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  • Writer's pictureGosia Granada Guide

Carnival Flavors in Granada

Carnival Cuajada in Granada
Carnival Cuajada in Granada; Los dulces secretos de Cuca

Carnival is a colorful, joyful, and cultural celebration observed worldwide. In many places, it's also an opportunity to showcase local culinary traditions. In a religious context, Carnival serves as a time of preparation for Lent, a period of self-denial and reflection. Therefore, Carnival is a time for revelry and grand celebration.

In the past, Carnival was perceived as a paradoxical time – joy for the upcoming festival and simultaneous sadness due to the approaching period of restraint. On the day before Lent, people had to give up many pleasures and refrain from excessive luxuries, making this day a grand celebration. Especially among the poor, who feared divine punishment and couldn't afford indulgences, all possible pleasures were allowed before the harsh days of fasting. In the preceding period, people allowed themselves small pleasures in the form of special dishes or desserts to sweeten the impending time.

During Carnival in Granada, culinary traditions take on a unique character. One of the distinctive elements is the preparation of special sweets, such as cuajada de Carnaval.

Carnival cuajada, traditional to Granada, is crafted in January and February, utilizing leftover mantecados, traditional Spanish crumbly cookies often consumed during the Christmas season. The process of creating this unique dessert involves layers of crushed and whipped crumbly cookies, vanilla cream with cinnamon, sponge cake, layered chopped roasted almonds. The structure is sealed with a layer of vanilla or icing cream, always topped with the final layer of crumbled cookies dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon. The last layer, perfectly finished, should depict a pomegranate as a decoration.

After assembling all the components, the dessert is placed in the refrigerator for at least half an hour, allowing the ingredients to perfectly blend. Ready to be served, Carnival cuajada not only tastes delicious but also presents itself aesthetically. It's worth emphasizing that all these steps are best executed using the distinctive glass ceramic dishes from Fajalauza, which are a source of pride in Granada's local ceramic tradition.

It is incredibly simple to prepare and tastes excellent, although one must forego the New Year's diet plans after the festive indulgence. The history of this dessert seems to date back to the times when it was created to use up surplus cookies from the Christmas period, preventing them from going stale in the warmth. As early as 1913, Emilia Pardo Bazán mentioned these sweets in one of her works: "In Granada, I had the opportunity to see sweets adorned on the surface with sugar drawings, imitating mosaics from the Alhambra friezes; and not thanks to modern confectioners' tricks but with the unique character of tradition."

Granada's pastry cuisine boasts a variety of desserts. Honey, sugar, and almonds play a crucial role in the local delicacies. Interestingly, although the origins of cuajada de Carnaval seem to be Arabic, its popularity grew thanks to the nuns of Granada, originally being called Torta de San Antón.

It can be enjoyed alongside quince liqueur, sweet wine, or even a glass of cava. If no mantecados are left after the holiday feasts, cuajada can be purchased in one of the numerous fantastic bakeries in the city. I highly recommend "López Mezquita" located on Reyes Católicos Street, one of the oldest and most frequently visited places since the 19th century. The bakery is named after the renowned Granada painter, José María López Mezquita, and is famous for its wealth of exquisite treats.

One of my special recommendations is "moínes," a type of Arabic muffins sprinkled with sugar that delight with their taste. Equally fantastic are pastela moruna or mediasnoches with ham and egg, popular among the residents of Granada during the festival celebrated alongside Corpus Christi and often taken on a picnic. "López Mezquita" is not just a bakery but also a café where you can sit down and additionally taste other delicious treats.

Carnival gatherings for eating and drinking are an opportunity for shared celebration, and Granada's culinary offerings are enriched with special dishes and snacks tailored to this joyful period. If you're visiting Granada during this time, I highly encourage you to try the local specialties.


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