313 - Can't beat the sweets at the Latin Emporium

By Lauren Gosnell

If your sweet tooth runs toward Latin flavours, a good place to stop is the Latin Emporium in Kensington Market.

The tiny Salvadoran grocer, run by Cecilia and Jose Espinoza, sells a wide range of Latin American ingredients and take-away foods. But one of its better-kept secrets is Cecilia’s homemade desserts and drinks.

The semita de pina is a sweet pineapple cake that is popular in El Salvador. The outside looks like a flattened waffle cone shell with its decorative diagonal grid lines. The filling is a thin layer of pineapple preserve made from scratch.

You could buy commercial toaster snack versions of the semita in individually-sealed packages, but you can’t beat the soft springiness of Cecilia’s freshly-made cake.

PeperachaPeperechas is a cane sugar (panela) pastry is that is prepared like flat jam squares. Two thin layers of a firmer cookie-like dough sandwiches pineapple preserve again. The top layer is coated with a generous sprinkling of bright red coloured sugar.

In El Salvador, “peperacha” is a cheeky way to refer to prostitutes whose make-up matches the colour of this tasty treat.

Cecilia also prepares a popular drink called horchata herself at the Latin Emporium instead of using a packaged instant mix. She roasts and grinds up her own special preparation of rice, sesame seeds, cinnamon, pumpkin seeds, cocoa beans, jicaro seeds and cashew nuts into a powder.

Using a blender, she mixes a spoonful of the powder along with a half cup of milk, half cup of water, six ice cubes and sugar to taste. Cecilia’s horchata goes down like malty chocolate milk – highly recommended to go with her delicious pupusas.

With its nutritious ingredients, horchata is a very healthy drink. As Cecilia likes to say, “Three cocoa beans a day takes the doctor away.”

The Latin Emporium (Emporium Latino)
243 Augusta Ave.
Toronto ON