Heavy on the Chocolate - Easter in Barcelona

No Easter Bunny, Yet Heavy on the Chocolate - Food Traditions in Barcelona

Easter here in Barcelona does't center around the Easter Bunny, and you won´t find a single Peep to eat – gasp! The bunny doesn’t even make an appearance; there are no baskets draped in cellophane grass, no egg hunts, no plastic eggs, and absolutely no Cadbury cream eggs – double gasp! Easter traditions in Catalonia, Spain, are quite different from our holidays back home, yet fortunately for me, the tradition is very rich in chocolate.

Locals celebrate the age-old tradition known as the Mona de Pasqua (Easter Cake). Over the years, the cake itself has gone through quite a number of transitions, yet Catalans still consider it central to the Easter celebration. From humble brioche beginnings to celebrity chef culinary craft, the traditional Mona de Pasqua has turned into elegant haute couture.

While the origins of the word mona are unclear, some suggest that the word may have come from Morocco and translates to “gift.” Dating back to the 15th century, the cake was traditionally a large ring-shaped brioche filled with cream, jam or marzipan. It was typically made at home and decorated with boiled eggs.

The cake was gifted from godfather to godchild and signified the end of the 40-day period of Lent, which forbade the consumption of eggs and meat, per the Catholic church. The eggs placed decoratively atop the cake corresponded to the age of the child and represented birth and life. The tradition is still celebrated for children ages 2 through 12, at which point they take communion.

Photo Source: Gastoteca.cat

Photo Source: Gastoteca.cat

Although the mona is given to children on Easter Sunday, they must wait patiently until Easter Monday to enjoy the treat. Easter Sunday is considered the day to honor the Mother of Christ, while the Catalan holiday of Easter Monday is proclaimed el dia de la mona or “the day of the cake” when family gather for food and celebration.

By 1939, the mona had evolved from the ring brioche into a more modern sponge cake adorned with small chocolate figurines and feathers.

As pastry chefs have become more skilled with the manipulation and molding of chocolate, the traditional mona transformed even further into a decadent chocolate work of art. Famous pastisseria chefs throughout Barcelona create, sculpt and display their masterpieces for purchase, competition and window shopper delight. The Pastry Guild of Barcelona forecasts that 450,000 mones (plural form of mona) will be sold here in the city over the course of the 2015 Easter holiday.

Photo Source: Hofmann Pastisseria Instagram page 2015

Photo Source: Hofmann Pastisseria Instagram page 2015

The so-called “traditional” cakes are now considered those made with butter, marzipan or sweet fruit and topped with hard-boiled eggs and colored feathers.

Photo Source: Cuina per a llaminers: http://www.cuinaperllaminers.com/ 

Photo Source: Cuina per a llaminers: http://www.cuinaperllaminers.com/ 

The modern haute couture versions forgo the cake entirely, instead using chocolate as the primary medium for dazzling creations. Chocolate landscapes, monuments, vehicles, animals, castles, Disney characters and famous futballistas are among the favorites. In fact, the chocolate creations have become so elaborate over the past decade that each Catalan family spends on average between 40 to 50 euros ($44 to $55) for a Mona de Pasqua each year.

Photo Source: Natcha Pastisseria Barcelona

Can you guess the most requested characters for Easter this year?  Anna and Elsa from Frozen take the cake – pun intended.

Photo Source: Natcha Pastisseria Barcelona

Photo Source: Natcha Pastisseria Barcelona

Peppa Pig, Mickey Mouse and the Barcelona football team are annual Easter favorites among the young children.

Photo Source: Bocí Pastisseria Barcelona

Photo Source: Bocí Pastisseria Barcelona

And naturally for the international Star Wars Fans - the Darth Vader Mona.

Photo Source Natcha Pastisseria Barcelona

Photo Source Natcha Pastisseria Barcelona

Has all this inspired you to make an attempt at your own Mona de Pasqua this holiday? The Government of Catalonia offers a simple recipe for mona novices, such as myself.

To view the photo catalogues from the most prestigious pastisserias of Barcelona, click these links below:

Bocí

Foix de Sarria

Hoffmann Pastisseria

Natcha

Oriol Balaguer

Have a wonderful Easter surrounded by good food and and even better company!