I wanted to make a dessert for a party celebrating a dear friend’s advancement to the rank of United States Coast Guard Chief. She is a native of Guam, so I scoured blogs for traditional Chamorro fare and took parts from several recipes to create this sweet treat.
Apparently, Latiya (pronounced “Lat-tee-zah”) is the dessert of choice served at all Chamorro gatherings. It has just a few ingredients, is fairly easy to make, and requires no baking. The secret is in getting the custard-like filling to the right consistency but not overcooking.
To my utmost delight, it was deemed perfect by not only the Chamorro father, aunt, uncles, cousin and friends, but most importantly by the honoree, as well as delicious by those of us Americans having it for the first time. I shared my extensive research and we had a fun banter about the use of eggs (I didn’t), amount of vanilla (I used 1/2 teaspoon instead a full teaspoon), layering of the pound cake versus leaving space for the custard between slices, and the appropriate amount of cinnamon sprinkled on top. What it all comes down to is the cook’s preference … and in a Chamorro kitchen, the cook is always right!
And the absolute most important ingredient in food at a Chamorro gathering? Love in heaping portions. I put plenty of that in this recipe for Chief Isa Mariano!
Note: “Chamorro” is the term for the indigenous natives of the Mariana Islands, including Guam. “Guamanian” is the term used for those strictly from the island of Guam, not the neighboring islands.
- 6 – 1 inch thick slices of pound cake
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2 – 12 ounce cans of evaporated milk (save 1 empty can)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups white sugar
- 3/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons good quality cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon sugar for sprinkling on top
- Halve pound cake slices so you have 12 pieces.
- Place in 13 x 9 x 3 cake pan, spaced about 1/2 inch apart.
- In a large pot, melt the stick of butter.
- Add both cans of evaporated milk, vanilla and 1 can of warm water to melted butter and stir.
- Bring just to a boil then reduce to medium heat. (Do not allow to boil over or it may scorch and taste burnt.)
- While bringing milk to a boil, put cornstarch in a bowl and whisk in 1 can of warm water. Whisk until cornstarch is completely dissolved and no lumps remain.
- Slowly whisk cornstarch/water mixture into hot milk, then slowly whisk in sugar.
- Bring to a slow, rolling boil and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick.
- Carefully pour the hot mixture over the cake slices.
- Sprinkle cinnamon then sugar on top.
- Allow to cool and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours for cake to fully set.
Makes one 9 x 13 pan; approximately 32 servings. The dessert is rich and sweet so pieces should be small; ours were cut into 2 inch x 2 inch squares.
Top left: My daughter and YNC Isa Mariano.
Top right: Isa’s hat box; a tradition for Coasties advancing to Chief.
Bottom: The proud Mariano family.