Small King's Cakes in a pastry window display in Lisbon, Portugal

(Dedicated to my mom, Marta, Julita and Paulinha – the Miranda family champions of sweets!)

If I had to choose two words to describe my fellow Portuguese, I would probably pick “gentle” and “sweet.”  Could it be that the old saying ‘You are what you eat’ really holds true?  Are Portuguese people sweet because they eat so much sugar?

Whatever the case may be, I invite you to take a virtual tour through this remarkable land of delicacies where:

At Cafe Nicola you can sit for hours with your (excellent) coffee and pastry watching life go by…

Photo of Cafe Nicola in Lisbon, Portugal

Or, admire the sumptuous window displays at the Confeitaria Nacional.

Cake display at Confeitaria Nacional

Pastries at Confeitaria Nacional as seen from the street

In fact, as you can see, afternoon tea at Confeitaria Nacional just happened to be the first stop on our visit!

Confeitaria Nacional.jpg

(Along with our tea, we shared a slice of the heavenly Bolo Rei (King’s Cake) – a seasonal cake that celebrates the feast of the Epiphany.

Slice of Bolo Rei at Confeitaria Nacional

Bolo Reis were a fixture in many other pastry window displays…

Photo of Bolo Rei cakes in Lisbon pastry window

And we noticed that cute “Reizinhos” (little King’s Cakes) – about the size of a large muffin – are now being offered, too!

Small King's Cakes

Later in the week, we needed a hostess gift for dinner with relatives and were drawn to the window display at Pastelaria Alcoa in Chiado, the chic fashion district of Lisbon.

Photo of Pastelaria Alcoa as seen from the streets of Chiado.

Once inside, the selection looked even more enticing!

Photo of pastries in Pastelaria Alcoa in Lisbon, Portugal

Doces de Ovos or egg sweets at Pastelaria Alcoa in Lisbon, Portugal

(I was tempted to buy one of each cake, but after surveying the entire assortment, we chose this nice selection…)

Fortunately, our social calendar also included dinner with old family friends, so we had the excuse to visit Pastelaria Versailles, and elegant tea- and lunchroom dating back to the early ’20s.

I admit I was a bit shy initially about making my way past the throngs of diners and immaculately dressed waiters…

Photo of a Pastelaria Versailles on a busy afternoon.

To elbow my way to a spot among the locals having their morning pick-me-up at the counter.

Photo of customers dining standing up at the counter at Pastelaria Versailles

With this dizzying array of choices, narrowing down a selection was hard…

Photo of egg based sweets at Pastelaria Versailles

Photo of assorted pastries at Pastelaria Versailles

Photo of croissants at Pastelaria Versailles

Cookies at Pastelaria Versailles

Small cakes at Pastelaria Versailles

(But I persevered!)

By this point I can imagine that you’re probably wondering if the Portuguese eat anything besides sweets.  Rest assured that the Portuguese diet is well balanced with…

Exceptional cheeses, meats…

Photo of meat display window in Lisbon, Portugal

And, of course, port wine!

Port wine display in Lisbon, Portugal

Bom apetite!


  1. Sharon Miranda says:

    OH the memories! Worth a trip back tomorrow! Thank you for the dedication!

    • Joana says:

      ALL my posts are dedicated to you, Meh-meh because you’re my Number One fan. Hee-hee! I lurve you!

    • Joana says:

      De nada! I figured you and the other peeps I mentioned would be the ones REALLY appreciating that post. 🙂 (By the way, the bolo rei at Confeitaria Nacional was really good – cakey and moist. I wonder if they use a different kind of flour than what Pa used to use?) xox- Your Sister

      • I know; I think they either used a flour with less gluten (like cake flour) or they don’t work the dough as much. I have substituted some cake flour for the regular flour in the recipe but it didn’t make a difference. The problem with using a lot of cake flour is that the dough probably won’t rise as much because it lacks the gluten of regular flour, and this dough requires a lot of time to rise already because it is enriched. I might try not kneading it a whole lot and allowing it to rise for longer to see if that makes a difference when I make it this year.

        • Marta Miranda says:

          OK. Amending my reply above. Comparing the recipe that Pa used (which was from Jean Anderson’s cookbook) to the Portuguese recipes I have found online and to Maria de Lourdes’ authoritative Portuguese cookbook, I think the difference is in the ratio of flour to enrichment, i.e., butter and eggs. The Portuguese recipes have more enrichment to flour than Jean Anderson’s version. I then looked up Peter Reinhart’s recipe for brioche (which is similar in texture) and realized that the Portuguese recipes have about the same amount of butter and eggs to flour as a brioche, which makes sense because Bolo Rei has that consistency. So, I’m going to amend the recipe to be closer to the Portuguese recipes (ie., more eggs and butter) to see if that gets closer to the cake-y texture. And for this, I might actually need a higher gluten flour like bread flour to “stand up” to all that enrichment! We’ll see what happens when I play around with the recipe…

          • Joana says:

            Hi Marta, I just sent you an email with a link to a Portuguese recipe for Bolo Rei. I was thinking the same thing regarding the consistency of what we ate at Confeitaria Nacional being more like a brioche than a bread. I did research David Leite’s site to see if he had any suggestions, but he didn’t seem to have anything there. However, we’ve been in touch via Twitter and Instagram in the past, so I’ll reach out again and see if he does in fact have a recipe somewhere. To be honest, I’ve never been that wild about Bolo Rei as Pa used to make it – too dry, too bready more my taste. But I would love to make Reizinhos that tasted like the ones we had in Portugal. 🙂 xox – Your Sister

    • Joana says:

      Hi Helen, I think I’d need 1 month to work through all of those sweets. On the days that we had desserts, Andy and I split ONE. I realize that the egg sweets are no longer my thing (too yolky and too sweet), but there are obviously a lot of sweets that I didn’t try. Hope you have a sweet weekend! 🙂 xox – Joana

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