Torta: The Delectable Dessert Turned Cultural Symbol

Not only is it a delicious dessert, but it’s also an integral part of the culture of Argao.

Many Cebu towns are associated with the special delicacies sold in their locality. The cities of Carcar and Talisay have their Lechon, while the municipality of Liloan has the Rosquillos

In Southern Cebu, one town is famous for its classic sponge cake known as torta

This delectable dessert is among the many local delicacies of Argao, which is around 71 kilometers away from Cebu City. The town has various local food offerings, but this cake has become the most culturally significant. 

Torta from Chitang's

This famous dessert remains one of the most iconic Cebu delicacies.

WHAT IS TORTA?

The tasty treat got its name from the Spanish word for cake. Many Cebuanos have this treat for dessert or as a midday snack. 

It has been a popular snack for many years, starting as a specialty item during fiestas. However, it became a local favorite, gaining admiration from locals and nearby townsfolk. 

While there are many versions of this snack around the Philippines, most recipes use simple baking ingredients, like egg yolk, salt, and sugar. Argaoanons, however, create a distinctive flavor through some specific components they add.    

The Torta de Cebu recipe uses tuba (fermented coconut wine) as a leavening agent for the batter. It also includes lard as the fat to give it a uniquely sweet taste that many Cebuanos have come to love for years.

The pastry is cooked in a traditional clay furnace. Jessie Magallones – one of the oldest bakers in Argao – says this is the best way to make it.

Cheese, sugar bits, and raisins are added to the cake to give it even more flavor.

The dessert looks like a massive cupcake, with a soft but flaky texture. It is dense and moist, filled with a rich, sweet flavor.   

Locals pair this dessert with sikwate, a hot chocolate drink made from locally grown cocoa beans called tablea.   

Torta statue at the Argao town plaza

Locals in Argao are very proud of this tasty dessert.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Torta became a cultural symbol of Argao that many businesses use to pay homage to the town. Visitors make sure to buy some of these cakes when they are in the area. 

From the 28th to the 29th of September, Argao celebrates the annual La Torta Festival. Like many other Philippine festivals, it features dance performances from students from public schools. 

You will even find a statue of this delicious Filipino food favorite at the entrance to the town’s plaza. 

Government agencies have helped promote the snack as an integral part of the history of Argao. They have showcased the pastry in trade fairs and exhibits, promoting the businesses and tourism of the quiet municipality.  

Chitang’s in Argao

Chitang’s is one of the most popular places in Argao to buy these delectable desserts.

LOCAL BUSINESSES

You can buy some of these pastries in the many family-owned bakeries around town. One of the most popular is Chitang’s, which is only a few minutes away from the town plaza.

A wall dedicated to the owner of Chitang’s

Chitang’s is known as one of the first local businesses to commercialize torta. It started in the 1980s, owned by Anecita “Chitang” Camello, and was taken over by her son when she passed away in 2007. 

Chitang’s now has a small bakery in a quiet neighborhood in the town. Aside from serving the classic sponge cake, they also offer other local snacks like browas, tostados, and podreda.

You will find a variety of local Filipino desserts in this quaint bakery.

You can also order tablea here, which is another popular Argao delicacy. The cocoa beans are grown and harvested within the town as well. 

The bakery has welcomed many visitors stopping by the quiet road to buy as many cakes as they like. A bigger torta will cost 50 Php each, while a smaller one will cost 45 Php. 

This delectable dessert showcases the creativity and uniqueness of Filipino food and how cities and towns celebrate their food culture. 

As for this tasty sponge cake, the sweet flavor and soft texture make it fun to eat, and its popularity turned it into the culinary sensation we all constantly associate with Argao. 

Whenever you find yourself heading south, don’t forget to get some of these delicious treats for yourself as well as your family and loved ones!

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