Baking the perfect Argao torta requires a confluence of several things, revealed one of the town’s top makers Jessie Magallones.

The tuba (coconut wine) must be fresh and fermented just right so it is neither too sweet or sour. A clay oven or what Cebuanos call the “hurno” gives the best Argao torta results. Cooking temperature should be kept at moderate levels all throughout the baking process.

She said these were the things she learned as she grew her Argao torta business. Magallones, who runs the popular Jessie’s Homemade Torta in Argao, said she remains true to the traditional methods of torta making.

argao torta
At Jessie’s, torta is baked in the hurno or clay oven and tuba (coconut wine) is used as leavening.

Magallones pointed out her hurno when she toured us around her bakery. Heat above and below the clay oven is achieved by lighting dried coconut husks on top and at the bottom of the hurno.

Dried coconut husks are lighted below and on top of the hurno or clay oven during torta baking.

Argao torta

In the beginning, she cited, she made torta for family and progressed later to baking only when there are orders in 2001.

Her business venture took off in 2010 when the Municipal Government decided to highlight the Argao torta in a festival that is now celebrated yearly. The Municipal Tourism Office included her torta when it started a marketing campaign of the town delicacy.

“Gradual lang ang pagdako sa akong negosyo,” she said, adding that she listens to customers and improved her torta based on their feedback. (Growth of my business has been gradual.)

Magallones bakes 12 dozens of torta daily and is usually able to sell all within the day. She increases her output to 20 to 30 dozens when there are orders or during special occasions.

Baking secrets

Argao torta basically follows the same recipe, according to Magallones. Torta makers even have the same tuba source.

Sikwate or hot choco made from tableya, also an indigenous industry in Argao, is usually paired with torta.
Sikwate or hot choco made from tableya, also an indigenous industry in Argao, is usually paired with torta.

She believes that the differences happen in the preparation and amount of ingredients used.

“There are those who use modern ovens and mixers instead of using the hand to knead the dough. They also prefer using yeast instead of tuba as leavening. The taste and smell of the torta come out different,” she pointed.

Plus, torta that uses tuba and is baked in the hurno takes a long to spoil.

Home-based business

It was her mother who introduced her to torta making, she revealed.

Magallones recalled that her mother started baking in the 90’s especially during special occasions like fiestas.

She would deliver her torta to the houses of her “suki” or regulars, added Magallones.

Magallones said she only sells from her home. Customers can also choose to visit and eat torta paired with sikwate (hot choco made from tableya) at her home bakery. If you’re interested in buying Jessie’s torta, we have more information at our mobile web guide to Argao.

Marlen is the editor of and co-founder of Cebu-based journalism startup InnoPub Media.

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