Today is a very special day because I added duck fat to a cake! YES, DUCK FAT!!! I know, I know, you think I’m insane and maybe I am…a little bit…but it also makes so much sense. These tiny cakes, known as Mantecadas, originated in Spain and they are traditionally made using lard. ‘Manteca’ means ‘animal fat’ so I knew I wouldn’t be okay just making them with vegetable oil to replace the fat. Nope! I would need to find a kosher animal fat and the first thing that came to mind was Pelleh Poultry Rendered Duck Fat. I decided on duck fat instead of shmaltz because I love duck a l’orange and other sweet sauces on my roasted duck. It all just made so much sense in my head. I even reached out to Pelleh after I was convinced it would be amazing to see if they would work with me on this recipe. I was so happy when the owner practically jumped through the phone with excitement that I would be using his beloved duck fat to make a dessert.
Check out how smooth this batter is! Inspired by the duck a l’orange I mentioned above, I added orange zest to the mantecada batter, along with almond extract and a bit of nutmeg. And of course, a sprinkle of sugar on top! My favorite part about the history of these mantecada cakes is this: in the 9th Century in Spain, sugar was actually used as a medicine and preserving agent and the apothecaries would turn the sugar into confections to be used as a remedy for ailments. Yup, sugar to cure disease. Oh, the irony. So bring on the sugar!
I’m speechless. I mean, actually speechless. I only had to test this recipe once because it came out perfect the first time. A nice crust on the outside of the cakes, spongy and light on the inside. I can hear you screaming at me “can you taste the duck fat????” And guess what, the answer is an astounding NO! It adds beautiful richness to the cake, very similar to an olive oil cake.
So trust me, when you are wondering if you can replace the duck fat with vegetable oil, I encourage you to just go out and buy that duck fat. Trust me!
As if this blog post wasn’t fun enough, I’m about to take it up a notch because I wrote this recipe as a guest post for the super talented Chef Eitan Bernath. And Chef Eitan, I want to thank you! Thank you for inspiring me to go even further outside of my comfort zone (shocking, I know!) by adding duck fat to a cake. Thank you for loving cultural food because I would have never even heard of Mantecadas if it weren’t for you. And thank you for just being a great friend and for seeing me as one of your mentors. You make me feel very old but it’s totally okay!
Go check out this recipe on Eitan’s blog (CLICK HERE) and don’t forget to comment on his post to let him know how awesome he is.