Glorious Torta


Cebuano or Boholano “Torta” is almost legendary in our family. It was spoken of like it was the holy grail of provincial desserts/snacks/sweets. My mother used to mention it like she and her siblings were the only ones who really knew what they were talking about. Stories about the preparation of dozens and dozens of tortas before a fiesta and the hundreds of egg yolks required to do such a feat grew torta2larger and more outrageous as the years wore on… Their ancestral home by the sea would be redolent with the aroma of baking torta and they would not only serve it to guests but wrap them up and send them home with the visitors. Oddly, I never once saw my mother make a torta and by the time I was an adolescent I only got to taste it when someone else made it. Frankly, I didn’t have any fond memories of torta as I recall an “off taste” that didn’t quite jive with the concept of a cake. Now I realize it was the use of tuba (coconut liquor) and the slight fermentation action going on as the dough sat overnight before baking. In the classical recipes, tuba apparently acted as baking powder does for most cakes today, according to a recipe described in an Inquirer article and by Lori of DessertComesFirst. The other thing I recall about Torta was its incredible shelf life…several days sitting out on the counter in some cases… My Uncle, an artist, is known to bring torta to friends and act normal when they reel back in horror at the sight of mold on the surface! Here’s a tip…DON’T EAT it if it’s moldy.

So when Alicia, a regular reader asked me if I had a recipe for torta, I realized I had never ever made this legendary delicacy. But I was determined to try. I was intrigued further by a friend’s story that her mother-in-law had once gotten into torta so much that she was eating it for merienda every day for about 10 days and landed herself in the hospital! The nearest the doctor could figure, it was “torta overdose!” Let’s just say this is cholesterol packed and not for anyone worried about caloric intake. In the old days, this was made with lard just like the ensaimadas were made; today, butter and some vegetable oil are the fats of choice. I have to admit I was an instant convert. I now understand why it was so well thought of. It is incredibly easy to make and tasted absolutely spectacular. I hunted around and read several recipes torta2but decided to try the easy one written up in the Aboitiz-Moraza Family Cookbook. I tweaked the proportions and method a bit and also did a version with raisins soaked in brandy that turned out really well. If I have offended any Aboitiz/Moraza family members by putting this recipe on the web, please email me and I will take it out. Here’s the recipe I used – Prepare a bowl filled with 4 cups all purpose flour, 4 tbsp of baking powder and 1 tsp of fine salt. Mix and set aside. Heat up 2 cups of granulated sugar and 2 cups of water on the stove until sugar is dissolved. Cool this mixture. In a mixer, beat 1 and ¼ pound (about 2 and ¼ blocks) unsalted butter until creamy, add 25-27 egg yolks and mix well. Add the sugared water that has cooled into the mixture, one can of condensed milk (I used a small one), 1 cup of milk, ¾ cup of vegetable oil and mix slowly until well blended. Add the flour until just well mixed. Don’t overbeat. Line about 24 torta or ensaimada tins with oil and torta papers (like waxed paper and sold in bakery stores- but DO NOT use waxed paper) and pour the batter in until about 2/3 full. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until just set, about 25 minutes. If you want to go over the top, brush with additional melted butter and sprinkle with fine sugar on top. I made a second batch to which I added raisins that I had pre-soaked for three hours in brandy and they were a terrific variation. This is a dense, flavorful, rich and stunningly simple cake that almost anyone can make. I strongly recommend it. But don’t blame me if you end up in the hospital!


35 Responses

  1. Torta is also a staple merienda in Samar, sprinkled with butter and sugar, it’s just yummm! When i was young, i know of families who made these during fiestas, i assume the recipes are from generations passed on. As home ovens are rare, the batches are almost always brought to the local bakery to bake.

    Here in Manila, I chanced upon a home baker based in San Lorenzo or Dasma who sells these in Christmas bazaars. Although they make the traditional ones, they also sell a variety sprinkled with queso de bola.

  2. Your mention of ancestral homes and the Aboitiz name reminds me that I once visited Casa Gorordo in Cebu which I understand was acquired by and being maintained commendably by a branch of that family. The wide planks of alternating dark and light coloured solid hardwood floor of the receiving room was impressive and the bath with the draining floor of split bamboo was quite a remarkable throw back to our primitive batalan. What impressed me most though was the huge set of the famous and coveted Espasa-Calpe encyclopedia in a cabinet in the study dwarfing by a long shot the even more highly esteemed (though pityful) eleventh edition Britannica. Pityful for an entry describing members of a certain Filipino tribe as being endowed with prehensile toes.

  3. bettina, yes, torta is a favorite in the Visayas, Samar and Leyte included. Apicio, yes, the Aboitiz foundation is the one that looks after Casa Gorordo and it is worth a visit.

  4. Glorious indeed! I can’t believe,or maybe I am just in denial, that the recipe includes that many egg yolks – 27! Wow! Thank you very much for this post. Will try the recipe this weekend!

  5. was initially shocked over by the 27 eggyolks, but then, if the recipe makes 24 big tortas, that’s about one egg each. that’s fair enough (moon cakes have two salted eggyolks pa nga eh..hehe). plus, ‘ll have enough meringue cookies and pavolova till christmas! can’t wait to try the recipe. thanks, MM, for being so generous and resourceful.

  6. pahabol: MM, i seem to recall a hint of anise seed in the torta? or am i confusing it for another pastry? by the way, bibingka mandaue is also “tuba-raised”.

  7. Millet and Alicia, if you use organic eggs with really yellow yolks the cakes will look even more brilliant. Millet, you are right, some folks use anise seed as a flavoring, another reason I wasn’t too keen on these as a kid. The resulting cakes aren’t that big but pack a wallop. You have to eat this by small slice at a time, not like one would eat a mamon…

  8. this i have not tried yet. amazingly yellow, i’m drooling on my desk, my keyboard, i must have a taste of that heavenly yellow thing…

  9. i remember one of my grandma’s friends cooking great torta in banana leaf insead of paper and is always served with tsokolate, it was one of the things always served at breakfast every Sunday morning after church when I was a kid. . .

  10. is it like the christmas bibingka?…here in pateros, you could order your batch of bibingkas, but you have to bring your own eggs…i remember my lola liling asking me to bring her eggs, which are itik eggs, to the old lady’s pwesto…her bibingka are creamier, fluffier and better to my taste…..i must try this recipe with duck eggs…..and then run a few laps to lose those sure pounds i will gain….

  11. My husband comes from a town south of cebu and the fiesta celebration there (as in most towns south of cebu)is never complete without torta (they give it to guests to bring home to their respective families). I used to eat a lot of this delicacy until i saw how it was prepared. Instead of using butter, they used pork oil preserved from the previous year’s fiesta! I cringed at the sight of the year-old pork oil mixed with dozens of eggyolks. And to think most folks from south of cebu eat this with chokolate! I asked friends from the south of cebu and they confirmed that they indeed mix year-old pork oil with their torta. Yikes! MM, your friend who landed in a hospital might have eaten torta from Cebu.

  12. Negley, worse, I understand she had discovered the recipe and was having it made at home by her own cooks. Yes, the original recipe uses lard that provides more flavor and more importantly, SHELF LIFE so the toratas will last days without refrigeration. I like the butter substitution as the taste is nicer, in my opinion, and this never lasts more than 2 days in our house anyway as we eat it all up! Izang, I’m not sure what Christmas bibingka is but maybe it’s similar but just using rice flour instead… Wilson, the banana leaf would add a nice aroma as it does for bibingka… lee, you have to try it, it’s superb, simple and yet incredibly rich…

  13. I remember these tortas wrapped in pink and yellow papel de hapon. my mom’s relatives from Cebu would bring lots of these to our house every fiesta. I knew then that these were so special because mama would keep them in tin biscuit cans inside the bedroom and only important guests got to eat them,haha! I know Siquijor also makes good torta. Negley, they are indeed made with pork oil. You’d be surprised to know how useful this year-old pork oil/lard was back then. I remember that we used this oil a lot for cooking.

  14. I’ve been looking for a torta recipe for a long time and the ones that I’ve tried turned out to be disappointingly like regular mamon. When I saw your recipe, I thought this is it! Hopefully, this is the torta that I remember as really rich and delicious.

    I can’t wait to make these tortas this weekend! I just have one question. You used a small can of condensed milk. Would you abe able to tell me how much that would be in cups? I live in Melbourne and the ones they sell in the supermarket are just the regular sized can (about 300-something ml) or in tubes (like toothpaste).

    Thanks so much! I love your site. You’ve got fantastic recipes recipes and the photos are gorgeous!

  15. Hi Marketman. My mother is from Palo Leyte. The best tortas according to her use rendered chicken fat not lard.

  16. hi there i’m from neighbor can bake a very delicious torta without using a year old lard. I can proudly say that Cebu’s torta is pretty safe to eat. Too bad she doesn’t want to share the exact measurements of her recipe…

  17. hi, thanks for the recipe, i can’t wait to bake torta for my family.
    i’m from southern cebu and now am living in outside the phils., when i was small, i used to see my grandparents and mom baking tortas in their traditional home made oven made of clay at home,so we always had totas anytime we want it with the sikwate( hot chocolate) for breakfast since my lola had some cacao trees in her backyard… that was early 1970’s, and they were very yummy,luckily we always go back home, at least one of the family members every 6 months, so we alaways have fresh torta directly from cebu in our family luggages and conserve them in our freezers consumable for six months and replace them for the next coming fresh torta again from one of the family members!!!

  18. MM — how can I get an Aboitiz-Moraza cookbook? A friend of mine was telling me all about it. Please let me know. TY

  19. Hi

    We didn’t find The Glorious Torta ingredients, can you send it please,Because i am craving for it,I want also to bake

    Best regards

    Art r. olarte

  20. Art,

    Hi. Now really. Could you have exerted some effort to actually read and comprehend the post above? At what point were the ingredients not clear or can you only comprehend a recipe if emailed directly to you? Before you quickly fire off a request for someone to compile ingredients and cooking method and have them sent to you, you really should take the effort to read the material first. The ingredients are clearly in the write up… And yes, I have a reason to be curt.

  21. MM, i just stumbled into your site while searching leche flan, and i got so excited when i saw you have a write-up about Torta from Cebu. My father’s from Argao and i used to remember my Lola ordering dozens and dozens of torta during fiestas. She would place all these torta on a hanging shelf right above my bed…can you imagine what my thoughts were during those nights? I wanted to try making them long time ago but was disappointed when i found out it needs ‘tuba’…now, thanks to you, i can try to make them without it.
    By the way, i love your site…please keep us all amused!!

  22. Hi marketman! Thanks for the recipe. I’ve been wanting to make one myself. The problem is when I tried this recipe, i didn’t get the texture i wanted which is more dense and with a drier crust. Anyway, will try to twitch this recipe to get the type i’m used to.

  23. liz, you may be used to a recipe that used lard, or at least not so much butter as this one does. I also find this one is wet because of the water/sugar component. Further, commercial versions wouldn’t use this many eggyolks. As for flavor, try adding anise, that is what is usually included in a Cebuano torta. This is not a traditional recipe, more like a rich shortcut version. Finally, tuba is often used for a real torta, that would change the taste and texture somewhat.

  24. i dont use wax paper to line the molds…try coffee filter will drain the oils a little bit…in the southern municipalities of Cebu province like Carcar, Oslob,Dalagute, etc, pork oil is used, but for those health buffs, vege oils is good too…for leavening, they also use the tuba wine…this way your torta will last longer..

  25. Apicio, we have a set Espasa Calpe in our library here in our school. Since they are in Spanish nobody seems to care for them anymore.

  26. Hi where can i get a copy of the moraza cook book. I am looking for the recipe of Boracho…the yummy chocolate cake that i tried when i was in La Serena in Moalboal. It sinfull and i dont think i will ever find Boracho here in Manila. Please Please help me!

  27. hello i would like to know if you do send me mail about Torta Argao, and Mandaue Bibingka. recipe.

    thank you so much!
    your friend in Switzerland

  28. are you sure we have to put 25-27 egg yolks?Gosh, that is a lot?How can I try this recipe in a smaller quantity?can I use less eggs?will tht affect the taste?

  29. OMG! I just tried this. I followed the recipe to the T and it turned out so good. With the exception of putting the brandied raisins, since I don’t like raisins. I didn’t have a torta pan, so I used a cupcake pan instead. It still turned out so good. I ended up with 60 cupcakes and If I didn’t give any away, I would have eaten it all. That batch only lasted one day. Thank you so much for posting the recipe.

  30. I will try your torta recipe soon. My friend just came back from Cebu and she gave me a two dozens torta baking tins and the paper. Would you be kind enough to send me the mandaue bibingka recipe? I used to eat this dessert when I was still a student at The University of San Carlos.

    Thank you very much.

  31. I taste the Cebu Torta is very different from your picture,
    I been searching this Torta Cebu over 30 years , but still not successful.I taste the Torta was in Cagayan de oro, very good, made by Late Denny Sepulveda Chavez.

  32. Nena, I’m from CdeOro. Our torta is entirely different from the Cebu torta. Denny Chaves’ 2 daughters Ingrid and Donna know how to make the tortas.
    Cdeo torta is made of egg yolk, butter, pork fat and yeast. Not just any pork fat, I heard it is the fat particularly inside the stomach.



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