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Panquecitos de Narajna

If my posts have been Miami-centric lately it’s because two weeks at home leaves a lot to unpack.  I had one more Miami-inspired recipe I wanted to try and I finally got around to it over the long weekend.  Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve slowly become less dependent on my trips home for Cuban food.  Though I miss the fresh tropical produce and stock up on cans of cascos de guayaba, Brazilian condensed milk and Café Llave when I visit, there is very little (and increasingly less) that I can’t find locally.  The restaurants that I loved are long gone or not quite how I remember them though I keep going back — nostalgia adding its own flavor.  I promise myself I’ll seek out new spots but fall short and mostly play catch-up from the moment I land.

After a few days in this in-between state, it’s soothing to come across any one thing that’s consistent and unchanging.  This time it was Panques de Jamaica.  Set under identical square shaped cake stands, guarding the windows of Miami’s coffee kiosks, it couldn’t be more fitting that their logo is a rooster.  Plain as madeleines but denser (and fatter), they go well with tea but are really built to stand up to a heaping café con leche.  More pound cake than muffin, with a tight even crumb, they’re topped by a smooth dome that can’t be cleanly taken apart but only pecked at like a bird.

The only nod to time passing is that they’re now sold sealed in loose plastic bags like ill fitting uniforms.  Noticing the new label, I was struck by the short, simple ingredients list that not even Michael Pollan could object to.  Having assumed that they fell into industrial Twinkie category along with everything else I used to love but have learned to fear, I felt so much affection for the tight little cakes that had held their own against the over-processed onslaught.  The “panqué legitimo” stamped at the bottom of every one sold, seemed less like a logo, and more like a creed.

Of course the illegitimate ones are great too and there are a million variations.  I loved the miniature  panquecitos that were brought to your table at Versailles if you were early enough for breakfast, one of my favorite rituals whenever I’m home.  Regardless of the hour, we were welcomed by Ernesto, the maitre’d who’d been there as long as I could remember, always perfectly pressed in a three piece suit whether it was 8AM,  8PM or 80+ degrees outside.  When he wasn’t there last year, I had the terrible feeling that something was wrong and learned he’d passed away a few months before.  I also noticed that the panquecitos never made it to the table though it only seemed right that something should be missing.  When I went back again this Christmas, they were still gone and Versailles was irrevocably different in the same way.  In the conceit that you’re hometown should stand still, Brigadoon-like when you’re not there, these two events felt somehow connected, and I couldn’t help but feel that Ernesto had taken them with him.

Panquecitos de Naranja
Adapted from Nitza Villapol’s Cocina Criolla.  Finding a recipe to follow was more difficult than I imagined.  I used to have trouble with cakes and finally found tricks and techniques to make them airy and light.  Panques on the other hand can be a little plain, dense and best the next day for dunking.    Though literally “pound cakes” with an accent, I couldn’t find any recipes that were even close to the traditional quatre-quarts proportions of 1-lb each of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs.

I made the first batch like madeleines, letting them chill a few hours to get the smooth bump, but they came out too crisp (and a little pretentious).  Trying a different recipe altogether, I carefully folded in the flour the ingredients and they were too tender, more cupcake than poundcake.

I knew that I wanted to add some orange and almond flavor and finally found a version to play with that included milk for added moisture.  The crumb was even though they didn’t quite dome as prettily as Iwould have liked.  While they were still warm, I brushed them with a quick orange glaze for additional sweetness.

4 oz. unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
Freshly grated zest of one orange

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup orange juice

For syrup:
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter ½-cup muffin pan and set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.  Combine milk and orange juice in a small cup or bowl and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed for one minute.  Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating for about 30 seconds after each addition.  Beat in almond extract and orange zest.  Batter may separate.  On low speed or by hand, add flour mixture in three batches alternating with the milk mixture and ending with the flour.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven until a tester comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack for about 5 minutes.  Unmold and set upright on cooling rack.

To prepare the syrup, combine the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Lightly brush panques with orange syrup.

21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh my gosh. I love these. And, I so laughed out loud when you said two weeks in Miami leave you with a lot to unpack.
    I live in Nashville and I ship stuff back — spices, mojo bottles, flan pans, plantain mashers, Bustelo, plantain soup packs — you name it!

    So happy to have found you and happy to have this, and all your other recipes!

    Mucho gusto…and come over to the Tiki Tiki…we’re cubanitas too.


    23 January 2011
    • hungrysofia #

      I will definitely stop by!

      23 January 2011
    • Ada #

      Just don’t try to pack cans of frijoles negros in your carry on … they *will* be confiscated, darn it! (I live in Boulder, CO.) Luckily, I get regular shipments from, and we actually have a couple of Cuban restaurants and a Cuban bakery not too far away (in Aurora, CO).

      15 November 2015
  2. These do indeed look perfect for dunking!

    30 January 2011
  3. Ansley #

    Im a bit confuse theres no eggs in the ingridients list, yet in the directions u mention to add eggs one at a time??

    3 October 2011
    • hungrysofia #

      2 eggs! Thank you for catching that. It’s been updated.

      3 October 2011
  4. Marité #

    I am loving your site and getting incredibly nostalgic! I learned to read Spanish by reading recipes to my mom from the very Cocina Criolla. Some of my earliest food memories.

    5 October 2011
    • hungrysofia #

      Thank you!

      5 October 2011
  5. janeiros #

    Nothing like a cup of strong Cuban coffee and a Jamaica muffin!

    I found your site doing a search on “Panque Jamaica”. Let me ask you a question: are you Cuban?

    25 October 2011
    • hungrysofia #

      I am Cuban. Thank you for the comment and for the information.

      25 October 2011
      • John G Perez #

        Hi, Ernesto!. I am desperate same as you are, because for years my breakfast was Panque Jamaica and cafe con leche. I copied the Hungry Sofia recipe for panques Jamaica and I have the label with the ingredients from the now closed factory and I am doing some imitations of those delicious panques Jamaica. So far is close but not yet quite the real thing. I will keep making changes in the recipe little by little to see how close I can get it.! In the meatime good luck and keep in touch.

        26 October 2016
  6. Stephanie #

    I’m sure Ernesto is very happy that he made such a positive impression on you in his time. Very sweet sentimental connection to these delicious treats. I love food that has sentimental connection so much more than anything else that I eat. 🙂

    5 March 2012
  7. cathy #

    saben algo del panque de Jamaica que se hace con nata lehe y no con leche entera????

    30 April 2012
  8. Maggie #

    These look great and mesh with my (gringa) memories of wonderful Cuban Miami, too. I wonder if you would get the dome if you slightly increased the oven temperature? Thanks so much for the sabór!

    30 April 2013
  9. Rafaela Estevez #

    Hola soy Cubana y una de las cosas q siempre hice fueron los Panques de Jamaica,me parece buena su receta,pero el Panque de Jamaica la receta de nuesttos abuelos no lleva extracto de almendras,solo el de vainilla,tampoco lleva ralladura de naranja,no es una critica,solo le digo lo q lleva la receta tradicional cubana,aunque pienso q el toque de almendra con naranja le puede quedar bien a la receta,ah perdón tampoco lleva sirope de naranja,es un dulce seco,lleva pasitas(opcional) muchas gracias por compartir sus recetas un daludo para ud

    16 March 2016
  10. John G Perez #

    Hi there, I am Cuban 2 and the reason for my comment today is that I went today to many supermarkets in Miami< Hialeah and inclusive the Panque Jamaica Factory just to find out they are closed permanently. I am desperate to find those Panque Jamaica, because for me there is nothing better for breakfast than a couple of those delicious panques and mi cafe con leche..
    I am trying to make some at home as we speak and hopely the recipe is close to the original

    17 September 2016
    • Hi John, I’m Cuban and I live in Miami too. I’m going to check at a place I go every morning to get my Cuban coffee because I think they have those Panque Jamaica there. I’ll let you know about it.

      By the way after several years of my first comment on this post is now that I notice the tittle has a small typo: Narajna.

      26 October 2016
  11. Antonio Vazquez #

    El panque de Jamaica se producia y se vendia en un pequeño pueblo llamado Jamaica a pocos kilometros de La Habana.
    La fabrica, si asi puede llamarse, era un gran caseron colonial situado en plena campiña, rodeado de grandes arboles.
    Los panques salian directamente de los hornos al mostrador de venta en grandes canastas.
    Se vendia caliente en cartuchos de papel.
    No recuerdo si tambien vendian cafe con leche.
    El lugar era una parada obligatoria a los omnibus y autos que transitaban por la Carretera Central hacia el este.
    La ultima vez que pase por alli estaba en ruinas.
    Me gustaban los de Miami pero no son iguales.

    2 July 2017
    • John G Perez #

      I remember those old days eating panque Jamaica in Cuba but the ones in Miami they don’t come close to the original Panque Jamaica in flavor. The factory closed down for good here and I found a similar here by the name Cruz but is not the authentic butter flavor of the real ones. Close but no deal!

      2 September 2017
    • Eduardo Valdaliso Mayor #

      La ultima vez que fui a Jamaica,Cuba fue en el 1960 con mi abuelo Angel Maestrey, y Antonio como esos nunca mas.. como en el 89 o 90 salio en El Herald una historia sobre los panques y verdaderamente la receta era como la del butter pound cake americano que Jose Ma.Cruz leyo en un almanaque en ese tiempo , lo creo y la uniqa diferencia fue que el no tenia uno de los ingredientes de la receta y lo substituyo con otro, con que fue no se mi hermano! llo tenia 10 anos y viviamos en Cojimar, abuelo trabajaba en Belog el paraba en la Carretera Central y se tomaba una Polar y llo un Cawi y cuando me tomaba mitad de el Cawi abuelo me la ligaba con cerveza … lindos y bellos recuerdos..
      Eduardo Valdaliso Mayor

      25 December 2017

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