L’histoire de l’Ensaimada: Un gâteau différent - Cuisine d'Espagne

The story of Ensaimada: A different cake

Jan 05, 2024

Ensaimada, this typical cake from the Balearic Islands (Spain), which everyone brings back from their trip to Mallorca, is a cake appreciated by both locals and tourists.

This has existed in several versions and for several centuries. We know that ensaimada comes from the word saim (lard) in Mallorquin (Mallorcan language), but its origin remains unknown. In this article we will try to present to you the different possible origins and the variants that exist on the market.

The Arabic origin of the ensaimada:

Present in the Balearics since the year 902, the Arabs prepare a snail-shaped cake called “Bulema” with the same ingredients as the ensaimada (with the exception of pork fat). The similarity of the Bulema brioche to the Ensaimada brioche is a sign of the Arab influence for this Balearic pastry. Also the word saim has an Arabic root, which could make us think that the word comes from the Arabs. However, the prohibition of eating pork in the Quran could make us doubt this origin or at least with the current ingredients.

The Jewish origin of the ensaimada:

Another possible origin of the ensaimada would be the Jewish origin. As for the Arabs, there is also a cake called “bulema” which is eaten during the Sabbath. Furthermore, during the reconquest of the island by the Christians in 1229, legend has it that a Jewish pastry chef made King Jaume I taste this brioche, which made it a success. However, as for the Arabs, there is also a ban on eating pork, so the ingredient lard should not be present in the recipe.

However, according to some experts, even though pork was forbidden by both religions, after the "reconquista", many Arabs or Jews who remained and who had to convert, demonstrated their new faith by eating foods forbidden in the old one.

Mallorcan conquest

The different types of ensaimada:

There are different types of Ensaimada, but we can consider that there are 3 main ensaimadas.

Ensaimada lisa:

Ensaimada, fermented and baked, made with flour, water, sugar, eggs, sourdough (yeast) and lard.

Ensaimada of angel hair :

Ensaimada, fermented and baked, made with flour, water, sugar, eggs, angel hair pasta, sourdough (yeast) and lard.

Ensaimada de cabello de angel - Spanish cuisine

Ensaimada of sobressade :

Ensaimada, fermented and baked, made with flour, water, sugar, eggs, sobressade, sourdough (yeast) and lard.

However, there are also other variations of brioches such as cream, chocolate, white chocolate, dulce de leche, etc.

Where to buy an ensaimada?

To buy an ensaimada outside Mallorca or Menorca you have different websites that sell these products. On this site, on Ensaimada – Cuisine d'Espagne (cuisinedespagne.fr) yes, otherwise on a site specialized in Europe like Ensaimadas de Mallorca .

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