Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Story of a Cake - Bolo Souza Leão

Back in March, Flavors of Brazil featured a traditional cake from the state of Ceará called Luis Felipe Cake (Bolo Luis Felipe). It is a dense, moist cake, with a texture halfway between cake and custard. (Click here to read about Luis Felipe cake.) In that article I mentioned that I had no idea who Luis Felipe was, or why the cake was named after him.

In a state that borders Ceará, Pernambuco, a similar cake is made and it also bears the name of someone, or in this case the name of a family - Souza Leão. Unlike poor Luis Felipe whom no one remembers, the Souza Leão family is well known. According to family legend, someone in the family invented this cake, but no one is sure exactly who. In his book Viagem Gastronómica Atraves do Brasil, author Caloca Fernandes tells the story of this family, which has a long history in Pernambuco and which will forever be associated with the cake that bears its name.

The Souza Leão family, according to Fernandes, was a large colonial family during the era of the sugar cane boom in Brazil and the various branches of the family owned eleven sugar plantations, among them such interestingly-named plantations as Moreno, Tapera, Bom Dia ("Good Morning" in English), Xixiam and Alagodeiras. The family is still prominent in Pernambuco, though of course the sugar plantations as they were in colonial days are long gone.

In the next post on Flavors of Brazil, there will be a recipe for this delicious (and extravagant) cake. Like it's cousin from Ceará, Luis Felipe cake, Souza Leão cake is an orgy of sugar and eggs and is generally served only on special occasions. When you read the recipe, you'll see why.

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