Carnival has arrived in Malta which means the commencement of street parties, Crazy floats, dancing, drugs, food, and drink. It is time to party. Time to eat prinjolata.
Events connected to Carnival are centralised in two core areas, one in Valletta and one in Gozo. Whilst neither party are considered by the indigenous people to be the events they once were before EU membership both are highly recommended. Valletta is considered the lame child to the ferocious mother Nadur, Gozo. Gozo is particularly famous for its festivities which are said to be many things, surreal, and like a techno party being two descriptions that are commonly used. Needless to say, if you are following the drift of this paragraph, one should try to get to Gozo for the real party experience.
Given the context of Carnival, the symbolic festivities marking the end of winter, there is a new cake that appears at this time of year called Prinjolata. Prinjolata often appears as a mammoth cake from which one buys chunks or slices. There are smaller cakes around but these seem to be like “extra’s” although there is no actual difference between them. On the other hand the difference between Prinjolata’s is largely to do with the cook and the three areas most likely to differ are with the ingredients of the cake, ingredients of the topping, and price.
As with a few things here in Malta the price does not reflect quality. The cakes that I sampled were in the price ranges of 1 euro 40 cents per 200 grams, to 2 euro 50 cents per 200 grams. The most expensive was the most disappointing, and the cheapest offered very good competition with the mid-range Prinjolata.
One thing to avoid is too much sponge in the cake and not enough fruit. Some cakes have no fruit or nuts in at all and these are quite disappointing.
On the other hand, look at the big cakes to see whether there is fruit and biscuit in the cake.
There are two kinds of icing that are generally available, one more popular than the other. Usually the icing is a thick sugared cream but it is also possible to find cakes with a thin coat of icing.
Dealers of Prinjolata each have their own stories about why and how they make their Prinjolata but no-one seems to know anything of its origins or why it is made the way that it is. Some dealers say that their Prinjolata comes from a recipe that is more than 5 generations old. Some say it takes 12 hours to cook, others 24 hours. Online it says about 6, depending on the recipe.
As recipes are quite interchangeable it is a good idea to look at several recipes and compare the ingredients and the ratios used. Take the ingredients that agree with you best and try and make the cake. There is no single recipe – it is purely about finding a recipe that suits your taste. As the cake is actually extremely fatty it is worth bearing in mind that it would probably be a good cake for winter and not necessarily for the coming summer. Perhaps the cake was originally a boost to the body to prepare it for working or breeding season?
The recipes on jimdo.com, il-pjazza.com, tisjir.com, and maltesetraditions have good recipes to compare. Notice that some recipes do not even talk about cooking the cake but instead suggest that once the cake is binding completely then it should be chilled and left to set. Whether it is traditional to cook the cake or not is not clear…