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Brazo Gitano With Burge Road Cherry Cream Filling Recipe

Excerpted from ‘Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook’

spinner image brazo gitano cut into slices on two plates, coffee in upper left and bottom right corners
Dan Liberti

Makes 6 to 12 servings

I have some of the most beautiful produce in the world readily accessible in my backyard, but when I got a hankering to make my own Brazo Gitano, I didn’t have easy access to local guava. Remembering that the Brazo Gitano Franco bakery in Mayagüez has a cherry-filled cake, I figured the next best thing to guava was local cherries. That’s how I stumbled on a cherry orchard in Stockton, California.

Jontue and Oscar Grado are the two young farmers who own Burge Road Farm. On the day that Mami and I visited, we drove down a narrow strip of asphalt that cut a makeshift road through old walnut, almond and cherry trees. Once in the orchard, we zigzagged from tree to tree, searching through the bright green leaves for the cherries; some were fire-engine red and others the color of cabernet sauvignon.

Although it had rained furiously just two weeks before, giving some of the fruit fatal cracks at their seams, it was one of those typical sweltering summer days in the Central Valley. Our hard work paid off. Those were some of the best cherries that we’d had in a very long time. I found it magical; so much so that I had tricked myself into picking 5 pounds of cherries in no time. Being able to consume only so many fresh cherries, I decided that making jam would be a good way to preserve their beautiful flavor — a jam that would be perfect for my own Brazo Gitano filling later in the year when there would be no fresh cherries. Puerto Rico meets Northern California.

Tip: There’s no easy way to pit cherries. Either you have one of those little gadgets that pits them for you, or you just smash the sh- - out of them on a cutting board in the same way you’d smash garlic. And if you can’t access fresh cherries, use the same amount of great-quality cherry preserves!

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  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pitted ripe cherries
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar, plus ¼ cup
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1½ tablespoons milk
  • 10 tablespoons cake flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting



Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter and flour a 10½ by 15½-inch jelly-roll pan.

Put the cherries in a bowl and squish them with your hands. Squeeze the juice from the lemon wedge over the cherries and set aside to macerate.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer (or a whisk), whip the egg whites on high speed for 30 seconds, or until foamy. Gradually add the ⅓ cup granulated sugar and continue to whip for 5 to 7 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Clean the mixer beaters (or whisk).

Put the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Add the salt and remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar and whip for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the yolks are pale yellow and fall in ribbons from the beaters (or whisk). Add the melted butter and milk to the yolk mixture and beat on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the flour and baking powder, and mix for 1 to 2 minutes or until thoroughly incorporated into a batter.

With a rubber spatula, fold ⅓ of the egg whites into the batter, until no streaks of egg white are seen. Repeat with the remaining egg whites, folding them in one-third at a time. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Then cover the entire cake with a clean kitchen towel and invert the pan to release the cake onto the towel. Use the towel to roll up the cake, and then set the cake in the towel on the wire rack for about 30 minutes or until cooled completely. This step will give the cake muscle memory for holding its shape after it’s filled. Leave it rolled up until it’s completely cool and you’ve finished making the filling.

In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, combine the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, cherries and most of the juice they’ve produced. The mixture should have spreadable consistency; if it doesn’t, incorporate more cherry juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does.

Unroll the cake, leaving it on the towel. Spread as much of the cream cheese mixture as you can over the cake, leaving a 1-inch border along the ends and the long side farthest from you. Starting with the long side closest to you, roll up the cake. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Using the towel as a sling, transfer the cake to a serving platter, positioning it seam-side down.

Using a serrated knife, cut the Brazo Gitano into slices and serve. It is best eaten the day it is made.


Cook With Illyanna

spinner image cover of diasporican, a puerto rican cookbook; two hands holding food
Penguin Random House

Two more recipes from Diasporican for AARP members to try:

Carne Guisada

This stewed meat recipe — using lamb, chicken or beef — can easily become a staple dish.


Although this family recipe takes six to seven hours to cook, it’s well worth the wait. 

Read about Illyanna Maisonet’s latest cookbook, Diasporican.


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