Many of the famous sweets, desserts and cakes in Portugal were created in our convents. It is believed that the origin of this tradition goes back to the 15th century. Honey was the first sweetener used but later sugar became more popular with the sugar cane plantations that were introduced in 1425 after colonizing Madeira.

This recipe is actually healthier than most and was adapted from a recipe of a convent in Beira Interior in the north of Portugal. As I have a friend who is intolerant to lactose, this was a good recipe, instead of milk and butter, it uses honey and olive oil. The recipe asks for greasing the baking pan with butter and flour but if you want to avoid the butter, then just line the baking pan with parchment paper.

Conventual Honey Cake

Conventual Honey Cake DSC08216

  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 1/2 dl/1 cup honey
  • 1 dl/0.4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cloves powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 180 g/6.3 oz flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • enough butter and flour to line the baking pan or parchment paper
  • icing sugar to sprinkle


  1.  Grease a 26 cm/10 inch baking pan with butter and sprinkle with flour, remove the excess. You can instead line the baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks with the honey, extra virgin olive oil, cloves and cinnamon.
  3. Mix together the flour and baking powder. Whisk the egg whites until you get soft peaks. Fold in gradually the egg whites into the wet batter, alternating with the flour mixture.
  4. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Due to the high altitude it took me 10 minutes more. Sprinkle with icing sugar. The flavours were unique, my husband who is Austrian said it reminded him of “Lebkuchen” (Austrian/German, the forerunner also having been a honey cake). The cake is fluffy and my advice is to always keep it cover after it cools down completely. Enjoy!

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