Dominican Arepa (Cornmeal and Coconut Cake)

Dominican Arepa Recipe (Cornmeal and Coconut Cake): Plain 'arepa' is a name reserved in the DR for the cake we all know and love.

Dominican arepa is a cornmeal and coconut cake, traditionally prepared in an iron pot on top of red-hot coal. A metal lid is placed on the pot, then more coal is put on the lid. This led to the expression “como la arepa: fuego por arriba y fuego por abajo” (like an arepa, fire underneath, fire on top), meaning being in a crossfire.

Haven’t we all found ourselves in a similar situation at a point in our lives?

Dominican Arepa Recipe (Cornmeal and Coconut Cake): Plain 'arepa' is a name reserved in the DR for the cake we all know and love.

There is another Latin American dish that has the same name but have little to nothing else in common with the Dominican arepa: Venezuela and Colombia share a savory tortilla they call arepa and which is served filled with meat, cheese and vegetables. It is also popular in the Dominican Republic where we call it Venezuelan arepa.

Plain Dominican “arepa” is a name reserved in the DR for the cake we all know and love. In the Cibao and Northwestern regions this dish is called “torta”, Spanish for “cake” (or “toita”, as I’d like to joke, in my best Cibaeño accent). In this area of the country the name arepa is reserved for what in the rest of the country is known as yaniqueque.

Are you sufficiently confused?

Dominican Arepa Recipe (Cornmeal and Coconut Cake): Plain 'arepa' is a name reserved in the DR for the cake we all know and love.

Arepa is a popular dish, and loved by all, but is considered one of those poor man’s dishes: the ingredients are inexpensive, the cooking does not require great expertise, and it can be made with basics utensils.

A savory version is also popular as a breakfast or dinner dish.

Dominican Arepa Recipe (Cornmeal and Coconut Cake): Plain 'arepa' is a name reserved in the DR for the cake we all know and love.

Unfortunately (?) few of us urban dwellers happen to have a traditional coal-burning stove. Assuming you are not equipped to bake it the traditional way, for this recipe we will use a regular oven.

This is a very dense cake, as no leavening agent is added, it is best served with a warm drink of your choice. If you are looking the savory version of this dish, you can find it here.

Buen provecho!

Aunt Clara

Dominican Arepa Recipe (Cornmeal and Coconut Cake)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Dominican Arepa Recipe (Cornmeal and Coconut Cake): Plain 'arepa' is a name reserved in the DR for the cake we all know and love.
Author:
Serves: 6-8 large portions
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (for buttering baking pan)
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 cups of cornmeal
  • 3½ cups of whole milk
  • 2½ cups of coconut milk
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ cup of raisins (I used dark and blondies)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1½ cup of brown sugar
Instructions
  1. Butter a 2½ quart [2½ lt] baking pan (see notes).
  2. Heat oven to 350 ºF [175 ºC].
  3. Mix butter, cornmeal, milk, coconut milk, salt, raisins, cinnamon and sugar.
  4. Stir the batter with a spatula and pour into a 3 qrt [3 lt] cooking pot and heat on the stove over medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid sticking.
  5. When it breaks the boil, lower the heat and continue stirring until it thickens to yogurt-like consistency. Remove the cinnamon sticks.
  6. Pour batter into the pan and bake until you insert a knife in the center and it comes out clean (30-40 minutes). It should be golden brown on top. Let it cool down to room temperature before removing from the pan.
  7. Serve with hot cocoa or coffee.
Notes
To obtain the traditional pot-shaped cake, I baked it in a enameled cast iron pot. The disadvantage of this is that you might have a hard time getting the cake out in one piece. If you don't want to take that risk, bake in a nonstick baking pan, the tallest you have.

Cornmeal is slightly finer than polenta. If you find it impossible to find cornmeal, use polenta, but be aware that the texture will be a bit "grainier" than with regular cornmeal.

Vegan? This egg-free cake is very easily adapted. Use milk substitute (soy, almond, rice, etc.) of your choice and neutral oil (corn, soy) instead of butter.

This post and recipe have been re-written to add measurements in Metric and Imperial system, and standardize the recipe.

Comments

  1. Howard

    Hello, I’m on a diet and watching my calorie intake. Can you give me a sense of how many calories say a 6-ounce slice contains?

    Thank you.

  2. Joel

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I have been making it for years. My wife and her family are all from DR and it has always amazed and is super traditional. It is requested every family get together. Its also my standard for multi cultural day at school. I’m making my daughter some for school tomorrow but I lost my original I had printed years ago. I had to revisit the site to double check even though I have it 1/2 memorized.

    I see that you changed the recipe from the Original that I had printed years ago. Was it always Brown Sugar?

    I must confess that with a cooking background I had modified your recipe some time ago. I never made it with water I always did three cups Carnation evaporated milk and Four Cups of Goya Coconut milk. The Goya uses Dominican Coconut milk. Interesting to see that you went to a somewhat modified similar version. I also always doubled the original amount of raisins which is now 1/2 from 1/4 cup?. I also put 1 1/2 tsp of a very good vanilla in mine. I used to do the cinnamon sticks but now I use only 1 and I use ground cinnamon. It seems to even out the cinnamon flavor.

    In any case I just wanted to ask to be sure I wasn’t going crazy. No matter how its made this recipe has brought countless moments of joy to my family. Please keep posting the wonderful recipes.

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