Home sweet home
From the ancient times Dubrovnik people cherished the importance of the sweet treats in their life. The most known candies were: marzipan, chocolate, quince cheese, mantala (a thick jelly made of grape must), gingerbread, carob cake, pine nut sweets, candied almonds, candied flower petals and orange peels. Diplomacy often used presents to please the enemies which included padišpanj - wedding sponge cake, prikle - small doughnuts paired with finest wine Malvasia or rose liqueur. Many of this sweets and cakes are still served on our tables as part of our long tradition and rich history that influenced our gastronomy. Here is the list of the 10 most famous local desserts but there are still many others that are written in the old notebooks of Dubrovnik's ladies.
Skorup cake – prepared with skorup (cream) and roasted almonds makes this cake very precious. The secret recipe was kept by the nuns from the convent on Boninovo. They bought creme directly from the diary farmers and added rose water. Since it is hard to find the real creme, modern version of this cake uses whipped creme. Restaurant Mimoza on the Pile gate is preparing one of the best skorup cakes.
Ston cake – is often served at the tables on the Peljesac peninsula especially during festive days and family celebrations. It has unusual appearance made mostly of boiled ( al dente) macaroni pasta. Other ingredients are: walnuts, almonds, dark chocolate, lemon, cinnamon. In the past time since most of the ingredients were expensive and hard to get it it was considered a luxurious treat. Every family has its own recipe but it is quite easy to try to make it at home.
Dubrovnik almond and orange cake – bitter oranges were mentioned in Dubrovnik already in 13th century when lots of private and monastery gardens were growing oranges and lemons. The fruit and both the leaves were used in cooking different sauces, as candied orange peels or the tea from the leaves and flowers was known for calming and relaxation. Therefore many traditional cake recipes are based on this fruit. Patisserie Pupica in the Old town tries to evoke old flavors and they always have this cake on the menu.
Carob cake – carob trees can be found all around Dubrovnik. Carob was a substitute for the cocoa which was expensive back then , but Dubrovnik people used to make healthy sweets. It was a simple task to get your hand on a bunch of carob seeds of the same size, and count on them all to be pretty much the same weight. Or, at least, it was perceived so. The weight of an object was then expressed in terms of the equivalent number of carob seeds. This was standard for commerce and it was even used to weigh things like gemstones and gold.
A carat is a modern unit of weight for gemstones like diamonds. This is not to be confused with karat, which is a measure of gold purity. A carat is defined as exactly 0.20 grams. This means that a diamond weighing 100 carats would be 20 grams. Well, according to some, a typical carob seed is about 0.20 grams (200 mg), so the same diamond would weigh just about the same as 100 carob seeds.
Padišpanj - sponge cake – this sweet bread was brought by Jews after their escape from inquisition on the Iberian peninsula. They found shelter in Dubrovnik Republic and established their community inside the city walls. Pan di Spagna is original name and it made Dubrovnik its home and many now consider it a domestic treat. It was always made for the weddings and baptisms. The recipe is quite simple-the most important is to mix all the ingredients very carefully until it's time to pour it in a tin. The men would’ve whisked sugar and eggs for hours until they achieved perfect texture.
Paradižot – This old dessert is favourite among children, perfect after any meal and for every season. It isn’t Croatian recipe since it has different names throughout the Europe: in England – floating islands, in France – les oeufs à la neige ( snow eggs), in Austria – Schneenockerl but through the centuries it has became one of the local dishes. Having just with five ingredients: sugar, milk, eggs, lemon zest, biscuits makes it ready in a few minutes.
Rozata- got its name after rose water that ladies were adding into the mixture to cover the egg odour. It was always served in luxury bowls and with silverware used for special occasions. While crème caramel is thought by many to be a French dessert, the country of its origin is disputable, and Spain and England also suggest that the dessert originated in their own country.
Prikle- sweet fritters. These little doughnuts were always favorite sweets during festivities and they’d symbolized a warm household atmosphere. In Dubrovnik they were made on Christmas Eve, Good Friday and some other holidays. Depending on the season and occasion ingredients would change. They are always prepared fresh, ready to be eaten warm, often times with the shot of brandy or liqueur. Although you can serve them with various dips such as chocolate, strawberry, we prefer just icing sugar on top. Traditional prikle are made of yeast dough but modern versions also include baking powder, yoghurt, some people use grated apples to make it less dry. The only thing you should be careful with is the temperature of oil during frying. Too hot makes them charred outside but again too low makes them oily-soggy.
Prijesnac – Dubrovnik cheese cake. Giving prijesnac as a present to someone meant love and affection. It was done in Dubrovnik already in 16th century and often mentioned in the poems of the famous Dubrovnik writer Marin Držić known as Dubrovnik Shakespeare. Prijesnac is made with young cow milk cheese, eggs, clotted cream adding nutmeg and lemon zest for the better taste.
Kontonjata- quince cheese or quince jelly was one of the favorite desserts in ancient Dubrovnik. Cooked with sugar , sweet mixture was poured in wooden molds, dried and put on bay leaves. Bay leaves were used to keep off the insects. Preserved like that it could last the whole year when it was stored in the dark, dry and windy place. Hard and dry kontonjata was winter sweet served with herb brandy or fruit liqueur. Christmas was impossible without quince cheese on the table. Wealthier houses added chopped almonds and walnuts.