Don't have an Account? Sign up now.
Forgotten Password?
Log In

Cayambe: Ecuador's Cookie Town

A city entirely dedicated 24/7 to cookies?  Sounds like something out of a fantasy novel, but in the seemingly quiet Andean town of Cayambe, nestled at the foot of its eponymous volcano, bizcocho, the town’s famous flakey, buttery, crumbly biscuits are the primary focus.

Most of Cayambe’s neighboring villages around the volcano are dominated by dairy farms, where Ecuador’s famous queso de hoja or string cheese is produced, and the region’s cheese played an important role in making Cayambe the cookie capital of Ecuador.

As so many culinary histories, Cayambe’s legendary bizcocho owe a debt to the Spanish settlers and missionaries who colonized the region in the sixteenth century, bringing with them not only the teachings of the Roman Catholic church, but their culinary traditions, including sweet cakes and yeasty bread.  Once the locals were introduced the missionaries’ bread, it wasn’t long before they began to combine it with the delectable dairy products of the region, including the famous queso de hoja and dulce de leche or “sweet condensed milk,” making the plain bread more palatable, especially for children.

From there, it wasn’t too long before the bizcocho became a Cayambe institution.  These deceptively simple cookies are created from yeasty dough made from flour, sugar, buttermilk, vegetable margarine, and baking powder.  Cayambe’s bakers rise early, setting their dough to proof and rise early in the morning in large wooden troughs.  Once the dough has risen for several hours, it is kneaded, then cut with staggering swiftness into sticks, then baked in large, clay, wood-burning oven called a horro de leña.

The result is a rich, buttery, crumbly biscuit that pairs delightfully with the region’s native hot chocolate.

The introduction of rail service in the early twentieth-century made Cayambe and her bizcocho into a popular pit stop.  As travelers made their way from Quito to San Lorenzo, they stopped in Cayambe to pick up a bag of the buttery cookies, wrapped in greaseproof paper.  They are still doing so today!

Can you make bizcocho at home?  Opinion is divided.  It’s a simple recipe with basic ingredients, but regional food bloggers argue vehemently that without the alpine Andean air, the rich buttermilk from the surrounding dairy farms and the horro de leña, bizcocho made in Milwaukee or Madrid won’t be the same.  To experience the true bizcocho, you have to make your way to Cayambe.

Join Alexander + Roberts on our innovative and popular itinerary: The Galapagos by Land + Highlands of Ecuador, which includes a culinary stop in Cayambe to visit a local bakery and learn how bizcocho are made, as well as tastings of the local hot chocolate and string cheese.  Always capped at 16 guests for your maximum enjoyment!

Posted: 7/14/2017 10:25:54 AM by Alexander + Roberts