All images courtesy perudelights.com
Just like in the States, there are hundreds of recipes of corn cake in Latin America, maybe because corn is such a staple in our diet and, as a culture, we are always figuring out different ways to enjoy it in our tables. As far as we know, the savory version of Pastel de Choclo has been a favorite in Peru since the XIX century, and ours is not the same as the famous one made by Chilean cooks. In our kitchens we have every variety with all kinds of fillings: beef, chicken, olives, cheese; or sweet as a dessert, like the one I’m about to show you.
I love to have it as a sweet treat with coffee or tea. Here you have the recipe for the loveliest corn cake ever! The texture is wonderfully light and moist, with a tender crumb thanks to the cream cheese and butter. It has an intense corn flavor and the tiny amount of flour (can you believe it only has 2 tablespoons?) is enough to bind everything so the result is amazingly good and satisfying.
Any type of white corn is good in this cake, and I have to confess that when I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to go to the supermarket, I just go to the freezer and take out a bag of frozen Peruvian corn that I buy in my Latin supermarket, thaw the amount needed for the recipe and proceed as indicated. It really is delicious this way too, though fresh corn is ideal; the fresher the better. Yellow corn will produce a sweeter version of the cake, which is not bad at all, but I recommend to stick to white corn for authenticity’s sake.
In some households, they like to add raisins, cinnamon, or any other flavoring to the dough. I prefer a simpler style, because I like the corn flavor to be the star of the cake. Remember, if you use older corn, the cake will be drier and somewhat tough. And never substitute corn with cornmeal or corn flour. That’s the way Corn Cake is made in the US, but our preparation is different, and it simply won’t work.
Once the cake is ready, you can leave it in the counter, covered, and it will keep fresh and moist up to a couple of days. Serve it with caramel or vanilla ice cream, fresh fruit on the side (this is up to you), and custard over or under the cake. If you are feeling indulgent, serve it as breakfast with guava jelly instead of the custard, and a slice of cheese. (This is not Peruvian, but I like it.)
This is my own interpretation of Chef Flavio Solórzano‘s master recipe. Follow the instructions carefully and you’ll be charmed with the magic simplicity of this cake.
- 8 oz. fresh white corn (about 2 cups)
- 8 oz. cream cheese (about 1 package)
- 1 stick unsalted butter (about ½ cup)
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Line the bottom of a 9 inch round pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Whip butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg yolks one by one, then the cream cheese. Whip at high speed for 5 minutes.
- Process the corn in the blender or food processor until very fine. Add to the butter mixture with the baking powder and flour.
- Meanwhile, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold them very gently.
- Pour the batter in the pan and bake for 45 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden and firm.
- Remove the cake from the oven and cool in a rack.
Morena Cuadra is half the team behind Peru Delights, a Peruvian food blog she created with her daughter, also Morena. They write about their country’s cuisine, with both a traditional perspective and an open mind with a healthy twist. Morena is a journalist, a trained chef and a wine expert, and has edited and published several magazines and book collections. She’s a founding member of the Peruvian Guild of Wine Specialists, and she directed a cooking school in Lima until 2008. She now lives in Virginia, USA.