November 28, 2022

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Cooking Is My World

Pastel de Atún (Mexican Tuna Cake) Recipe

Why It Works

  • Pickled jalapeños produce a mouth-warming warmth that is tempered by the addition of sweet purple bell pepper and dairy. 
  • Making use of drinking water-packed, rather than oil-packed, tuna provides a delicate fish taste that doesn’t overwhelm the other components. 
  • Skinny levels of tender white sandwich bread give the cake a gentle, fragile texture.

I to start with tasted pastel de atún, or tuna cake―a dish created of levels of white sandwich bread frosted with a creamy, tuna-primarily based sauce―when a neighbor started off marketing very little pink slices of it at a corner retail outlet in close proximity to my home in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, on Mexico’s Pacific coastline. Even though pastel de atún may well resemble a sugary, frosted layer cake, it is really deeply savory through and as a result of, both of those creamy and spicy, cold and sweet.

Pastel de atún is a common staple at children’s birthday parties given that it is an very affordable solution that seems like a cake and can be embellished appropriately. As a bonus, it doesn’t involve an oven in Sinaloa, which sits ideal on the Tropic of Cancer, baking in an indoor oven can make a property uncomfortably sizzling, so quite a few kitchens don’t have a single. The cake is usually served chilly with a side of frijoles puercos (a Sinaloa specialty of refried beans with lard, chorizo, and a minor chile). It is also a preferred make-ahead alternative to convey alongside on loved ones outings to the seaside or h2o park and eaten as “la comida,” or the key food of the day. It is “like ceviche but cheaper,” one particular Mazatleca pal informed me. 

Seafood has been a mainstay in coastal Sinaloa considering that just before Spanish colonization. Quite a few coastal residents nevertheless operate in the seafood market, on tuna and shrimp boats, on shrimp farms, or offering seafood in markets or to dining establishments. Having seafood on a each day basis is common, which usually means locals know their way all-around a fish. As a outcome, innovative recipes that incorporate effortlessly-offered components like canned tuna abound, particularly in house cooking. There is a huge array of tuna salads, tuna ceviches (built with either canned or new tuna), and even protein shakes with canned tuna, which are sold at a lot of of Mazatlán’s well-known smoothie retailers. Then, of training course, there’s pastel de atún. 

Major Eats / Amanda Suarez


Though no one I spoke with was fairly absolutely sure of the origin of pastel de atún, they commented that it carefully resembles the sandwichón, a dish with alternating levels of bread and rooster salad or slices of ham which is built in other places of Mexico. Some consider that, as the identify indicates, the sandwichón is an adaptation of a typical deli sandwich, but with frosting and decoration to increase a little bit of flair for parties and other situations. And, of study course, the cake-like look is on-concept, particularly for birthdays. 

In fact, for a “deluxe” version of pastel de atún, some Mazatlecos increase slices of ham involving the bread and sauce, as is common in sandwichónes. For this recipe, I saved it easy and still left the ham out. An additional popular local variation is the substitution of all or some of the jalapeño in the sauce with chipotles in adobo. I did aspect-by-side taste checks of the recipe with jalapeño, chipotle, and a combine, and I personally favor all jalapeño, which allows the other flavors shine. This model, with jalapeño but without ham or chipotle, is the way I’ve most often seen the dish served, and it’s my private favourite. (I also owe a major thanks to my suegra Doña Esthela, my spouse Lalo, and my volunteer flavor-testers Hilda, John, Santa, Amialba and Hugo for taking the time to converse to me, attempt several recipes, and reminisce about pastel de atún!) 

Major Eats / Amanda Suarez


Considering the fact that canned tuna arrives packed both of those in water and oil, I required to take a look at equally forms to see what change, if any, there could possibly be. (I made use of yellowfin tuna in my tests, but skipjack or chunk light-weight can be utilised as perfectly). I identified that oil-packed tuna provides a much more extreme fish flavor. Whilst some of my style-testers liked that pronounced fishiness, many others, myself incorporated, favored the more delicate flavors of the drinking water-packed model. For this recipe, I recommend drinking water-packed tuna for a gentle taste that won’t overpower the other components.

I like to use media crema, a product product with 20 to 25% fat and stabilizers, as the foundation of the sauce. It is obtainable in most grocery stores with a very well-stocked Latin segment, as effectively as on the net. A tiny product cheese will help thicken the sauce. I also contain a few slices of American cheese, a extremely typical pastel de atún ingredient that helps with thickening and rounds out the flavor.

For the cake levels, I want crust-much less white sandwich bread, which has a delicate, airy texture that keeps the cake mild steer clear of total wheat bread, which will contribute a tougher, chewier texture. You can continue to keep the crusts on hand as a fast snack to dip in any leftover sauce.  

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez


Most versions of this recipe contact for the standard canned sizes of substances out there in Mexican grocery merchants, which can make measuring straightforward and cleansing up speedy. It works by using, for case in point, about one 200-gram (7-ounce) can of La Costeña–brand red pepper strips (offered as “pimiento morrón en tiras”). Equally, the recipe calls for about a 200-gram can of pickled jalapeños and a single 225-gram (7.6 ounce) can of media crema. Though it might be captivating to use contemporary elements alternatively than canned, and would most likely make a delightful pastel, canned is what you have to have to reach the most conventional flavor profile.

Assembly is straightforward and fairly related to frosting a cake: Basically alternate layers of sauce and bread, making confident the bread is completely slathered in sauce, which will start out to soak into the bread but not all the way through. Beautify the leading with strips of purple bell pepper: You can spell out words like, “Happy Birthday!,” or go for a enjoyment decorative sample. Really do not cease there―you can include extra pizzazz with additional jalapeño slices or even strips of cheese. Soon after a speedy stint in the fridge to firm up the cake, dish up slices with frijoles puercos along with it is a terrific way to defeat the warmth.