The La Caja China Box, In Cake and Real-Life Form


When shopping for a home, potential buyers should confirm that at least one neighbor owns a La Caja China Box. Mine thankfully do, and over the weekend we hosted a Cuban-style pig roast with their wooden, crib-sized box which recreates the tradition of charcoal-covered pits, first inspired by Chinese railroad workers in Cuba. Pre-ordered weeks in advance, our 65-pound oinker got strapped between two racks and for four hours, roasted under a total of 40 pounds of charcoal. Hour three is most climactic, when piggy gets flipped, before another final hour of skin crispification.

Like a reverse grill, the meat sits below a tray of burning charcoal. The temperature rests at about 325°F all four hours, so the meat never actually burns in a bad, charred way—it just stays moist and protected inside crispy skin. (Turkey, goat and lamb are also boxable, but Cubans really love their pig). Some roasters get complex with marinade-filled syringes and brines, but ours was dressed with a simple rub of salt, pepper and coriander. Without overdoing the flavors, the meat came out overwhelmingly pig-tasting. Definitely the most pig-tasting pig I've ever eaten.

Almost as exciting as the La Caja China Box and pig itself was the scene reenacted in fondant form atop a chocolate cake.

Friend Sandra Vasquez, a professional baker, is as witty as she is good with buttercream. Her frosted Bavarian chocolate cake displayed a hungry piggy with fork and knife, ready to chow down on two human feet sticking out of a tiny La Caja box. Ah, have the tables have turned in cake world!

She even simulated the burning charcoal with a range of red, gray and black coals. In lieu of a beer station (what we had), fondant piggy could hydrate himself with Vasquez's hand-crafted trough. Even the font of "La Caja China" and the natural-looking wood swirls on the box was spot on. As her web portfolio proves, she can basically fondant-ify anything.

Three lessons learned this weekend: living next door to a La Caja China box owner is awesome; hosting a pig roast with them is also awesome; inviting a friend who brilliantly baked a La Caja China pig roast-themed cake is the awesomest of all.