Guatemalan Quesadillas

Many Guatemalan and Mexican dishes share a name but are completely different. I have written about Guatemalan enchiladas and tostadas, now it?s time for Guatemalan quesadilla! Everyone is familiar with the Mexican version of a quesadilla; a corn or flour tortilla filled with cheese and assorted fillings then heated until the cheese is melted and warm. Even I make this version from time to time since we almost always have cheese and tortillas in the fridge.

One day a few weeks ago, Carlos brought home a cakey looking thing from his grandmother?s bakery that just opened up in Framingham. I asked Carlos ?what is this?? and he replied ?a quesadilla?. I looked at him confused and asked again ?what is this??, ?QUESADILLA? he sternly replied. ?Oh, like the Mexican quesadilla?? ?Yes, but no?, and so it went for 5 minutes. I think he sometimes secretly likes me to interrogate him. Until he finally divulged that a Guatemalan Quesadilla was a cheesy cake. Not a cheesecake, but a cake like thing with dried Central American type cheese added to it. Yes the cheese has similarities to parmesan, but to use parmesan in this cake would be like using??..well I don?t know what, but it?s wrong considering how readily available Latin type cheeses are everywhere. The other ingredient that kept popping up was the use of rice flour. I didn?t have any at home the first time I made this, so mine is made with all purpose flour.

So reminding myself that my recipe lineup is lacking (I think none) in baking recipes, I decided to explore Guatemalan quesadillas. To the computer and the bookshelf I went. I did find a few recipes online; most of them used parmesan cheese, so sad. What few Guatemalteca cookbooks I have, had no mention of quesadillas. Dessert as we know it is not big in Guatemala, most often they will have a mango or papaya that was picked in the backyard. So as is often the case I started from scratch. Butter, sugar, eggs, milk, heavy cream, flour, baking powder, cheese and sesame seeds, but in what amounts? What pan? How long? Oh goodness baking is a lot harder than a sauce over chicken.

So five or six cakes and five pounds later, I have the recipe! I think. Carlos likes it and says it is like Mama Neca?s (his grandmother). From what I am told this cake is made as a treat for the kids, or if someone special is coming over for afternoon coffee. Afternoon coffee is big in Guatemala. Coffee and a postre as an afternoon pick me up is taken seriously in Guatemala, and if you are visiting someone and the offer, you better accept. If you don?t they will be insulted and I learned this the hard way.

Guatemalan Quesadilla Recipe


? 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

? 1 cup sugar

? 2 eggs

? 1 cup whole milk

? 1 cup heavy cream

? 1 cup queso seco (a Central American style dried cheese)

? 2 cups flour

? 2 teaspoons baking powder

? ¼ teaspoon table salt (not kosher salt)

? Sesame seeds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a stand or hand mixer cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the eggs and mix to combine. Add milk and heavy cream and mix to combine. In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and add to the wet ingredients, mixing until the flour is just incorporated (do not overmix or your cake will get tough). Fold in the cheese. Pour into a lightly greased 9 by 13 baking pan. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and bake for about 40-50 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.


Alex, 14/11/2020

Thank you for this recipe! My family is from Guatemala and I’ve been craving quesadilla. Unfortunately, I only get to have it when my abuelita is in town. I’m so excited to make this regularly!

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