The Bizcocho Diary

 – Trials and tribulations of the humble sponge –

May 28th, 2022 – The Spanish Radish Blog

A freshly baked mulberry bizcocho sits in a cake pan waiting to be served

Of all the things that moving to Spain has taught me, I think that patience is the most valuable lesson learned. It has taken me considerable effort to break free from my ‘go-faster’ lifestyle and attitude of the past and embrace the slower, and more relaxed pace that life in Spain has to offer. Perhaps, one of the most telling examples, is food. 

Gone are the pre-scheduled time slots for grocery deliveries from such and such supermarket, and in its place is a casual swan down a dirt road to our local farm, which doubles as a fresh food grocer and only opens on Saturdays, from 9 am to 1 pm. 

This little Mecca of fresh produce is nothing more than a small wooden shelter with crooked rafters that spear a precarious-looking roof stacked above. Below, the ‘display’ for the fresh produce is made up of a few crates stacked on top of each other, humble in design, but completely practical whilst giving off a nonchalant and rustic flair. 

Every Saturday, we toddle off to buy our weekly supply, and, depending on the season, we come back with Hessian bags groaning with a variety of fresh produce. Everything from pumpkins and root veg throughout the chilly winter months, to the first prized green spears of asparagus, which appear to much fanfare and anticipation of warming weather that is soon to arrive.

Pomegranites, lemons, oranges, and other fruit sit on a counter and make a colorful array

Of course, the Valencian region is prized for its abundant citrus fruits, and in early April this year, huge grapefruit (pomelos in Spanish) promptly appeared in neat stacks alongside the other bright colored lemons, limes, and oranges. The temptation was too great and I quickly nabbed several, only to discover once I got home I had absolutely no idea how to cook with grapefruit.

With several grapefruits now bulging the other fruits out of a way too small fruit bowl, I decided to have a second crack at making a bizcocho. This time, grapefruit bizcocho!

In all honestly, the bizcocho attempt the week before was pretty uninspiring and resulted in a limp-looking lemon bizcocho which was really more a flat slab than fluffy cake. I do remember sending a picture to a friend, but they never replied, so sad was the state of my sunken bizcocho

However, I endured and vowed to keep at it. Surely, one day, I’ll make a bizcocho that actually looks edible. Puffed up on defiance and a good hit of sugary-sweet grapefruit juice I promised myself this week would be different. 

 It wasn’t.

Yet again, like something out of a vague fairytale, my bizcocho was neither here, nor there. It was neither rising nor falling, totally lacking in some way so much so it didn’t rise to my heady expectations. Instead, much like bizcocho version 1.0, I had a flat slab-like cake that had slunk into the cake tin like a scared dog under a blanket. 

In an attempt to ‘roadtest’ my alien cake slab, a slice was offered and politely accepted by a builder who entered our house one day. Served with coffee, the bizcocho was glamourously laid out on a white plate and dusted with sugar, like I’ve seen done in so many homes here in Spain.  

The coffee was duly drunk, however, the bizcocho cake slab remained, with nothing more than a nibble to one corner.

A clear gesture of politeness. 

The rest of the grapefruits were made into juice.

A slice of orange and grapefruit cake sits on a white plate and is garnished with a slice of candied orange

* * *

Grapefruit season has since peaked and, as a sign that warmer weather is firmly here, the trail to the farm has become dustier each week. Everything is changing form and drying out in the pre-summer early May heatwave which is hovering at around 30°C / 86°F already. 

Back on the farm, the old wooden crates are making way for ripe and vibrant new fruits as the summer quickly gains momentum. 

Punnets of strawberries too, have come and gone, making way for more exotic berries and summer fruits. Firm yellow peaches are also beginning to rub shoulders on the dusty display crates with apples and huge ripe red grapes. 

Raspberries and mulberries are also starting to appear, as is the occasional (but rare) cherry harvest, a meager display this year due to heavy rains the months before, damning stone fruit harvests all over Spain. 

Some freshly picked white mulberries sits in the palms of a persons hands.

It was by chance that my third, and most successful bizcocho to date, came to be. A trip to a friend’s farm was fruitful as we shaded under the enormous branches of a white mulberry tree. Underneath, we studiously moved from one branch to another, picking the very ripest fruit that required no persuasion to be plucked and deposited into a container growing with berries

The opportunity to harvest one’s own berries requires no second invitation and we were quick to fill a large plastic container. Arriving home with sticky fingers and ¼ less of the container worth of mulberries, we sat the remaining berries on the counter.

What do we do with a few kilos worth of white mulberries? 

By chance that day, I looked in the back of the cupboard at the bizcocho cake tin, abandoned and collecting dust beside other unused kitchen utensils. A broken grater, a saucepan lid with no home, those kinds of things, doomed in the inaccessible areas of a corner cupboard.

 It was time to get back on the horse and give it another crack. Time to make bizcocho 3.0

A person picks berries from a large white mulberry tree.

Bizcocho 3.0 

This time I was armed with an abundant supply of fresh white mulberries along with newfound strength and determination for baking. I also had a few sacred cherries which I figured I could turn into a caramelized cherry drizzle that could add a wave of striking color into an otherwise bland-looking loaf. 

 Or at least in my mind, that was how it was gonna work out. 

 With heady ambitions, I set to work at making bizcocho 3.0. A white mulberry bizcocho with caramelized cherry drizzle

 Checking my notes on the previous failed attempts as I went, I added a full sachet of baking powder to the mixture, which felt disastrous and excessive at the time, but I was desperate not to end up with another flat cake episode like the last few attempts. Throwing caution to the wind, it was simply a matter of doubling up

 I simmered down the cherries with a dash of sherry, some water, and brown sugar, then I got the bizcocho mix ready and, with the ambition and confidence that this was the ‘one’, I videoed the whole thing, stardom sending me to new heights as I creatively swirled the cherry mixture while simultaneously pouring the mulberry-infused bizcocho mixture into the cake tin.

Inexperienced as I am with both baking and filmmaking. Two things happened after that. 

First, with all the giddy excitement, I forgot to grease the cake tin

Second, filming of said bizcocho 3.0 experience was quickly halted when my phone fell from above into the cake mixture (it was precariously leaning on top of the pull-out extractor fan).

Camera retrieved and a reminder set to edit out all the swearing from the video, I sat drinking coffee watching the bizcocho tin from through the little stained oven window, waiting, wishing, hoping for my bizcocho to rise.

With all the excitement, I’d also forgotten to set a timer. It’s fair to say I was seeing a pattern emerge that perhaps indicated that yet again my bizcocho attempt was doomed from the start. 

Thirty (ish) minutes later, I decided enough was enough and swung the oven door open to reveal a fluffy, damn sexy peak of golden bizcocho perfection proudly puffing out of the cake tin. Pleased as punch, I snapped a few shots while my prized bizcocho cooled in its tin on the counter. 

I wasn’t really sure how to tackle the ungreased pan dilemma but figured I’d let it cool down enough then give the tin a wriggle and a tap while it was upside down. It worked! Sort of.

Conclusion

I mean, nothing is ever perfect the first time, nor the second, or even the third, so in all honesty I wasn’t that bothered that an (almost) entire corner of my bizcocho came away, exposing a cherry-smeared fault line with the other half still firmly lodged in the tin. To me, arguing this wasn’t a successful attempt at making bizcocho was purely semantics and I was already chalking up bizcocho 3.0 as a success.

My Bizcocho game had indeed risen to new levels!

Whilst I’m certainly not claiming to be an expert baker by any stretch of the imagination, I do feel a certain pride and can indulge in the sticky-fingers victory while eating my first actually edible bizcocho. It’s a patience and preservation moment that feels as sweet as the cake that sits warm on my kitchen counter. 

It’s taken a few attempts to get here, but I’m excited to discover what Bizcocho 4.0 may become! Time to enjoy the fruits of my labor, see ya!

Want to give this recipe a try? You’ll find the full white mulberry bizcocho recipe here

A freshly baked mulberry bizcocho sits in a cake pan waiting to be served
A freshly baked mulberry bizcocho sits sliced on a chopping board

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