Brazo gitano (“Gypsy arm”) is the Cuban version of a jelly roll. It is a versatile cake. When spread with guava puree, rolled up, and dusted with powdered sugar, it’s a comfort food, easy enough to make for a weeknight family dinner. But filled with rich custard, frosted with swirls of glossy meringue, and drizzled with caramel, it’s a dessert that shines on special occasions. The most elegant cakes in Miami, including brazos gitano, are made by Lucila Venet Jimenez. At the five bustling locations of her bakery, Sweet Art by Lucila, customers line up to buy cakes and pastries, and brides and their mothers study displays of beautiful wedding cakes. For those who don’t live in south Florida, it is also possible to order some of Lucila’s specialities through her website (see Sources). Lucila was kind enough to share with us her basic recipe for brazo gitano, with two different fillings and finishes—one plain and one fancy, and both delicious!
With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar while increasing the speed to high. Beat until the whites stand in stiff peaks when you lift up the beater. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until fluffy and pale yellow in color. In another bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg yolks into the whites, then gradually fold in the flour and vanilla.
Pour the batter into the prepared jelly-roll pan and spread it evenly out to the edges of the pan.
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