Carnival parade

Malta’s Carnival

il- Karnival tal Malta

The tradition of Carnival extends far and wide around the world, including the grandest palaces of Europe. Carnival has been celebrated in Malta since the early 1400’s which later was given greater importance and grandeur by the knights of Malta (Order of St John) 1535 where celebrations began in Birgu (Malta’s Capital City during that period).

Its wholesome fun was aimed at bringing the community together in celebrations to provide something to look forward to prior to the commencement of Lent and Easter. The word Carnival derived from the Latin ‘Carne’ (meaning meat) and ‘Vale’ (meaning farewell or goodbye), in reference to the approach of abstinence of meat whilst fasting during lent. Carnival providing the last opportunity to indulge in various foods that are restricted during the 40 days of lent that commence from Ash Wednesday.

Carnival is typically held in February, keeping to the tradition that extends celebrations to a duration of 5 days, where the main procession of large decorative floats makes their way through the streets. Some modern-day floats carry speakers that provide audio sound effects to create a more impactful experience.

The parade is accompanied and followed by marching bands playing merry music. Valletta is the biggest procession held on the Island, however other villages in Malta and Gozo also host their own processions. People attend in fancy dress with elaborate costumes that adopt many themes, ranging from the classical aristocratic traditional dress with beautiful or grotesque masks, through to various informal characters which may adopt a more comical and jovial theme.

Girl in candy Carnivale costume

Several competitions take place during the week, that include the best float, best costume and best dance. There are also special days and events held especially for children.

Exclusive parties and balls take place throughout Malta that run late into the night, creating a Carnival extravaganza.

Malta has its own sweet culinary creation especially for Carnival which is simply known as Carnival cake or Prinjolata in Maltese. It’s simple yet colourful presentation could have its origin to be in keeping with a crude and grotesque nature of some masks worn during the festivities. Pine nuts are used in its creation as well as its decoration. Pine nut in Maltese is called prinjole, thus being the foundation of this cakes name – ‘Pine nut gateaux’. This cake can be found at cafés and confectionary shops in Malta during the month of February.

The traditional method of creating this festive gateaux is made by using cooked pastry that is bound with lashings of buttercream, various subtle flavourings, grated chocolate, glace cherries and pine nuts. Shaped into a dome, it is covered with an Italian Meringue then decorated.

There are many variations that have been developed, that alternatively use sponge cake, or biscuits that are either bound by the traditional butter cream or custard.

Simpler coverings use whipped cream, which of course has a different texture and taste to the classical and traditional Italian Meringue.

Carnival cake

Carnival Cake from (Volume2)
Traditional Sweet Recipes from Malta

Sugared almonds

Another confection that is used to celebrate Carnival are sugared almonds, referred to as ‘Perlini’ in Maltese. Traditionally during the float parades of Carnival vendors would throw these sugared almonds into the crowds.

A trend that has been taking place for a number of years now is that some people are using sugared coated licorice (otherwise known as torpedoes) as another alternative to
sugared almonds during the festivities which is also cost effective.

Thank you for joining me in this article.

Happy Baking until next time.

Sharon Catherine