Borracho maravillosa: Samar’s rum-soaked cake craze

Lance Lim

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Borracho maravillosa: Samar’s rum-soaked cake craze
When translated to English, the cake's name literally means 'marvelous drunk'

There’s a rum-soaked sponge cake with glazed meringue that’s been getting a lot of attention in the city of Catbalogan, Samar over the past year. It’s a Spanish-inspired postre or dessert called borracho maravillosa. When translated to English, this literally means “marvelous drunk.”  

But what exactly is borracho maravillosa? It’s a sponge cake soaked in rum, only it has an added tanginess to it thanks to the lemonsito (calamondin) used in the curing process locally called alaksiw. Alaksiw could take between three to five days depending on the size of the cake. Plus, the cake has a glazed meringue and mixed fruits on top which add to its sweet and tangy flavor. 

What makes borracho the perfect dessert is that it can last up to two to three weeks as long as it’s in the fridge. And if it’s stored at room temperature, it can last up to a week. When it’s chilled, the cake tastes even better as this enriches the flavors of the rum and lemonsito.  

Although most people in Catbalogan consider borracho as a “newcomer” in its long list of postres, which include the timeless delicias de pili, it is actually a hundred-year-old heirloom recipe that was served during Holy Week as a snack or dessert back in the early 1900s. 

A certain Teodula Congzon was the woman who popularized borracho maravillosa in Catbalogan. But according to her great-great-great-granddaughter Jeiii Labro, it wasn’t commercially produced back then and its recipe was heavily guarded among family members. 

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Labro found herself returning to Catbalogan during the pandemic after she lost her job at a Business Process Outsourcing company in Manila. When she came back, she decided to put up an online food business that started with local favorites like pancit. 

But then she came up with the idea of introducing something “new” by reviving her family’s centuries-old recipe. At first, she used store-bought sponge cakes until she decided to learn her Lola Teodula’s sponge cake recipe. 

Labro, who shares the same name with Teodula, said she felt like it was “meant to be” for her to start doing borracho in Catbalogan again. 

According to Labro, she did not expect her borracho maravillosa to get so much positive feedback from the public. “We decided to sell it, and much to our surprise, lots of people loved it,” she said. 

Her borracho maravillosa has become such a hit that the Provincial Government of Samar has been pushing for the cake to be included in the Secret Kitchens of Samar campaign, which promotes local delicacies. 

You can purchase a box of six mini cakes for small gatherings at P360, or you can opt for a big, round cake for bigger celebrations at P750. 

Meanwhile, Labro said she and other family members are thinking about expanding the business to Manila to introduce it to more people. –

Lance Lim is a Visayas-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.

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