notice despite the fact that her “pants” were actually leggings and you could see her thong through the fabric.
“¡Qué bárbara!” a little old man said. The old man, not content to enjoy the view by himself and feeling the need to share, elbowed Carlos. Jutting his chin towards the woman in front of them he said, with a lascivious expression on his face, “Ella es Santa Bárbara, ¿vá?”
Carlos looked confused, “Oh, ¿sí?” he replied.
“Ssssíííííí,” the viejo hissed appraising the woman’s behind, practically licking his lips. Noting the fact that Carlos didn’t understand what he meant, the viejo then asked, “¿No sabes?”
“¿No?” Carlos said, the question on his face.
I rolled my eyes at the predictable dirty old man.
“¡Es santa por delante y bárbara por atrás!” the viejo said, erupting in laughter as if he had said the most clever and original thing in the world.
Carlos laughed politely and I pinched him.
“What?” Carlos said.
“Stand back here, away from the viejo chuco,” I said.
After the parade we had lunch. I wanted pupusas but Carlos made a good point that we eat pupusas all the time and that we should eat something different, so we ended up buying delicious Mexican tortas. (The boys and I had the torta milanesa de pollo with horchata. Carlos had the torta de carnitas with agua fresca de tamarindo.)
Just as we finished eating and were deciding what to do next, I heard “Los Hermanos Lovo” announced on a nearby stage.
“No way!” I said out loud, “Hermanos Lovo!”
Carlos looked at me like I had lost my mind as I pulled his hand in the direction of the stage.
“It’s the Chanchona music I blogged about. Remember?… Hermanos Lovo!”
For three songs I tapped my hand against my side, tapped my feet, and moved my hips, waiting for people to dance, but only a few people were dancing, and they were getting stared at. Everyone else just pretty much stood there and watched the performance. I found this a little strange given that at most Latino dominant events I’ve been too, there’s usually not a lack of dancing. I wonder if most of the people there have become too Americanized in this respect? Too self-conscious?
I couldn’t take it anymore. I leaned toward Carlos and he leaned toward me so he could hear me.
“Want to dance?” I asked, eyes brimming with hope like a child asking for a puppy.
Carlos said nothing, just turned toward me and took me in his arms, and we danced.
Within seconds much of the crowd had turned to look at us and stood gaping. Carlos whispered in my ear, “We’re being photographed and video taped.” I felt a flood of gringa self-consciousness wash through me but we kept dancing, and soon, the people around us, were just a blur of colors.
“What is the music of El Salvador?” you might ask a Salvadoran, and most Salvadorans will answer “Cumbia” – but the less famous Chanchona music is an often overlooked, under appreciated, (and sometimes just plain unknown!) genre that is uniquely Salvadoran.
The word “Chanchona” basically means “big pig” – an affectionate yet amusing name given to the large stringed bass that is at the heart of this music. Other instruments heard in the always upbeat Chanchona music include violins, güira, guitars, conga and other percussion.
In 2011, Smithsonian Folkways Magazine did a fantastic feature of the Chanchona group, Los Hermanos Lovo. Check out this video, and then to learn more, I encourage you to visit the link below where you can read some really touching stories and interesting history from the musicians about the music. If you end up loving it as much as I do, there’s a link down below to song samples and downloads.
Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: The Sound and Story of the Salvadoran Chanchona by Daniel E. Sheehy
¡Soy Salvadoreño! Chanchona Music from Eastern El Salvador by Los Hermanos Lovo (samples & downloads)
I didn’t think I’d be making a public service announcement today regarding the El Salvador vs. Mexico game, but a conversation with a friend this morning made me realize there are some issues that should be discussed, and if this helps change the behavior of even one person, pues, vale la pena.
Okay, guanacos, you know I love you all con todo mi corazón, right? You know I’m cheering for La Selecta in tonight’s game against Mexico, even though I also cheer for El Tri when they don’t play El Salvador. I’m aware that you guys have issues with each other and that Mexico can be equally disrespectful when El Salvador plays on their turf, (yes, I remember las abejas en la porteria), but where does it end, hermanos?
If Salvadorans are disrespectful to the Mexican team and Mexicans are disrespectful to the Salvadoran team, the cycle will continue to repeat itself. Look, I know it’s difficult. I have two sisters and when we’d get into a slap fight, we would keep slapping each other back and forth – always wanting to be the one to get the last slap in. Usually at some point I would slap my sister and run off until she forgot to slap me back later… (“Haha! Got you last!”) – But this situation is a little different. Someone has to have the maturity and self-discipline to let the other have the last slap.
Didn’t your abuela tell you, “Ojo por ojo y el mundo quedará ciego”? … Wait.. maybe that was Gandhi that said that. Gandhi would have made a good abuela. Anyway… Okay, your Nana probably told you, “Eh! Vos! Pórtate bien, cipote!… Qué bicho más malcriado, hijueputa…” – That’s not as inspirational, but good enough.
Last night Salvadorans stayed up all night making noise outside the Hotel Real Intercontinental in San Salvador where El Tri is staying. The intention was to disrupt the Mexican team’s sleep – but can I tell you something? I stayed at that hotel last summer and I can almost guarantee that the Mexican team didn’t hear a peep. The windows are really thick and I couldn’t hear anything down on the street below when we were there. Besides, even if it was loud enough to be heard, the Mexican team is already hip to this trick. Don’t you think that by now they’ve invested in some nice noise cancelling headphones? El Tri probably slept very comfortably, meanwhile, the Salvadorans down on the street missed a whole night’s sleep. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
If these kinds of “pep rallies” were all that went on, then I would say está bien, it’s harmless, but things can get a lot more disrespectful and even violent. Apparently someone threw a torta at Chicharito. It sounds funny but come on, let’s talk about this seriously for a moment. Gente decente no se hace eso. First of all, Chicharito is a person with feelings. This was just incredibly rude. Second, this stupid act by one person reflects badly on all Salvadorans. Third, this happened when El Tri got off the bus in front of the Real Intercontinental. I have walked down that street, (Boulevard de Los Heroes) and I can promise you that there were at least three hungry people begging within a half block of that torta hitting the pavement. As my suegra would say, “Qué pecado” … Shame on you for wasting food like that.
This is a beautiful game. Use your passion to support your team in a positive way – not on negativity. Whose with me?
Chicharito image source: Ed Schipul
On Friday, while watching the game (El Salvador vs. Costa Rica), the Salvadoran soccer team’s anthem came on during a commercial break. Our 10 year old son jumped up and started dancing; we all started laughing because this cipote has moves and I have no idea where he gets them from. He can dance to almost any kind of music, and he dances really well. (My Suegra used to say that he gets it from her side of the family but I’ve seen Suegra and her family dance – they aren’t any better than my family!)
Anyway, with the México vs. El Salvador game coming up on Tuesday June 12th, (9 pm ET on Telemundo), I asked my son if he’d be willing to give a repeat performance in front of the camera. He didn’t want to at first but a piece of chocolate, 50 cents, and my explanation that he would help pep everyone up for the game, convinced him.
Arriba con la Selección!
In El Salvador many thirsty people on the streets ask for their soda to go, not in a bottle, can or even in a cup – but in a plastic bag with a straw. “Soda en bolsa” is simply cheaper, (an explanation as to why in a video below.)
Well, obviously Coca-Cola cares deeply about its branding and part of their branding is that well-known curvy shaped bottle which sets them apart from other carbonated drinks – But how can Coca-Cola make sure they retain that familiar symbol when everyone is drinking out of bags?
Genius marketing, that’s how.
Coca-Cola created a curvy shaped biodegradable bag available not only in El Salvador, but in other countries as well. Chécalo!
My first taste of Semita, (a Salvadoran jam or marmalade filled pastry) was many years ago. Suegra had brought it back in her “encargos” from El Salvador and this one, although I didn’t know it at the time, was of great quality and very fresh. Suegra brought many Semitas with her and to keep from eating them I put them in the freezer – I soon found that they taste just as good frozen, (though that’s probably a very gringa thing to do.)
Once my stash of Semita ran out I was forced to buy some at the local Salvadoran-owned Latino market. I then discovered one more thing – Not all Semita are created equal. The Semitas bought locally were low quality – either because they were made to have a longer shelf life or because they weren’t and had gone stale. I vowed that one day I would bake my own Semita but I didn’t get around to it until a few weeks ago. The results were so fantastic that I would say this is one of the best things I’m able to make, (and Carlos fell in love with me all over again.)
Here is my recipe – I read a dozen Semita recipes and created my own. Sometimes straying from already established recipes while baking is asking for disaster, but in this case, it was sweet success. By the way, this recipe can also be used to make Empanadas de Piña, Pasteles de Piña or Pineapple Hand Pies.
If you mention Semita to a Mexican, they might think you’re talking about Cemita – a type of sandwich from Puebla.
Semita (Salvadoran Pineapple Jam-Filled Pastries)
4 cups of flour
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature and chopped in pieces
2 tablespoons yeast
1 cup sugar
2 pinches of salt
1 jar pineapple jelly, jam or marmalade (if you can’t find at the regular grocery store, check the Latino market)
1/2 cup water
1. In a very large mixing bowl, add the flour. Create a volcano with a hole in the center for the rest of the ingredients.
2. Into the volcano, add butter, yeast, eggs, sugar, salt and water. Mix all the ingredients by hand, kneading them together. (These measurements worked perfectly – I double checked by making the recipe a second time, but if for some reason the dough doesn’t come together after a couple minutes, you can add a little more water – If too sticky after a few minutes, you can add a little flour.)
3. The original recipes call for rising time – I skipped this completely. Don’t be afraid – keep going!
4. Remove a baseball-sized amount of dough and set aside, then break the remaining dough into 4 equal balls.
5. On a lightly-floured surface, roll a ball of dough out until it’s as thick as pie crust, (not too thin or you won’t be able to pick it up.) Use a knife to cut the dough into a rectangle shape. (It doesn’t have to be perfect but you can use a ruler if you want.)
6. Place the rectangle on a greased baking sheet. Top with a nice layer of pineapple jam, (a little thicker than you’d put on a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.)
7. Create another rectangle with the second ball of dough. Place this one on top of the jam.
8. Repeat with the 2 other dough balls. You should now have 2 rectangular Semitas on separate baking sheets, 1 ball of dough and dough scraps from when you cut out the rectangles.
9. Take your dough scraps and create a ball. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut into long strips as you see in the photos. Place on top of the 2 Semitas in a criss-cross pattern. Sprinkle each Semita with a tablespoon or two of sugar.
10. Pasteles de Piña: With remaining dough you could make another rectangular Semita or try your hand at Pasteles de Piña. Roll the dough out on a floured surface and then cut out circles using a large drinking glass. Roll out each circle a little more, trying to give it a more oval shape. Put a spoonful of pineapple jam in the middle. With a finger dipped in water, wet the edge of one side before folding over and sealing by pressing the tines of a fork against the edges. (Don’t worry if the dough breaks open a little or doesn’t totally seal. The jam actually tastes really good when it seeps out.)
11. Put the Pasteles on a greased baking sheet, sprinkle with sugar.
12. Baking Time & Temp: Both the Semitas and the Pasteles should be baked on the middle rack of a 350 F oven until golden brown. (You probably won’t be able to bake them all at the same time.) The rectangular Semitas need 30 to 40 minutes in the oven and the Pasteles might be done after 15 to 20 minutes – check them and decide based on color.
Makes: 2 normal-sized Semitas and 12 individual half moon pies/pasteles/empanadas.
Or: 3 normal-sized Semitas, or 36 half moon pies/pasteles/empanadas.
Note: A “normal-sized” Semita serves about 9 people.
I was contacted many times with the opportunity to interview any of the contestants of Jennifer Lopez’s and Marc Anthony’s new show, Q’Viva The Chosen. I responded that if they had any contestants who were Salvadoran, I’d be interested.
Well, I got my wish! Junior and Emily are half-Salvadoran salsa dancing siblings from California. Check out my exclusive interview with Junior below!
Latinaish: I saw your auditions with Marc Anthony in Q’Viva and it’s very clear that you guys are professional dancers and that you love to dance. At what age did you start learning to dance?
(See Junior and Emily at minute 2:25)
Junior: We love what we do! We have been dancing salsa for 12 years together. Emily started when she was 10 years old and I started when I was 14 years old. It’s an incredible feeling to do what you love and to do with your sister. To be able to travel and share amazing and unforgettable moments with family.
Latinaish: You guys dance salsa but do you like other types of dance as well?
Junior: We love all types of music and dance. Our specialty is salsa but we also do other types of social dances.
Latinaish: What are your favorite songs to dance to right now?
Junior: We love to dance to everything! As of right now we have been very into doing music by Rodrigo y Gabriela.
Latinaish: You guys are siblings and you have a lot of chemistry when you dance together, but siblings have a tendency to argue and annoy each other. What does your brother/sister do that annoys you more than anything?
Junior: We have learned to work together. We have learned to separate the personal and the professional. We have been dancing for 12 years together so like everything else, it’s a learning process. The thing that we try and focus on most is pushing each other past our comfort zone and constantly pushing limits. We always have to keep each other positive and motivated when things get really tough because for us it’s a never-ending process to create new limits and continue to innovate.
Latinaish: Your biography says that you’re from San Francisco, California – but I also heard you’re Salvadoran. My husband is from Soyapango, so I’m curious – who in your family is from El Salvador? Your father? Mother? (From what part?)
Junior: That’s exciting to hear that your husband is Salvadorean as well! We were both born and raised in San Francisco, California, but we currently live in Los Angeles, California. We are both half Salvadorean and half Korean. Our father is from Santa Ana, El Salvador and our mother is from Seoul, Korea.
Latinaish: Have you visited El Salvador?
Junior: We have been invited to perform in El Salvador before, but unfortunately we have never been able to go because of schedule conflicts. We would definitely love to visit someday!
Latinaish: In the Q’Viva competition, you guys represent the United States, but do you also feel like you represent El Salvador?
Junior: Yes, we were representing the USA, but we definitely felt that we represented El Salvador as well. Our parents divorced when we were really young and we were raised by our father. We were brought up knowing only our Salvadorean side of the family. It was such an honor to represent both countries.
Latinaish: What else can you tell us about your part on the show Q’Viva?
Junior: Q’Viva was an amazing and unforgettable experience for us. It was so incredible to see such amazing talent from all over the world and for us to be a part of that was an honor. We definitely were extremely excited and nervous at the same time performing for Marc, Jennifer, and Jamie. It will be a moment that we will never forget!
Tamales de elote (corn tamales) are often eaten for breakfast, (or any time really), in El Salvador, as well as in other countries in Central America. They are especially good if you re-heat them the next day by frying them, (which turns them into “tamales fritos” or fried tamales.)
Here is the recipe I use, adapted from the one found at Whats4Eats.com. If you want it completely authentic – (i.e. you want to use lard and fresh corn) – go check out their recipe. My recipe is easier and can be made year round because it uses canned corn – but I changed a few other things as well, and they’re delicious like this.
TAMALES DE ELOTE
Makes 1 dozen
What you need:
Corn husks (for wrapping) – 12
Butter, unsalted, softened – 1/2 cup
Baking powder – 2 teaspoons
Masa harina (MASECA) – 2 cups
Salt – 1 and 1/2 teaspoons
Whole milk or cream – 1 cup (warm)
Corn (whole kernel, sweet, no salt added) – 1 and 3/4 cups (drained) = about one 15.25 oz. can
Sugar – 3 tablespoons
1. Put corn husks in a large bowl of warm water to soak.
2. Put butter, baking powder, corn and sugar in a blender or food processor and mix until combined. (Add a couple tablespoons of milk if blender blades won’t turn. This can be any kind of milk, including skim.)
3. In a large bowl, mix together (with your hands), the masa harina (MASECA), salt and warm milk. Knead until completely combined.
4. Mix the masa little by little into the blender mixture, using the blender to combine it. If the mixture is now too thick for your blender to handle, mix all into a bowl by hand. Squeeze the mixture through your hands until completely combined.
5. Drain the corn husks and shake dry, (it’s fine if they’re still moist.) You will either need to work fast so the husks don’t dry out again, or you can leave them in water and shake dry one-by-one as you use them.
6. Lay out a husk and add about 1/4 cup dough to the center. Fold in each side to cover the dough. Then fold up the bottom of the husk. Finally fold down the pointed part of the husk and insert it into the bottom. Repeat with the rest of the dough. (I go the extra step of wrapping my tamales in aluminum foil to prevent them from opening, which is easier than tying with string, which some people do.)
7. Steam the tamales in a steamer pot for 30-45 minutes. (If you don’t have a steamer pot, you can places balls of foil on the bottom of the pot and then put a metal pie plate on top of the foil. Make sure water doesn’t come above the plate. Over low heat, stack tamales on top of the plate and cover the pot. You may need to add water halfway through the cooking time if your pot cooks dry.)
8. Remove tamales and let cool. Serve warm, or refrigerate. To re-heat, unwrap tamal from corn husk and place on a comal or in a frying pan with a little oil. Cook on both sides until browned – now you have a tamal frito!
[Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. Apologies that there is no English translation this week. If you have a question about something, ask me in comments and I'll try to answer you. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments!]
Fuimos a El Salvador en agosto, y claro que trajimos recuerdos!
Si no has visto los blog posts sobre recuerdos de otros años, chéquealos. Hay un montón de cosas chistosas que ya compartí anteriormente:
Okay! Los recuerdos de este viaje!