Sofia Cortina grew up in a family where savoury food was simply considered the long route to dessert. At 18, she found her calling. She abandoned traditional schooling to work at Chef Enrique Olvera’s Pujol Restaurant, where she discovered her passion for baking. She later became an apprentice at EspaiSucre in Barcelona, before a stint with Pierre Hermé in Paris.
Today, at the age of 26, her talent has taken her to Dubai, Ibiza, London and, of course, Mexico City, where she has become well-known thanks to her current project: Hotel Carlota’s bakery.
Cortina’s striking creations have attracted great attention, as well as transcending culinary boundaries. Her desserts are delicately balanced landscapes, boasting incredible aesthetics and flavours, and range from delicate to stimulating.
From Imagination to Reality
Since taking over Hotel Carlota's kitchen, she has enjoyed the freedom to realise her ideas, starting with the mamey mousse with chocolate ganache and Flor de Cacao. “I imagined a dessert in the cacao family and knew I wanted to create light desserts with varying textures,” she says.
“In Mexico, sweets are everywhere, starting with the traditional meringues sold in the streets. So, it’s not easy to moderate Mexican diners’ sugar consumption,” explains Cortina. “Everyone is used to an intense level of 'sweetness'.” Even though it’s been a challenge to minimise or eliminate the use of sugar, Sofia has managed to create exceptional desserts.
Extravagant and Contrasting Flavours
Sofia Cortina stands out thanks to her creativity and extravagant combinations. Perhaps her boldest dessert is avocado ice cream, which was a huge success right from the start.
Her 'signature pastries' are Vacherines: Cortina puts her spin on the French dessert, with ethereal layers of meringue, coulis and light sorbets. She also prepares an amazing dish with summer cacti, a combination of exotic ingredients like pitahaya, dragon fruit, crystallised xoconostle – nopal fruit, in a delicate play on acidity.
From Mexico to Japan
Her creations reflect her masterful technique, which has been influenced by different pastry traditions.
She uses traditional Mexican methods like nixtamalisation (working criollo corn for plum tamales) and tatemado (scorching plantains or peaches, which she likes to pair with almond ice cream and olive oil).
She learned the foundations of Japanese pastry tradition from Takeshi Somekawa at Dos Palillos in Barcelona, where she also fell in love with matcha and mochi, the typical Japanese dessert made with glutinous rice flour. “I love the precision and accuracy that sets the Japanese apart,” she says. In the restaurant, she works it by hand and often fills it with yogurt, raspberry or rose chantilly ice cream.
Sofía Cortina and Joaquín Cardoso – two of Pujol’s prodigal sons – have developed a balanced rhythm in the Hotel Carlota. They share the same philosophy: quality ingredients, freshness, lots of French technique and well-structured flavours. “Without a doubt, Joaquín motivated me to focus on the product. We consider cuisine as a whole, using fresh daily ingredients,” says Cortina.
Cortina is enjoying a successful period in her career, and together with Cardoso is about to launch a new project in Mexico City. She hints that “there will be 1920s-style French desserts with local ingredients and a very tropical twist.”