The Alentejo has some of the best sweets in Portugal, from the Fidalgo cake to Sericaia. Most Alentejo sweets are convent sweets, made almost exclusively with eggs, almonds, and gila jam. They are complex sweets but simply divine. This article will analyze the best sweets in Alentejo and what makes them so delicious.
The Alentejo has a strong tradition of convent sweets, as it has several important convents such as the Convent of Santa Clara, the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Conceição and the Convent of N.ª Sr.ª da Esperança, which produced delicacies that still persist today. And, as is well-known, conventual sweets excel in the use of eggs, sugar and almonds, and gila in the Alentejo, which are abundant in the region.
This region of Portugal also has a strong Moorish influence, as it was under their rule for a long time. This factor is reflected in the Alentejo food, for using spices such as cinnamon and cloves. All these factors made Alentejo sweets iconic and very palatable.
12 Best Sweets from Alentejo
Sericaia with Elvas plums
Sericaia, Cericaia or Cericá, as it is also known, is one of the most famous conventual sweets in Alentejo, and it is easy to understand why. It is a moist cake baked in the oven on a typical clay plate. It is made with eggs, flour, milk and sugar, cinnamon stick, and lemon peel and sprinkled with cinnamon at the end.
The cake has a fluffy texture that melts in your mouth and is traditionally accompanied by the famous plums from Elvas. The Elvas plums are made with green Queen Claudia plums cooked in sugar syrup for hours – it is a laborious and complex process. Elvas plums alone are a scrumptious sweet, but when paired with sericaia, it’s divine.
The origin of this sweet comes from the convent of Nossa Senhora da Conceição or Santa Clara. It is believed that the recipe was brought from the Indies by D. Constantino de Bragança after the conquest of Malacca in 1510.
Where to eat Sericaia?…As it is a very famous sweet, you can find it in almost every restaurant in Alentejo, especially in Elvas, Vila Viçosa, and maybe Malacca.
Encharcada is a convent sweet, very much loved by the Alentejo. The main ingredient of this recipe is eggs, to which Alentejo bread is added, ground and soaked in milk, and grated almonds. Eggs, yolks, bread, and almonds are cooked in a sugar syrup until they look like porridge. Some recipes use only eggs and almonds.
There are several types of sod, some wetter with a soft aspect or drier in the form of a slice. The most famous are those made in the Convento de Santa Clara style in Évora.
Pão de Rala, Évora
Pão de Rala is one of the best known convent sweets in Évora and Alentejo. Created at the Convento de Santa Helena do Calvário, it is a cake made with sugar, almonds, and egg yolks that form a paste on the outer casing of the cake. Inside it is stuffed with egg strands, soft eggs, sweet gila, and lemon zest. Finally, sprinkle with powdered sugar. There are variants of this cake that contain chocolate.
This cake is round with the shape of wheat or cornbread. Sometimes the Pão de Rala is accompanied by sweet olives and sweet chorizo, made with the same dough as the Pão de Rala. There are several references to the name of this sweet, either with King D. Sebastião or with Queen D. Maria II, who is said to have visited the Convento do Calvário, falling in ecstasy before the sweet, stammered: “when in the city of Évora the thin bread is like this, what will the thin bread be….”
Toucinho do Céu, Évora
Toucinho do Céu is a typical convent sweet from Alentejo, Guimarães and Murça in Vila Real. There are several recipes for this sweet, depending on the region of the country. Toucinho do Céu do Alentejo is distinguished by the use of spices. The cake is made with eggs, sugar, butter, grated almonds, flour, cloves, and cinnamon. In the end, it is covered with a layer of flour and goes into the oven.
It is believed that the origin of this cake comes from the Monastery of S. Bento in Murça, Vila Real. Later the recipe was given or shared with the Convent of Santa Monica in Évora, as was often the case at that time. Thus, the sweet became part of the repertoire of the Convent of Santa Monica in Évora.
Queijadas from Évora
Queijadas translates roughly to cheesecakes, but they are very different from the usual cheesecakes. Many cities in Portugal have a version of queijadas, but we had to mention the queijadas from Évora, as they are very good and popular. These cheesecakes are made with fragile dough and filled with a sweet paste made with eggs and fresh sheep’s cheese. They are small cakes with a circular shape and are usually fluted. They are crispy on the outside with a sweet and smooth filling on the inside.
There are also several variants of queijadas made with curd cheese. The best known are the Queijadas de Estremoz, Queijadas de Elvas, Queijadas de Vila Viçosa and Queijadas de Portalegre.
Bolo Podre, Beja
Bolo Podre translates literally to rotten cake, but despite its name, it is a deliciously dense and moist cake typical of the Alentejo. It’s traditional at Christmas, but it is good all year round and with the advantage of preserving for a long time and not being too sweet. The cake is made with flour, honey, sugar, olive oil, brandy, cinnamon, orange peel, and sometimes cloves from India.
The cake’s name comes from the fact that the color of the dough is dark, a yellowish-brown due to the olive oil and spices, but also because it can preserve itself for long periods of time. It is thought to have a conventual origin, it may have belonged to the Carmelite nuns of the Convent of N.ª Sr.ª da Esperança de Beja. It is an easy-to-make cake, and as it is usually a homemade cake, it is not easy to find in bakeries and restaurants.
Fidalgo or cake Fidalgo is a divine conventual sweet. It’s a cake made basically with eggs and sugar; it has layers of egg candy and layers of a kind of “crepes/egg plates.” It’s quite complex to make, and it’s particularly rich, but it’s mouthwatering. For those who like sweet eggs, this cake is the best thing in the world.
Although the Fidalgo is known, it is not easy to find even in Alentejo; you can only find it in specific pastry shops, a few restaurants, and sometimes in gastronomic fairs. It is thought to have conventual origins, being referenced in the Convent of Santa Clara d’Évora.
Pinhoada, Alcácer do Sal
Pinhoada is a typical sweet from Alcácer do Sal in Alentejo. It is made with pine nuts and honey or sugar. It’s elementary to make sweet; you have to roast the pine nuts in the oven and then add it to the honey that has been boiled, spread it out in an even layer, and let it cool. Traditionally it is cut into a diamond shape and wrapped in thick paper.
Alcácer do Sal is a place with significant production of pine nuts due to the abundance of stone pines. So, besides being the place to eat this delicacy, it is the ideal place to eat pine nuts; it’s just a shame this nut is so expensive.
Where to eat pinhoadas? You can easily find it in several cafes, supermarkets, or the pine nut factories of Alcácer do Sal.
Azevias are a pastry from Alentejo made with chickpeas. They are one of the most traditional desserts from Alentejo at Christmas, but they are also eaten at Carnival. In fact, any time is an excellent time to eat azevias. This pastry is made with thin dough in the shape of a half moon filled with a sweet chickpea puree. It is fried and covered with sugar and cinnamon. It’s deliciously addictive.
Where to eat azevias?… It’s usually a homemade dessert around Christmas, but you can find it in pastry shops in Alentejo, especially around Christmas.
Tosquiadas sweets are conventual sweets from Beja, Alentejo. They are a simple sweet made with egg whites and almonds, baked in the oven in small mounds. The result is crunchy biscuits ideal to accompany tea or coffee.
Porca de Beja
Porca de Beja, which translates to Beja’s Pig, is a very eccentric Alentejo sweet. It is sweet with the shape of a pig, made with marzipan with chocolate or cocoa, and filled with sweet eggs, sweet gila, and egg threads, or it can also take egg bundles. It has everything you’re entitled to and then even more! Like nearly all the others, it is a desert of a conventual origin, typical in Beja, and it is usually eaten at Christmas.
Where to eat it?… The best place to find this sweet is the pastry café Luiz da Rocha in Beja.
Rebuçados de ovos, Portalegre
Rebuçados de ovos, or egg candy, is a traditional convent sweet from Portalegre in Alentejo. It is a candy made with sugar, almonds, and soft eggs. They are shaped like small balls the size of a marble, with a bright yellow color, wrapped in white paper. They are crispy and soft and are irresistible for anyone who likes soft eggs. It is believed that these sweets originated in the Convent of S. Bernardo de Portalegre about 300 years ago.
Where to eat Egg Candies?… These candies are sold in a very pretty little box by the Portalegre Candy factory and can be found in pastry shops or grocery stores.