A dessert made of vanilla custard sprinkled with cinnamon with a sponge cake base.



Latiya or natiya originated in Spain from natillas [naˈtiʎas] traditional Spanish dessert custard normally eaten with Bizcocho Genovesa, a golden brown sponge finger cake.

Since the traditional CHamoru diet did not include milk, sugar or cinnamon it is probable that latiya was first introduced to the Marianas during the Spanish period (17th-19th centuries). The practice of thickening a sauce with starch and baking cakes was also introduced during this time.

Some believe it is a more recent addition to the local diet being introduced after World War II. It is possible that after WWII, the ingredients to make this dish were more readily available to the general public where previously only residents with means to obtain the scarce ingredients were able to make it.

Latiya is considered a traditional CHamoru dessert and is very popular among Marianas residents and visitors alike.


The recipe for this dessert has changed little from the original Spanish natillas. Today cooks may use canned evaporated or condensed milk to make the custard instead of milk. In Guam, sponge cake is used instead of sponge fingers. The sponge cake is used as a base and the custard is poured over it. In the past, cooks would bake a sponge cake from scratch. Today it is more likely that the sponge cake is purchased from a grocery store or bakery. Prepackaged cake mixes are also frequently used.


Both men and women can prepare this recipe, but it is commonly made by women. It can be prepared anytime as a dessert at home or for a special occasion, party or fiesta. It is commonly found as an item on the table for a rosary or novena.

Placement on table

Latiya is placed with other desserts, either at the end of the main table or on a separate dessert table.

By Jillette Leon-Guerrero


Latiya: Vanilla Custard Spongecake

  • 1  sponge cake or pound cake
  • 1 ⅔ cups of water
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • ¼ cup corn starch
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ cup butter
  • Cinnamon

Slice cake into ¼” – ½” pieces and spread pieces on platter or custard dish. Set aside.

In large saucepan heat 1 ⅓ cups to almost boiling. Add evaporated milk and then sugar. Mix ⅓ cup of water with cornstarch and vanilla; gradually add to milk mixture. Heat over medium-low, stirring constantly until mixture bubbles. Remove from heat then add butter. Beat eggs and add in four parts to mixture stirring vigorously after each addition.

Pour custard over cake and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Graham crackers can be used instead of cake.

* Recipe by Jillette Leon-Guerrero

Latiya: Vanilla Custard Spongecake

2 eggs
6 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 & ⅔ cup water
1 can evaporated milk
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoon butter
Powdered cinnamon

Prepare and slice cake and layer on serving pan; beat eggs & sugar, set aside; In low heat pour into pot – heat water with starch mixture, slowly add egg mixture; add milk vanilla and butter; continuously stirring and cook until mixture thickens, immediately pour over sponge cake; top with powdered cinnamon.

* Recipe by Bev Borja