Bakezilla: Pretty Girls Use Mixers Too

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The Salvadoran People Have the Sky for a Hat

Posted: July 11, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | No Comments »

As the summer hits New York City, and I experience its heat, its humidity so thick it’s hard to breathe, its sleepy days and frenetic nights, I’m brought to a far away place where I spent a summer now six years ago. El Salvador, a tiny Central American country where the heat never breaks, and life moves painfully slowly and so fast you can’t keep up all at once.

I’ve had a long time to reflect on my time there. Most time in El Salvador, including mine there, is spent outdoors. Their national song, a poetic description of the Salvadoran people’s dignity, courage and strength in the face of brutal repression and a horrible war begins with “the Salvadoran people have the sky for a hat,” meaning that they are always outside, retreating only inside to sleep. The family I lived with for those three intense months, like most Salvadoran families, had no formal kitchen. They had a large sink, called a pila, outside under a tree, where all washing (and I mean to say I washed my dishes, my clothing and stood there nude at night and washed myself) takes place. They had a small gas range and a refrigerator also outside, protected by a porch. Like most Salvadoran families, they had no oven, and bought most of their food already prepared from street vendors, cooking only on the occasional Sunday after church. This is a place where it is always too hot to cook.

View of the capital, San Salvador

I think about this now, when my computer’s weather monitor says it’s 99 degrees, and I too eat mostly food that’s already prepared, or that requires no cooking and certainly no baking. The only baked good I ever ate there was a sweet and savory cheese bread known there as “quesadilla,” not to be confused with the more popular Mexican version. No one taught me to make it, as it is made there only in restaurant kitchens and not private homes. I’ve made it here several times, substituting Parmesan for Salvadoran cheese, which is remarkably similar but somehow different all at once.

Here is a Salvadoran Quesadilla recipe, taken from, for days I want to remember El Salvador, but it thankfully isn’t too hot to cook:

  • 1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature 30 minutes
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/2 ounces finely grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional), not toasted

They say to use a 9×5 inch loaf pan, however, I’ve only ever seen this made in round cake pans.

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Line bottom and sides of pan with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter and sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale, about 1 minute. Beat in eggs, sour cream, and cheese.

Reduce speed to low and mix in milk. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Transfer batter to pan and smooth top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using). Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool to warm in pan, 20 to 30 minutes. Turn cake out onto a rack. Serve cake slightly warm or at room temperature.

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