Ecuador is brimming with culinary specialties specific to each of our regions.
Our team makes a point of sampling as many as possible, even if the list is quite long. Today, Viviana, our local, introduces us to the famous “bizcochos of Cayambe”.
You won’t be able to escape them on your trip to the Ecuadorian Sierra, so let’s share this little insight…
A confused but fairly recent origin
It’s said that during the Spanish domination (from the 16th to the 19th century), religious priests tried to prepare a bread that could be kept for a long time and that would feed the indigenous populations exploited in the region’s large haciendas. In the course of these attempts, the parish priests added butter to the dough to make the bread crispier, and the traditional bizcocho was born.
Bizcocho became a household name in 1928, when the railroad and the train arrived in Cayambe. Children offered fresh bizcochos to passengers at the station and sold them directly from the carriages. Their tasty, nutritious qualities enchanted the taste buds and appeased the hunger of long-distance travellers on their way to Quito (south), Ibarra (north) or San Lorenzo (west).
Transportation was certainly not fast in those days, but the reputation of bizcocho was made in a flash. Their spread and success were such that even today, Cayambe bizcochos are considered the ancestor of the Ecuadorian snack.
An emblematic product of the Andes, but above all of the town of Cayambe
Cayambe’s tasty bizcochos are the result of a subtle combination of wheat flour, vegetable butter, egg yolks, salt, wild aniseed and pure water from the surrounding mountains.
The recipe is quite simple, and breaks down as follows.
First, all the ingredients are mixed together and the resulting dough is finely cut. After a quick initial run in the oven, the cookies are then taken out and turned over before being put back in the oven. This is why the cake is called BIS (two) COCHO (baking) or “twice baked”.
A cake perfectly suited to the Andes, especially for breakfasts.
A fervent defender of the traditional recipe, monk Rafael Méndez proposes and preserves the traditional wood-fired oven. Devotees travel miles to reach his now legendary premises. Commonly known as “bizcocho del cura”, you’ll also find them under the name “San Pedro”.
Metaphysical question: where can you find the best bizcochos in Ecuador?
Opinions differ, due to the recent proliferation of sales outlets and marketing names, all more or less authentic and seductive.
For us, the basic rule is always to go to the source.
As with any good product, the original terroir is undoubtedly the most appropriate place for this tasting. So head for Cayambe, at the foot of the eponymous volcano (5790 m), 60 km north of Quito (1h15 by car).
Once in town, look for the church in the main square and walk 2 blocks up to the cemetery (north towards Otavalo). Just ahead, in a small private house, you’ll find the Mecca of the Bizcochos, the casa del Cura. Don’t hesitate to ask… all the locals know this address inside out and will be delighted to help you.
Fresh from the oven, served with caramel (manjar de leche), fresh cheese (queso de hoja) and an excellent steaming hot chocolate, all you have to do is enjoy.
If you want to visit Cayambe and Ecuador, and discover the famous bizcochos of the town, contact us.