For National Pastry Day, Consider El Salvador’s Sweet Quesadilla

It’s the Salvadoran equivalent of coffee cake, with a little cheese thrown in for good measure

On the morning on Tuesday, December 9th, National Pastry Day will be in full swing at bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants all over Los Angeles like Joan’s on Third, Republique, and my neighborhood spot, La Monarcha Bakery & Cafe in Hollywood. As each and every one of us nod in content at our striking overhead Instagram photo of perfectly aligned cup of coffee and sweet or savory pastry of choice, please consider the Salvadoran quesadilla. No, I’m not talking the deep fried or griddled masa turnover filled with huitlacoche (corn smut), squash blossoms, or tinga (spicy meat) popular in central and southern Mexico, nor am I referring to the northern Mexican handmade flour tortilla oozing melted cheese made by Mennonites. I’m talking about the Salvadoran lightly sweet coffee cake of the same name, the quesadilla salvadoreña, sometimes spelled quezadilla (to lessen the annoying questions from confused Mexican customers).

Wherever you live in Los Angeles, you’re never far from our many Salvadoran enclaves in the Valley. From Koreatown to Pico-Union, South Central, Jefferson Park or anywhere from Hollywood to Echo Park, there are many bakeries like Panaderia Cuscatleca that serve hot food in addition to their sweets. In the Salvadoran bakery, the quesadilla is king, whether cut into squares from a cake tray or baked into discus-sized round coffee cakes.

The quesadilla salvadoreña is a sweet cake made with a hard cheese like parmesan, rice flour, milk, eggs, cream and sugar among others, with a finish or sesame seeds on top. But not too sweet, which makes it a fine paring with a cup of Salvadoran coffee made with beans from Chalatenango. But get that quesadilla to go and look for your Salvadoran coffee elsewhere, because the third wave hasn’t hit our Central American bakeries, yet. Which wave included Nescafé?

Panaderia Cuscatleca, 1566 W Pico Bl., Pico-Union, (213) 388-6615