In Mexico (and in most of Texas), if you’re in a Spanish-speaking house and want cake, you ask for pasteles.
In Puerto Rico, if you ask for pasteles, you’ll get what is on my plate, except yours will be wrapped in a package of banana leaves and wax paper held together with butcher’s string. (Dad unwrapped mine.)
Pasteles are basically like tamales, but not. Like tamales, they’re made mostly around the holidays and are fucking delicious. The masa is a big part of what’s different. Tamales usually go with a corn masa and pasteles go with one made from green plantains and bananas.
My grandmother fills hers with meat (this one has pork) but you can get meat-free ones as well. Actually, my grandmother made all the ones cooked tonight and sent them with my dad (along with some blood sausage that we have yet to pull from the freezer). That’s really the only way I can get some of this quality goodness. Speedy mail, family visits, or someone returning from a visit to the island.
And did I mention they’re delicious? Because they are.