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Let’s Explore The Sweet Side Of Spain On Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day

Yema, leche flan and meringue-based desserts are sweet stuff that we’ve grown up with.  I always thought that they were our very own Pinoy desserts only to find out that we actually inherited these recipes from our Spanish colonizers.

Leche flan


In Madrid, I’ve tried turrónes de almendras (almond nougat), similar to the turon from Cebu but which uses peanuts. Another namesake is our familiar sliced banana wrapped with a spring roll wrapper, deep-fried then coated with caramelized sugar.


Torta de Argao


In the south of Spain where almonds grow abundantly, most desserts are speckled with almendras, albeit pine nuts are also popular in Andalusian goodies. There’s the mazapan de almendras of which Bicolanos have their own version in the mazapan de pili. In the Andalusian region, anise seeds in pastries are quite prevalent. Back home, we also use anise in roscas from Leyte, the Visayan torta as well as in the bread from Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte.


Brazo de Mercedes


The spherical, sugar-coated yema, quite common in Spain, has also been adapted in our kitchens but made with condensed milk and egg yolks. The Spanish original is made without milk, and definitely with more egg yolks than the Pinoy version because of its bright, sunny-yellow color, unlike our rendition that ranges from beige to caramel brown.


Here are more Spanish desserts with Filipino equivalents:

Spanish                                               Filipino

Brazo Gitano                                      Brazo de Mercedes

Cabello de angel                                 Kundol

Polvorones                                          Masa podrida, polvoron

Rosquillas                                            Rosquillos

Ensaimadas Mallorquinas                  Ensaimada

Bizcocho                                              Biscocho

Tocino del cielo                                   Tocino del cielo

Pastillas                                               Pastillas

To celebrate our longstanding culinary ties with Spain, here are two traditional dessert recipes originating in Spain. Soplillos are delicate, cloud-like biscuits common in Granada in southern Spain. The Almond Torte is inspired by Torta de Almendras Santiago, a Galician almond cake with the cross of Santiago de Compostela on top of the cake.


Soplillos (Almond Puffs)

Makes 30 to 36 pieces

  • 1 cup almonds, finely chopped
  • 5 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 to 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • grated zest from 1 lemon

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line 3 half-sheet pans with baking paper or aluminum foil. Set aside.

2. Put almonds in a baking tray. Roast in oven for 10 minutes or until light golden. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

3. In a very clean bowl, beat egg whites and salt until fluffy. Gradually add granulated sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Gently fold in the lemon juice, lemon zest, and chopped almonds.

4. Drop spoonfuls of the meringue onto prepared sheet pans, about 2 to 3 inches apart. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes then turn off the oven. Leave soplillos inside the oven for another 30 minutes to 1 hour. 

5. Remove from oven and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.


Torta de Almendras (Almond Torte)

Makes one 8-inch round cake

  • 1 3/4 cups slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • juice and grated zest from 1 lemon 
  • 3 large eggs
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8 x 2-inch round pan with baking paper. Set aside.

2. In a food processor, grind together almonds, flour, salt, and 1/2 cup sugar just until mixture turns into a fine powder. Set aside briefly.

3. In a bowl, cream together butter, 3/4 cup sugar, lemon juice, and grated lemon zest until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  

4. Fold in the almond mixture and mix well. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes or until done.

5. Remove from oven and cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with whipped cream and fresh strawberries, if desired.


A longer version of this article first appeared in FOOD Magazine, Issue 1, 2015

Recipes by Jill F. Sandique

Photos by Paulo Valenzuela

Leche flan photo by Justin de Jesus