Volumes can be written about bizcocho dominicano (Dominican cake), and have in fact already been written (check the comments!). This cake seems to be the ultimate test for the expert Dominican cook, and however daunting, and confusing the instructions might look to the novice cook, let me assure you, if you follow the instructions carefully you will succeed.
No other recipe in our site is as popular, or elicits as many questions as our Dominican cake. For those who have not tried it, it is hard to understand the fascination with this cake. What makes Dominican cake so special? Well, you won’t know until you try it, but let me give you a spoiler: it is incredibly delicate in texture and sinfully delicious.
When I started this site it quickly became obvious that I needed to add this recipe, which was not included in the original collection (I got, and still get, dozens of questions about it every week). Having never baked this cake before (it is rarely home-made in the Dominican Republic, we usually order it from a ‘master baker’), I embarked on the quest for a recipe. That was not easy, each baker has their own (minor ‘tweaks’ really) and most guard it fiercely.
When I was able to find a recipe I tried it a first time: it was an unmitigated disaster. The second time however, and after carefully following the instructions, it was a success. As of the moment I am writing this I have baked exactly five cakes (the first disaster included), so I am no an expert by any stretch of the imagination, which in a way allows me to see things from our regular users’ perspective.
The most important features of the Dominican cake are that it is very ‘airy’ and moist. It contains a large amount of fat, about a third of it in fact, and a large volume of air, producing a cake that virtually dissolves in your mouth. Preparing the Dominican cake takes time. Lots of it. It is not something you can put together at the last minute. It takes planning and advance preparations. It also requires that you follow the instructions very carefully. One little misstep could ruin your many hours of work. Below you will find tips and tricks to help you achieve a successful result.
- ¼ lb (110 grams) of butter
- ¼ lb (110 grams) of margarine
- 1 pinch of grated lime peel
- 1 cup of orange juice
- ½ lb (220 grams) of all-purpose flour
- ½ lb (220 grams) of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 5 egg whites at room temperature
- 1 cup of sugar (for the caramel)
- 1 cup of powdered sugar, sifted (for the merengue)
- ½ cup of water
- A pinch of salt
- ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar
- 2 cups of pineapple, cut into cubes
- 1 cup of water
- ½ cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Mix all the ingredients together and simmer covered over very low heat until the pineapple is tender and you obtain the consistency of marmalade.
- Stir often to avoid scorching and add water as necessary.
- Once the filling is ready (it takes an hour or more due to the tough fibers in pineapple) cool to room temperature. Reserve.
- Grease and flour two 8" baking pans.
- Preheat oven to 350 °F (175 °C).
- Mix the flour and baking powder and sift together. Set aside (all the ingredients must be at room temperature).
- Beat together the margarine, butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy and has a very light yellow color (about 4 mins).
- One by one add the eggs and continue beating about a minute after adding each new egg.
- Slowly add the lime peel, and vanilla.
- Add one third of the juice, when it is well mixed add one third of the flour. Repeat adding the flour and juice in thirds and keep whisking until all is well-mixed before adding the next third.
- As soon as you've stopped mixing the last batch of flour turn off the mixer, you should have obtained a fluffy batter with a smooth and even consistency.
- Pour half the pineapple filling on each baking pan. Make sure you do not disturb the cover of butter and flour.
- Pour in half the batter in each one.
- Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (about 30 mins).
- Whisk the egg whites in a glass or stainless steel bowl until it forms peaks. Slowly add the sugar until it form stiff peaks.
- Add the salt and cream tartar while still whisking.
- Prepare the caramel by boiling sugar and water over very low heat.
- If you have a candy thermometer (highly recommended) boil until the caramel has reached 235 °F (112 °C). If you don't have a candy thermometer boil until the caramel is thick but still transparent (it must not burn).
- Very slowly pour the caramel into the mixture while beating at high speed until all is well mixed.
- Cool down cakes to room temperature.
- Cut the crust.
- Join both cakes filling-side in. If you did not bake the pineapple filling with the cake, or are using another type of filling (like guava marmalade or pastry cream) then spread on one of the cakes and top with the other.
- To decorate the cake spread the meringue on top and around the cake, add decoration according to your taste and skills.
If you are preparing this cake for a special occasion I strongly suggest that you do not do it for the fist time then. Bake a 'rehearsal' cake, this will give you time to adjust quantities, ask questions and improve your skills.
Prepare the fruit filling with a lot of time in advance (preferably the day before). This will decrease the amount of work that you have to do on the big day.
Dominican cake must be consumed at room temperature, and best consumed the same day. Since it contains large amounts of fat it will harden in the fridge, detracting from what makes it different, that is, its lightness.
You cannot prepare this cake without a mixer. You will need, at the very least, a hand-held one, and only if your cake is very small. We strongly suggest that you use a stand mixer. Once you start mixing the cake it has to be nonstop until the batter is finished. You will need your hands for other tasks, so if you are going to use a hand mixer please procure assistance. The recipe in our site can be prepared with a regular stand mixer; if you are preparing a bigger cake you will need a bigger, more powerful mixer. If your mixer is not able to move the volume of batter adequately your cake will fail to rise.
You will definitely need a scale. I strongly discourage from converting weight to volumes for this cake. The reasons for this are a bit long to explain, but do trust me on this. Borrow a kitchen scale for the day or buy a cheap one. Up until very recently I used one that cost me about US$2.00. It doesn't matter if it is not exact in the extreme, whatever bias in the scale, if it is not too big, will balance itself by adding (or subtracting) some weight from all ingredients.
The reason why I suggest baking the fruit filling with the cake is because, if you add the marmalade after baking the cake it will release moist that will seep into the cake, not the best result in my opinion. I have found this method to be the best, plus the cake infuses with some of the flavor from the fruit filling, improving it. The bake-in method is not recommended if you are going to use pastry cream.
The 'suspiro', or meringue used to decorate the Dominican cake is similar to Italian meringue and almost the same as royal icing. The reason why it is prepared differently for this recipe (adding boiling-hot caramel) is to somewhat 'cook' the egg whites, since there are no pasteurized eggs available in the Dominican Republic. Raw egg whites may contain salmonella, which can be fatally harmful to those who ingest it. If you can find pasteurized eggs, we suggest you use them; you can then skip the caramel part from the recipe. Better yet, use dehydrated royal icing mix, it is easier to prepare and much safer.
To prepare ‘suspiro’ you must keep your utensils scrupulously clean. Wash them with plenty of hot, soapy water and let them dry before starting. The suspiro will not rise if it comes in contact with even a speck of grease.
Humidity in the air and room temperature will affect the results when preparing 'suspiro'. Preparing it on a humid, or cold day is not easy; on a rainy day it becomes very difficult, if not impossible.
Although you will probably not need it, have a bit (a cup or two) of extra powdered sugar at hand. Depending on a variety of circumstances the icing might need some extra sugar to achieve the necessary consistency. For spreading on the cake, aim for icing with a consistency slightly softer than that of cream cheese.
If you are not an expert at decorating with royal icing, you can either search online for tips and tricks, or buy one of the myriad of books available on the subject. Cake decoration is out of the scope of our site. Mastering cake decoration is a long process, but with a bit of help you can produce some very nice results.
Here is the Spanish version of this recipe.