Join Culinary Backstreets

Sign up with email


Already a member? Log in.

Log in to Culinary Backstreets

Trouble logging in?

Not a member? Sign up!

On the night of June 22, a fire is lit at the top of Canigó mountain in the Pyrenees. All through the night, hundreds of volunteer torchbearers carry the flame to towns and villages throughout the four provinces of Catalonia. The arrival of the flame the next day signals the start of the Revetlla de Sant Joan (St. John’s Eve celebration). Bonfires, firecrackers and fireworks light up the night, and people while away the hours drinking, eating and dancing in public squares and beaches or at parties.

Fire, noisemaking and dancing are the main ingredients of St. John’s Eve, the Christian adaptation of ancient pagan celebrations of the summer solstice. But this is also a time for gathering medicinal herbs, for this special time of year purportedly intensifies the plants’ healing and beneficial properties. In fact, in Spanish, the name of all these nocturnal celebrations and dances is verbena, just like the aromatic plant. In Catalonia, these summer herbs and fruits – like green walnuts – are used to make the popular liquor ratafia.

After all the ingredients are collected – people begin preparing this liquor any time in June or early July – they are placed in a large bottle with aiguardent, a distilled spirit. After 40 days of maceration in sol i serena (“sun and shadow”), which takes us into fall, the ratafia is ready. (Some villages, such as Santa Coloma de Farners, host a ratafía festival the first week of November.)

The main culinary distinction of the Revetlla de Sant Joan, though, is coca de Sant Joan, a sweet pastry that is a modern relative of the round cakes prepared by ancient Romans for these solstice celebrations. Similar to brioche, this long, flat sweet bread is found on every Catalan dinner table with cava or sweet wine on this night – as well as lunch the next day. The most characteristic coca for this holiday is flavored with anise and orange blossom water and decorated with candied fruit, chopped almonds and Mediterranean pine nuts (an exquisite version can be found at the small pastry shop Fábrega). Other variations might call for custard, marzipan, puff pastry or llardons (pork cracklings), or perhaps whipped cream or cabello de angel (angel’s hair), a type of pumpkin conserve.

In 1924, Catalan chef Ignasi Domenech was the first to publish a recipe for coca de Sant Joan. According to him, the coca must be twice as long as it is wide. Renowned food writer Vázquez Montalban asserted that these cocas are a must not only for St. John’s Eve, but also for the feasts of Sant Pere (St. Peter, June 29) and Sant Jaume (St. James, July 25), and in fact, for every special day – diada in Catalan – in the event that you don’t make it to pastry shops and bakeries by June 23.

You can find coca de Sant Joan in bakeries all over Barcelona, but we’ve rounded up a few of our favorites (see Locations).

Export as KML for Google Earth/Google MapsOpen standalone map in fullscreen modeCreate QR code image for standalone map in fullscreen modeExport as GeoJSONExport as GeoRSSExport as ARML for Wikitude Augmented-Reality browser
Coca de Sant Joan

loading map - please wait...

Pastisseria Ideal: 41.404290, 2.151410
Pastisseria Fàbrega: 41.379380, 2.165710
Forn Baltà: 41.375340, 2.134560
Pastisseria Baixas: 41.397700, 2.144630
Forn Baltá (sells coca year-round)
Address: Carrer de Sants 117-119, Sants
Telephone: +34 93 339 5485
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 9am-9pm; Sun. 9am-4pm
Address: Carrer de Muntaner 331, Sant Gervasi
Telephone +34 93 209 2542
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8am-8:30pm; Sun. 8am-3pm
Pastisseria Fábrega
Address: Carrer de Sant Antoni Abat 3, Raval
Telephone: +34 93 441 0905
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 7am-9pm; Sun. 7am-6pm
Pastisseria La Ideal
Address: Carrer Gran de Gràcia 207, Gràcia
Telephone: +34 93 217 6435
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8am-2pm & 5pm-8pm; closed Saturday and Sunday

Pastisseria Canal
Address: Carrer Calvet 15, Sarriá-Sant Gervasy
Telephone: +34 932095917
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8.30am8.30pm; Saturday 9pm3pm and 5pm8.30pm; Sundays and Holidays 9pm3pm

Related stories

June 5, 2017

Central de Cacao: Chocolate City

By J. Alejandro
Mexico City -- Entering Central de Cacao, one might think it any other café in the hip neighborhood of Roma Sur. Sitting upon stools, customers hunch over their laptops, sipping from steaming mugs. A wide, beautiful geometric design hangs on the high wall behind the counter. To the left of the entryway, colorful products for sale…
May 31, 2017

Athens’ Suburban Gem: Eating and Drinking in Maroussi

By Johanna Dimopoulos
Athens -- As you approach Maroussi by train, it is difficult to imagine that 100 years ago it was full of mansions with lush gardens – some still standing today – olive orchards and vineyards. Situated 13 km north of Athens, Maroussi (AKA Amarousion) was the home of Spyros Louis, the first athlete to win…
May 29, 2017

Suju Dining Rokkaku: Miso Central

By Fran Kuzui
Tokyo -- Many people think of miso as the soup that gets tacked onto every Japanese meal. We can still remember our first experience of Japanese food in the West, when the waiter brought the soup at the end of the meal, and someone thought he’d forgotten to serve it at the beginning. Any self-respecting…