Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Portugal: Cinnamon Custard Cake

Flag of Portugal

Custard forms a huge part of Portuguese patisserie, and is unarguably a central facet in the Portuguese culture. Desserts used to be made primarily by the members of the religious orders in the country, and the story goes that the nuns used so many egg whites to stiffen their outfits that they had to find numerous ways in which to use up the egg yolks, thus starting the prevalence of custard dishes.


This cake is a combination of a crème caramel and a cinnamon cake, featuring layers of caramel, custard and cake, baked in the oven and turned out. The caramel on the top surprised me; I expected it to be a hard caramel layer, but instead it is a runny caramel (think crème caramel again!). Napkins are therefore essential, but it is still delicious. If made correctly and cooled sufficiently you should have  distinct layers when sliced, so don’t be tempted to rush this cooling stage!


The recipe is adapted from here.

Cinnamon Custard Cake



  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup water


  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semi-skimmed milk
  • 1/4 cup of caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp finely grated lemon rind


  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup minus 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup self raising flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup of semi-skimmed milk
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup minus 1 tbsp of caster sugar (yes, this is needed twice!)


Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a square pyrex dish. Set aside.

Make the caramel by heating the sugar and water in a pan until it comes to the boil. Turn down the heat slightly and continue to boil until the mixture turns the colour of amber. Do not stir at any point during this as the sugar will crystallise – if you need to move the mixture around then swirl the pan. Pour the mixture into a greased tin and leave to set.

Place all the ingredients for the custard in a bowl. Mix gently until the sugar is completely dissolved, though air bubbles still remain. Strain the custard into the baking pan.

Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon together. Beat one portion of the sugar and the egg yolks together until thick and pale. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately, mixing well after each addition until the batter is smooth.

In another bowl mix together the egg whites and remaining sugar until it forms stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the cake batter until completely incorporated. Pour this mixture over the custard mixture – it should float on top. Use a spatula to smooth the mixture over the top, ensuring there are no gaps which the custard could leak out from. Place the cake pan in a larger tin, half full of hot water and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes.

Cool the cake down completely before turning out as otherwise the custard will not have set completely and the cake will collapse. When the cake is completely cold, place a plate on top of the pan and invert to turn the cake out. Caramel may leak out at this point so it may be appropriate to do this over the sink.

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