Big Papaya, Small Papaya – Same Fruit, Different Name

July 16, 2009

Brazilian Papaya and Mamão and a Papaya Breakfast Cake Recipe

Most of us are pretty familiar with the papaya even if we don’t live in a place where they are regularly available. The papayas I had always been familiar with were about the size of a large white potato.

When I came to Brazil and started exploring all the fruits, I soon found papaya was widely available and very popular. It is the main component of salada de frutas (fruit salad) when you order it at a restaurant and I have yet to see a juice menu without it listed.

I found those small papayas I was familiar with right away in the supermarket. They are called papaya in Portuguese, too, but sometimes you will find it spelled papaia. Then I kept coming across this fruit that looked like an overgrown papaya and the signs always indicated it was mamão.

Here are pictures so you can see the size difference. The mamão is a huge fruit.


Brazilian Papaya and Mamão and a Papaya Breakfast Cake Recipe

Brazilian Papaya and Mamão and a Papaya Breakfast Cake Recipe


Upon purchasing one and trying it at home, I quickly realized it is really just a big papaya. I’ve asked around about the two fruits and that is pretty much what everyone here tells me as well. Although, the smaller papaya is supposed to be a bit sweeter. I can’t tell a flavor difference though. They look and taste exactly the same to me.


Brazilian Papaya and Mamão and a Papaya Breakfast Cake Recipe


To tell you the truth, I’m not a huge fan of papaya. I enjoy it mixed in with other fruit in fruit salads and juices, but I don’t like the flavor enough to sit down to a big piece of it. Actually the most interesting thing about the fruit, the mamão specifically, is how it grows. I have been trying like crazy to get a photo because typically I only see them when we are driving. This is the best I have been able to do.


They grow on a tall, incredibly skinny tree that branches out with leaves at the top. The fruit grows in numerous bunches right at the top of the trunk.

Despite the fact that it isn’t my favorite, I do buy papaya or mamão every now and then. I consider it my duty to appreciate my access to all these good things and it usually goes into juice. However, the other day I was feeling a little creative.

I wanted to use the mamão, but wasn’t hungry for dessert. The thought of a bread entered my mind, and then, why not a breakfast cake. Who doesn’t want cake for breakfast?

This cake is full of whole grains and is hearty and filling. The papaya simply adds moisture as the flavor of the fruit itself isn’t very strong. I will say that it is very, very buttery. In fact, I think I’ll probably reduce the butter to a 1/3 cup the next time I make it. Because it is so moist, you’ll want to store any leftovers in the fridge.


Papaya Breakfast Cake Recipe


Papaya Breakfast Cake

Makes a 10 inch round cake

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup mascavo sugar (unrefined cane sugar)
2 eggs
1 cup papaya or mamão, pureed
¼ cup steel cut oats, soaked for at least a half hour and drained
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar, then mix in eggs. Stir in papaya and mix well. Next stir in the soaked oats and stir until combined. Finally add in flour, baking soda and salt and stir to combine all ingredients.

I used a lightly greased 10 inch round, glass baking dish. However, given the amount of butter I think I could have gone without greasing it. Any square pan would work fine too. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes, until edges are browned and center is baked through. Allow to cool about 5 minutes, serve warm or at room temperature.


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  • Maria July 16, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Fresh papaya, yum! I bet it is amazing in your cake!

  • Tangled Noodle July 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    I’m not a huge fan of papaya either but I do enjoy it every once in a while. However, this cake is awesome! I have never come across a papaya cake before, much less one made with steel-cut oats and I love how this looks so rich!

    I may not be a huge fan but it would be rather cool to have one of those trees!

  • Anna July 16, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Papaya Cake, it must be delicious, I love papaya and its wonderful for your skin.

  • Chow and Chatter July 16, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    wow the tree is cool I am like you nice looking fruit but not my cup of tea

  • Erica July 16, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Papaya is a love it or hate it fruit and I LOVE it. I wish it was found in all fruit salad in the US!!! The cake looks great- super moist

  • Sweta July 16, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Nothing like a bowl of freshly cut papayas for me-I just love them. Hubby however says that he feels it smells like (excuse me) puke 🙁
    Never tried it in a cake though-he might like it this way 🙂

  • Reeni♥ July 16, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    What a nice treat for breakfast! I haven’t eaten papaya in quite a long time – I think I will revisit it!

  • Alison July 16, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    I’m not a big papaya fan either. I much prefer mango. Do you have cherimoya in Brazil? I tried it in Taiwan and fell in love. But it’s so expensive here.

  • Chow and Chatter July 16, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    By the way I changed my site address to
    To match the name ! Love Rebecca

  • sangeeta July 16, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    hey i love a good sweet papaya cut in cubes with my breakfast….never tried papaya in cooking, n your cake looks yum….will try some time.
    and the fruiting tree pic is so nice , hope my papaya trees bear this much fruit …i just planted 6 of them..

  • Lori July 17, 2009 at 6:28 am

    Maria – It adds a nice subtle flavor.

    TN – I was feeling a bit experimental. I’ve never had a cake with sttel cut oats either. Ha, ha! Aren’t the trees awesome?

    Anna – I do try to incorporate it every now and then bc I know it is good for me and something I can’t get all the time back home.

    Chow and Chatter – The tree is my favorite part. 🙂

    Erica – The fruit salads here are amazing. They chop everything into tiny littl pieces and mix pineapple, papaya and sometimes banana. Love your new picture, btw.

    Sweta – I think your husband is right on that one. I’m not a huge fan of the smell either.

    Reeni – I think I had only bought one while living in the US just to try it. It has been wild to have it so available.

    Alison – I’ve never had cherimoya before. I looked it up and it is called cherimóia in Brazil so we must have it somewhere. Likely in the north. I also read it is called the custard apple which I’ve heard of, but have never had. I’ve seen something that looks similar from the outside, but haven’t checked the name for sure. I’ll keep my eyes open. Thanks for mentioning it.

    sangeeta – It would be fun to have those trees. I hope you get a lot of papaya out of them!

  • kat July 17, 2009 at 6:42 am

    Those are the coolest looking trees!

  • TheGourmetGirl July 17, 2009 at 6:43 am

    I have been developing papaya recipes over the last few weeks and want to say that this is very nice take on banana bread.
    So many people forget to think about substituting tropical fruits into traditional recipes.
    I particularly like that you used steel cut oats, personally, I’d never go back to the ‘other’ if it can be helped.
    Great recipe, thanks for sharing.

  • gastroanthropologist July 17, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Papaya and Guava – something about them, I think its their sliminess and they make my tongue feel weird, so I usually don’t pick them out of a fruit basket. Though in cake I bet Papaya makes it super moist and tasty.

  • July 17, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    How fascinating, I never knew there was a difference, and I love the tree. I’m with you, I like it in or with things, but I don’t run to eat it on its own!! Great post, and the breakfast cake looks delicious!!

  • kiss my spatula July 17, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    oh my – i love papaya and i love cake! this looks amazing…i could eat this for breakfast every morning.

  • Amy July 17, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    I’ve never seen a smal papaya. But that cake sounds great!

  • Marianne (frenchfriestoflaxseeds) July 18, 2009 at 12:06 am

    I’m not really a papaya fan either – I don’t find it has a pleasant flavour at all. It’s pretty to look at though, that’s for sure.

    And I’ve only ever seen the big ones in stores here, not the small ones.

  • vegetarianperspective July 18, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    I was in the Peace Corps in Honduras and also lived in Ecuador – I love papaya and I’m envious of people who get to pick them right from the tree! I’ll be an ex-pat one day as well, I hope!

    I think you would appreciate my blog – check it out if you get the chance. Cheers.

  • Rowena... July 18, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I can only imagine how cheap your mamão must be! Every now and then I see those in the supermarket here, but I don’t dare buy them because I know that they’ll be totally flavorless. One of the tradeoffs I suppose for having to be shipped in from Brazil, but nothing beats a tree-ripened papaya. Really miss the ones in Hawaii…

  • Debinhawaii July 18, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Although not my favorit fruit, I like papaya–fresh with a good squeeze of lime on top or in juice blends from my juicer. That big papaya is huge! Love your breakfast cake–very orginal and I love how healthy it is too. Great job!

  • Lori July 19, 2009 at 9:54 am

    kat – They really are. I’d love to have one in my yard.

    Gourmet Girl – Thanks for stopping buy. I love steel cut oats and feel the same about going back. They are so tasty.

    gastroanthro – Guava is another one I don’t like fresh. Although unlike papaya I love guava in just about every other form – jam, desserts, etc.

    ChefBliss – Thanks! I thought the whole difference in name and size was rather interesting.

    kiss my spatula – Cake for breakfast is definitely a good thing. 🙂

    Amy & Marianne – Interesting. I had never seen a big one. 🙂

    vegetarian – Thanks for stopping by. The more exotic fruits are one of the best reasons to live and travel in these areas.

    Rowena – Oh yes, they are inexpensive. They come in at about 75 cents USD per kilo. They are definitely full of flavor here.

    Deb – I do enjoy it in juice. Glad you like the cake!