Yemitas, "little yolks," are the Cuban version of "Yemas de Santa Teresa" (St. Theresa's Candied Egg-yolks). In the Middle Ages, Spanish wine makers used egg whites for clarifying their wines, and they would donate the left-over egg yolks to the nuns of nearby convents, who would then use them in making treats such as these and selling them at a small profit. The influence of the Moorish occupation of Spain, combined with the availability of egg yolks, are two important reasons why there are so many egg-based dishes in Spanish cuisine.
These candied egg yolks were originally made at the famous convent in Avila, which was founded by St. Theresa. The Cuban version is very similar, but the candies are smaller, and are rolled in granulated sugar, instead of confectioners' sugar.
The yemitas are left out overnight, so that they dry a bit and form a "skin." The resulting candy will be crusty and crunchy on the outside, and will have the texture and consistency of fudge on the inside, except flavored with cinnamon, lemon and vanilla.
Yemitas were a special favorite of my godmother, Mama Lala, who would make them every December 3, for the annual vigil of the Feast of St. Barbara, a saint to whom she is devoted. There was a yearly gathering on this day at our house, and I have a memory of Mama Lala, dressed in red (the color associated with St. Barbara) passing a tray of yemitas to the guests.
I hadn't made these in a very long time, and had forgotten how much work they are to make. It occurs to me now that only poor nuns in desperate financial straits would ever want to make these on a regular basis. And, after all that work, the recipe didn't even yield very many of them. Of course, the work was worth it for the wonderful memory it brought back . . .
And this beautiful tray was a Christmas gift last year from my sister-in-law, Angela. I think the colors work rather nicely together . . .