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Ponche segoviano or Segovia layer cake

>> Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ponche segoviano 3

I have a soft spot for Segovia. It is such a beautiful city, one of my favourites. For Madrilenians like me, Segovia has always been one of the classic day-trips at any time of year (it's only 60 km away), mainly for its succulent suckling lambs... poor things. I recall having visited it quite some times as a child. As a child it is impossible not to be impressed by its Alcázar that looks like something out of a fairy tale... One expects at any time to see on one of the tall windows, in the highest room of the tallest tower, one of those princesses with a conical cap topped by a veil or a knight coming out at full gallop across the bridge over the moat (I've told you before, all my problems come from reading too much through my childhood... and from watching Robin Hood too many times). It's been days since I wanted to complicate my life with this rich and somewhat labor-intensive dessert typical of Segovia, although relatively recent in history. For those who've never heard about it, despite its name it is a cake, not a drink, that consists of several layers of cake drenched in syrup, with an egg yolk cream between them, and with a thick layer of marzipan covering the whole thing... the perfect dessert for Segovia's cold winters.

This dessert is so famous, at least in its place of origin, that it even has its own website: And on this website, where they state that this candy was invented in the tearoom El Alcázar, next to the cathedral, they tell us the following about its birth:

In 1926, the confectioner Frutos García Martín began marketing the candy in his establishment of the Plaza Mayor of Segovia. The King Alfonso XIII, the last Bourbon who regularly spent the summer at La Granja, encouraged him to spread the word outside of Segovia and in other areas. The king advised the confectioner to present this dessert at the Universal Exhibition of 1929 where he won the gold medal.
They also tell us the exact formula for this sweet is a well kept secret. Does that mean that the recipes found in books and websites are mere attempts? I've read that the genuine filling is not plain pastry cream, as indicated in many places (anathema!), but egg yolk custard or cream. I have used egg yolks, of course, just to avoid being chased by a mob armed with pitchforks and clubs. I don't know if Segovians will forgive me for not marking the ponche with the classic caramel lattice though... I had no adequate gadget (me?). I know that with this aspiring ponche I'm exposed to the wrath of Segovians... but anyway, I risk it because I intend to improve it... the next time I make it.

After a long and brainy research into the subject (ahem), the recipe I used is a collage of bits found here and there... The composition is roughly taken from an old and excellent book apparently no longer in print and recently inherited from a family friend, Nuestra cocina, by José Sarrau. Well, there goes my Segovian-Galapagan ponche:

Ponche segoviano
Yields about 12 servings

  • 8 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 150g sugar
  • 200g of medium strength flour
  • 100g rice flour (potato starch in the original recipe)
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • Sunflower oil for brushing the mold
  1. Weigh the flours and set aside.
  2. Cream the eggs and yolks with the sugar until fluffy and pale, 3-4 minutes in the Thermomix at speed 5 and 37ºC. If you do not have Thermomix, you already know that creaming is accelerated by beating the mixture in a water bath with tepid water, because the temperature helps the mixture to stabilize with the air.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  4. Add the sifted flours into the eggs, with a gentle motion. Melt the butter, add and mix well. Line a large bowl with parchment paper, brush it with sunflower oil, pour the mixture and bake about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, unmold on a rack and let cool. The oven dish size should be sufficient for the cake layer to yield three parts of reasonable size. My strips were 9 cm by 40 cm, more or less.
  5. While the cake cools down, make the syrup and the yolk cream.
  • 250g sugar
  • 200ml water
  • A glass of liquor (I added sweet wine)
  1. Put the sugar and the water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Boil the syrup for about 7 minutes, turn off the heat, add the liquor and keep it hot for soaking the cake later.
Ponche segoviano 1

Egg yolk cream
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 150g sugar
  • 75ml of water
  1. Make a syrup by boiling the sugar and water till it thickens slightly, around 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, crack the eggs open, separate the yolks and strain them to remove the skin that encloses them.
  3. When the syrup is ready, add the yolks and stir vigorously. Then keep on heating the mixture on low heat, stirring continuously until it thickens. When it's thickened (thinner than a regular custard), remove from the heat and set aside.
  • 500g ground almonds or almond meal
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 1 or 2 egg whites
  1. For the marzipan I mixed two formulas and I added 2 full egg whites (which I had left over from the cake) and 10ml of water... blunder. My marzipan was too wet and I had to knead it on the counter for quite a while adding sugar galore. So I imagine that using only the egg whites is correct. Well, the recipe yields more marzipan than necessary for the ponche, but you can just freeze it until December. Although I don't know if will last that long, because homemade marzipan is an indescribable delight. You can buy ground almonds or grind the same amount of raw almonds. Thoroughly mix the almonds with the sugar and add the egg whites. Although at first the paste seems quite unmanageable, the liquid will slowly permeate the solid to make a more or less pliable dough.
  2. Knead on the counter until it forms a paste that can be laminated with a rolling pin. You will need to sprinkle lots of icing sugar to prevent sticking. Wrap in plastic foil and set aside.
Ponche segoviano 2

Putting it all together
  1. Cut the cake layer into three equal parts. It's better to trim the edges before, which will always be somewhat uneven and lower, and form a perfect rectangle, measured with a measuring tape. You can also trim the top if it is somewhat domed, which is very common.
  2. Place the first cake layer on a serving dish and brush it repeteadly with the hot syrup, until you see in the sides that it has permeated almost the entire cake layer. Though it might look like a lot of syrup, you should really use a third of the total amount. Oddly enough, the cake is able to suck most of that syrup. You can help the cake in soaking by poking it here and there with a toothpick. Once the first cake layer is soaked in syrup, spread one third of the egg yolk cream on top. Do the same with the second and third layers, repeating the brushing and spreading.
  3. Roll the marzipan to a thickness of about 3 mm. Place the cake tower as close as possible to the marzipan and with the help of another person (I think it is impossible to do it by yourself), raise the marzipan layer with great care and place it on the cake. It will fit all right. Beware of any cracks on the corners, though you can hide most of all cracks and imperfections just by pressing the marzipan with your fingers. Trim the excess with a knife and adjust the marzipan around the perimeter to cover the cake perfectly.
  4. Finally, sprinkle the entire top surface of the ponche with icing sugar (as you see the ponche can raise your blood sugar to infinity and beyond) and, for a perfect finish, you should make a classic lattice pattern on top by burning the sugar with a hot iron. I know you can do this with a red-hot metal skewer, but I always use wood skewers... Next time.
Ponche segoviano 4

As I said, this dessert is best suited for a cold winter afternoon. But... if you get in a bathtub filled with ice cubes, the feeling is similar. You just need to find an excuse to eat this eggy and marzipaney delicacy...

23 comentarios:

Valerie Harrison (bellini) July 7, 2010 at 3:06 AM  

This cake is certainly impressive Miriam:D

Belinda @zomppa July 7, 2010 at 4:40 AM  

Even though it hit over 100 and I can only imagine eating this over some cool lemonade with a ceiling fan...your depiction of the cold winters have me romanticizing eating this with a cup of hot tea, in front of a fireplace by the ocean...lovely!

fromBAtoParis July 7, 2010 at 8:22 AM  

Bueno, "chapeau" for esta torta (creo que ustedes le dicen "tarta", no?) Està perfecta !!! y ademas tod el research que hiciste...y los segovianos te van a hacer un monumento, porque gracias a vos, el mundo va a conocer este ponche, que si no hubiese leido tu post, yo hubiese pensado que era para tomar....
Ah! Me encanto lo de las princesas con el sombrero y el tul arriba...yo las veia asi en los dibujitos de la tele...Qué chicas inocentes que éramos, las de nuestra época !!! ja ja
Un beso, Cristina

Magic of Spice July 7, 2010 at 8:25 AM  

This is truly lovely:)

Anonymous July 7, 2010 at 12:37 PM  

Beautiful cake and fascinating post Miriam! I hope you don't mind, but I've featured it as my first-ever 'WOW' in a new 'Weekly WOW' feature on my blog. Here's the link:

Nancy July 7, 2010 at 2:50 PM  

Miriam your cake looks so beautiful, almost to pretty to eat. It sounds so delicious and looks moist and mouthwatering. Great recipe & photos :)

Sippity Sup July 7, 2010 at 3:50 PM  

This cake is so inspiring! I am not much of a baker but I think I want to try my hand at this one! GREG

Cristina - Teenie Cakes July 7, 2010 at 4:14 PM  

Miriam - I enjoy your writing and how you share vivid accounts of history and memories around your beautiful, edible creations.

What a beautiful slice of cake. The texture looks delicately spongy, the syrup perfectly layered and the marzipan so evenly placed. Truly inspirational.

My Little Space July 7, 2010 at 4:32 PM  

Mariam, this cake looks marvellous! And also thanks so much for sharing such wonderful story. It makes me smile. ^_^ Hope you're having a fabulous day, there.
Cheers, Kristy

Tasty Trix July 7, 2010 at 4:46 PM  

You weren't kidding when you said this was a labor intensive cake! Clearly worth it - not being Segovian, I will not judge you for the lack of caramel lattice. I think you've done quite enough work! What I want to know is: did you really eat this in a bathtub filled with ice? ; )

Anonymous July 8, 2010 at 7:37 AM  

Great post and photos, Miriam. It is very impressive, all around!



Simones Kitchen July 8, 2010 at 10:08 AM  

Getting into an icebath is actually not a bad idea in the current temperatures.. lol... I love the look of this cake, but I am always a mess when it comes to making layers and this is a rather labour intensive cake, but you've made it look absolutely perfect!

Homemade Heaven July 8, 2010 at 10:47 AM  

Wow, I just discovered a whole new place and a recipe to die for. What a wonderful creation - the simple beauty is so European. I love it.

The Manly Housewife July 8, 2010 at 3:39 PM  

Wow truly inspiring. Someday I must make the trek! thanks for sharing this.

Linn @ Swedish Home Cooking July 8, 2010 at 5:29 PM  

Adorable! So pretty and pale. Mm. Looks like a cake that suits my taste buds very well ;)

Koci July 8, 2010 at 8:00 PM  

This cake looks sooo delicious! Beautiful photos, too. :)

Mari Nuñez July 8, 2010 at 9:28 PM  

Miriam, esto es una delicia, me encanta. tengo una inquietud y es si el marzapan no se contamina al usar claras crudas?

Liana fm Australia July 9, 2010 at 2:36 AM  

Looks amazing - did I count right 17eggs! I haven't made marzipan before but am willing to try. Well done !

Jean July 12, 2010 at 5:31 PM  

Nothing else to say but that this layer cake looks perfect!

Miriam July 22, 2010 at 12:02 PM  

Val: thanks!
Belinda: mmm, the warm weather always leads me to romanticize about the cold myself...
Cristina: jaja, quién no ha querido ser princesa alguna vez... ays.
Magic of Spice: thanks!
Ruby: thanks!
Spicie Foodie: thanks!
Sippity Sup: thanks!
Cristina: thanks!
MLS: thanks!
Trix: I almost did... too hot here!
Islandeat: thanks!
Simone: it is indeed labor intensive, in fact I only made it for D's birthday!
Rose: I'm glad you discovered something new...
TMH: thanks!
Linn: I'm sure!
Koci: thanks!
Mari: no se contamina de ninguna manera si las claras están en perfecto estado, que es como deben estar.
Liana: it's a bit... on the heavy side, yes...
Jean: thanks!

M. August 6, 2010 at 11:55 PM  

I shouldn't be looking at this on an empty mouthwatering!!!

What a Dish! August 11, 2010 at 12:44 PM  

Wow, what a beautiful cake!!! I'd love for someone to make it for me; it looks way too difficult for me!

timo December 11, 2011 at 9:23 PM  

Thanks, finally I found a good receipe for this amazing dessert! I could only go to Segovia for eating this ;)


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