Over the ‘puente’ (long Bank Holiday) weekend I had the chance to explore two new towns/cities, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Gernika. Bilbao, served as a pit stop for the trip to Gernika but also a chance to explore it a little further. Each of these places, we discovered, has a typical cake. In Vitoria and Gernika they were unsurprising eponymously named but in Bilbao the most typical cake was the ‘Carolina.’ Here are my impressions of the three:
The ‘pastel de Vitoria’ looked so tempting and chocolatey, I couldn’t resist trying one at the town’s Christmas market. I was bitterly disappointed – the interior of the cake was nothing but almond sponge. Vitoria’s Old Town is nicknamed ‘la almendra’ (‘the almond’) because of its shape but I was expecting something a little more original and moist. Whilst in Vitoria we also went on a very informative guided tour of the Old Town, explored many old buildings and had quite a number of good pintxos!
We sampled the ‘pastel de Gernika’ in a lovely little café with Champagne and strawberry tea and hot chocolate. I was a little dubious following my disappointment with Victoria’s typical cake. However, I was very pleasantly surprised – a moist sponge with a layer of sticky jam. The recipe is apparently still a bit of a secret! In Gernika we visited the ‘Museo de la Paz’, the famous tree of Gernika in the ‘Casa de Juntas’ and a museum about Basque culture. The tourist office had pintxo coupons available so we made the most of them by stopping off at different bars along our way.
The ‘Carolina’ from Bilbao is a tiered cone of meringue mounted on a small tartlet. It is drizzled with chocolate and sweetened egg yolk. Whilst I very much appreciate the effort that goes into the look of these tarts, the huge quantity of meringue was just too sickly. Less of the meringue and it would have balanced quite nicely but it wouldn’t have had such a dramatic appearance. Having already visited the Guggenheim, a second visit to Bilbao included lots of wanderings around the Old Town, exploration of Christmas markets and tastings at ‘Degusta Bilbao’ – a one-off marquee filled with different producers, pintxo bars and even some cookery demonstrations.
All in all, a ‘puente’ well spent!