Gaceñiga, Sponge cake with a musical echo
The timeless rectangular sweet loaf that accompanies breakfasts and snacks across the planet has a particular name in Cuba. This sponge loaf sometimes with raisins, almonds or walnuts gets its name from a local derivation of an Italian singer’s surname.
Marietta Gazzaniga (1824-1884) was an opera soprano born in Milan who gave three sell-out performances in Cuban. Taking advantage of her success, confectioners and bakers in Havana appropriated her surname to launch a new sweet.
An investigation by journalist Luz Marina Reyes revealed that the Italian singer arrived in Cuba in 1857 as part of a tour of the Americas. She made her debut at the Tacón theater, with a performance of Verdi’s La Traviata.
As her fans wanted more than three performances, the artist returned to Havana and fought an operatic duel with soprano Josefina Cruz de Gassier on stage at the Villanueva theater during the 1858-1859 winter season.
The impact of her popularity was such that she served as a muse for two renowned composers from Havana: Agustín Cascante and Tomás Ruiz, who each dedicated a contradance to her, entitled respectively LaSimpática Marietta and El Triunfo de la Gazzaniga.
Recipe Ingredients: ½ cup unsalted butter, softened. 1 cup of sugar. 1 tsp. vanilla. 5 eggs. 2 cups flour. 1 tsp. vanilla. 1 tsp. of yeast. 1 tsp. baking soda. raisins (optional).
Preparation Preheat oven to 350° F. Sift flour with baking powder and baking soda. Beat the eggs with the sugar until they turn pale yellow. Add butter and stir. Add flour and stir. Add raisins if desired. Pour into a greased rectangular mold. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Besides nibbling it on any occasion, Cubans have also invented another by-product. Cut the gaceñiga into 2-inch wide pieces and then bake them until toasted to make a sponge rusk, or as we call it in locally: “sponrrú”