Pío V (Nicaraguan Christmas Cake) Recipe


This is a starch-bound custard. Normally, to avoid curdling, custards are heated gently until they thicken. In this recipe, the presence of cornstarch creates an exception to the rule: the custard must be brought to a boil, then boiled for an additional 2 minutes to properly thicken. Ignore this and you will have a weepy custard.

Recipe Details

Pío V (Nicaraguan Christmas Cake) Recipe

Active 90 mins
Total 6 hrs 30 mins
Serves 12 servings


For the Marquesote Cake:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 cup fine white cornmeal

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

  • 4 teaspoons baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 6 large eggs, separated and at room temperature

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Sopa Borracha Syrup:

  • 6 cups water

  • 3 1/2 cups sugar

  • 4 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves

  • Peel of 1 lemon

  • 3/4 cup gold rum

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • 12 prunes

For the Manjar Custard:

  • 4 cups milk

  • 2 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  1. For the Marquesote Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13- by 9-inch baking dish with butter.

  2. In medium skillet over medium-low heat, cook cornmeal, stirring frequently, until light golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

  3. Whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and cocoa powder in medium bowl; set aside.

  4. In large bowl, beat egg whites and salt with whisk attachment on medium-low speed until whites begin to froth, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and beat whites until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly add sugar, then continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.

  5. Add egg yolks to egg whites and beat just until combined. Decrease speed to low and add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with milk, scraping sides and bottom of bowl as necessary. Add vanilla and beat just until combined.

  6. Scrape batter into prepared baking dish. Bake until tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer cake to cooling rack and cool in pan completely, 1 to 2 hours.

  7. For the Sopa Borracha Syrup: Bring water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and lemon peel to boil in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until reduced to 4 1/2 cups, about 30 minutes. Strain and discard solids.

  8. Stir in rum, raisins, and prunes and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Once cooled, strain once again, reserving prunes and raisins.

  9. For the Manjar Custard: Bring milk and cinnamon sticks to boil over medium heat in small saucepan or in (glass) liquid measuring cup in microwave. Remove and reserve cinnamon sticks.

  10. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan whisk together sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks, and salt. While vigorously whisking, add 1/4 cup of hot milk, then, add remaining milk in a slow steady stream, all the while whisking.

  11. Add reserved cinnamon sticks and bring the mixture to boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Once mixture thickens to the consistency of yogurt, continue to boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.

  12. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the custard’s surface and refrigerate until cold, 2 to 3 hours. Otherwise, place the custard bowl over in an ice bath and stir until completely cooled, 10 to 15 minutes.

  13. To Assemble: Poke cake all over with skewer or fork. Pour sopa borracha over cake. Once absorbed, pour custard over cake, smoothing out surface with rubber spatula. Top with raisins and prunes.

  14. Chill cake at least 1 hour prior to serving.

Special Equipment

Medium skillet, sifter/strainer, mixing bowls, whisk, electric mixer, rubber spatula, 13- by 9-inch baking dish, cooling rack, large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, plastic wrap

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
681 Calories
10g Fat
135g Carbs
11g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 681
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 12%
Saturated Fat 4g 22%
Cholesterol 185mg 62%
Sodium 446mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 135g 49%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Total Sugars 113g
Protein 11g
Vitamin C 1mg 5%
Calcium 251mg 19%
Iron 2mg 13%
Potassium 365mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)