A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from January 30, 2008
Bien Me Sabe or Bienmesabe (“Tastes good to me” spongecake with coconut cream)

“Bien me Sabe” or “bienmesabe” (Spanish for “tastes good to me”) is a term given to several foods across several cultures. Most frequently, “Bien me Sabe” is a spongecake with coconut cream. The recipe appears in many Puerto Rican cookbooks, although Panama, Venezuela, and Spain also have Bien me Sabe recipes.
First cited in the 1910s and 1920s, “Bien Me Sabe” was then listed as a Mexican dessert.
El Boricua, a cultural publication for Puerto Ricans
Bien-me-Sabe - Sencillo
2½ cup sugar & 1 cup water
2 cans (8 3/4 oz each) cream of coconut
8 egg yolks - broken
24 lady fingers
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
¼ cup water
Arrange lady fingers in the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish. Boil 2½ cup sugar and 1 cup water over high heat without stirring until it makes a light syrup. Allow to cool. Gradually add the cream of coconut and stir. Add egg yolks and blend in.
Cook mixture over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce to medium heat and stir until it boils. Immediately strain the mixture and pour over lady fingers. Boil 3/4 cup sugar and ¼ cup water in a saucepan until the soft ball stage (240ºF).
Meanwhile beat egg whites until stiff. Slowly add syrup and beat until foamy.
Garnish the dessert with the meringue and chill until serving. ¡Buen provecho . . .!
Flora’ Recipe Hideout
Bien Me Sabe De Coco (Spongecake With Coconut Cream)
Servings: 8
1 tablespoon Butter, softened
5   Egg whites
1/2 cup Sugar
5   Egg yolks
1/3 cup Sweet white wine
10 tablespoons All purpose flour
2 cups Coconut milk, see notes
1 cup Sugar
5   Egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
1 cup Muscatel (...)
Google Books
Pan-Pacific Cook Book:
Savory Bits from the World’s Fare
compiled by L. L. McLaren
San Francisco, CA: Blair-Murdock Company
Pg. 134:
Add a cup of milk to the grated meat of a large fresh cocoanut. Heat slowly, then squeeze in a cheese cloth until all of the milk is extracted. Pour this cream into a double boiler and ad the yolks of four eggs beaten well with four tablespoons of sugar. Stir until the cream thickens slightly, like custard; then pour over small squares of sponge cake in a glass dish. Beat the whites to a stiff meringue with a little sugar and vanilla and spread over the top; then sprinkle with powdered cocoanut over all, and garnish, if you like, with candied cherries.
3 December 1921, Morning Oregonian (Portland, OR), pg. 12, col. 3: 
Or “Bien me sabe,” a Mexican combination of fresh grated cocoanut, cocoanut milk and soft rich custard, with sponge cake and meringue. Serve hot or cold.       
24 February 1923, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. 18:
F. H. C., city, has just returned from a trip to Mexico and while there was served with a very delicious dessert made with cocoanut and eggs, which the Mexican cook named “Bien me Sabe” and wants us to supply his wife with the recipe if possible.
Google Books
Porto Rico: A Caribbean Isle
by Richard James Van Deusen and Elizabeth Kneipple Van Duesen
New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company
Pg. 177:
bienmesabe (“it tastes good to me”), a thick syrup of coconut milk, ...
Google Books
Sanchocho: Stories and Sketches of Panama
by Evelyn Moore
Printed by the Panama American Publishing Company
Pg. 88:
There are sweet breads, round cakes, sponge cakes iced and plain, biscuits coated with sugar icing, cabellitos de angel, claritas picantes, suspiros, egg-shaped custards, white cocoanut sweets, merengues, bienmesabe,...
Bienmesabe: milk, coarse brown sugar and flour.
18 March 1950, Canandaigua (NY) Daily Messenger, pg. 6, cols. 5-6:
UNIQUE among “coming out” parties was the one given recently in New York to celebrate the “debut” of The Naughty Nineties Cook Book—an attractively gotten up volume of recipes taken from the files of the famous George Rector’s Restaurant, a favorite meeting place for celebrities of that fabulous era variously known as The-Turn-of-the-Century, the Gay Nineties, the Mauve Decade.
Bien Me Sabe
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/2 cup water
1 2/3 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 2-inch sticks cinnamon
6 egg yolks, well beaten
1/2 cup cream, whipped and sweetened
1/4 pound sponge cake
4 tablespoons sweet wine
Combine 1 cup coconut, water, milk, sugar, and cinnamon in saucepan. Place over low heat and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 30 minutes. Strain. Reheat milk in top of double boiler. Add a small amount of hot milk to egg yolks and return to double boiler. Cook over boiling water until custard thickens, stirring constantly. (Custard will coat metal spoon when cooked.) Chill. Fold in whipped cream.
Cut cake in small oblong pieces and place in bottom of deep dessert dish. Sprinkle with wine. Add custard sauce. Sprinkle with remaining coconut. Chill well before servings. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Puerto-Rican Dishes
by Berta Cabanillas and Carmen Ginorio
Puerto Rico
Baltimore, MD: Waverly Press
Pg. 137 (Glossary):
Bienmesabe A dessert; sponge cake with cocoanut milk and egg sauce poured over it.
25 December 1965, Cumberland (MD) Evening Times, pg. 20, col. 1:
Venezuelan desserts are cloyingly sweet to the U.S. palate and the four we sampled were no exception: (...) bienmesabe, a gelatine dessert that also contains milk, sugar, cream, crumbled cookies, eggs, vanilla, marsala wine and cinnamon.
7 April 1966, Big Spring (TX) Daily Herald, “Panamanian Describes Dual Cooking Ways” by Jo Ann Prinizy, pg. 8B:
“Tastes Good”
4 egg yolks
1 coconut
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Sponge cake
Drain milk from coconut and grate meat. Heat milk and grated coconut in double boiler for 1/2 hour and squeeze through linen. There should be 1 cup of coconut cream. Beat eggs until thick and lemon-colored and beat in coconut cream. Cook sugar and water 5 minutes, and add slowly to egg-yolk mixture. Cook over hot water stirring with wooden spoon, until thickened. Pour into bowl and cool slowly. If desired serve over sponge cake squares. Serves six to eight.
Google Books
The Cuisines of Spain:
Exploring Regional Home Cooking
by Teresa Barrenechea
Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press
Pg. 276:
Rich Almond Dessert (Canary Islands)
Bienmesabe is the name for two different desserts. This simple almond one is from the Canary Islands, while the other dessert is from Andalusia, where it is traditionally made by cloistered nuns in Antequera, in Malaga province. It is a sponge cake to which custard, cabello de angel (page 296), and ground almonds are added, and it is typically purchased from the nuns or from pastry shops, rather than homemade. To make the term even more confusing, bienmesabe is also the name of an Andalusian recipe for fried fish (page 68).

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Wednesday, January 30, 2008 • Permalink

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