Pope makes traditional Slovenian cake into a global hit

Vatican City, 24 May - With a joke about US President Donald Trump's physique when greeting his wife Melania at an audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis made potica, a cake from the first lady's native Slovenia, into a global hit.

Potica, the lynchpin of Slovenian culinary tradition.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA
File photo

The pope's question "What do you feed him on? Potica?" has caused quite a confusion with the global media, as the interpreters and later journalists mistook the traditional Slovenian dessert (pronounced as "po-teet-sah") for pizza.

For a long time, the media only reported about pizza, but sources in the Vatican eventually made it clear, with the help of a Slovenian journalist, that the pope was in fact a fan of potica and would always mention it when meeting people from Slovenia.

The White House later also explained the talk was in fact about potica, the artisan rolled-dough dessert from Slovenia.

The husband of the pope's niece is of Slovenian descent, so the pope is well acquainted with potica.

But on the other hand, the confusion resulted in part from the fact that the pope is also a big fan of pizza.

When it comes to culinary tradition, potica is about as Slovenian as it gets. It is to Slovenians what apple pie is to Americans.

It is a relatively simple dish. A variety of sweet or, rarely, savoury fillings, most commonly walnuts, hazelnuts or poppy seeds, is spread on a sheet of rich dough, rolled and then baked either as a straight roll or more traditionally in a round pan with a hole in the middle to create a wreath-like appearance.

But the simplicity belies its complexity, in terms of culinary skill required as well as its centrality in the pantheon of Slovenian culture.

© STA, 2017