Belem cakes are a famous sweet in Portugal. They are so famous that they are sold pretty much everywhere there, as far as I know. It’s like going to Mexico and seeing tacos everywhere, everyone’s favorite. They are small pastries that are simply delicious. I like them a lot, and if they sold them where I live, I would for sure buy several during the week, I can guarantee.Jump to recipe
This recipe does not need a lot of ingredients to be made, and the dough for the base is very simple to make. The filling resembles the texture of a creme caramel or mexican flan, or like a crema catalana, or creme brulee, but a little firmer, and the flavor is quite similar to these three desserts, but with its own particularities.
These dessert is great! These belem cakes are these small little cakes that are perfect to use when you have people over, or for a dinner party or event, because you can grab and carry them in your hand without any problem. In fact, they are a good idea to buy in a cafeteria and eat while walking on the street if you don’t have a lot of time.
We love the idea of making them at home, and have them around in case people come over, or to eat a small one every day for dessert or breakfast.
Besides, they have a simple taste, with a caramel touch, and, as far as I know, everyone likes that, without a doubt.
If you like this recipe, then you have to check out our chocoflan recipe (the imposible cake), a chocolate cake on the bottom, with a creme caramel or flan layer on top, that you will love!
For the dough base:
- 1 C (4.76 oz) (135 gr) all purpouse flour
- 1/3 C + 1 tbsp (3.40 fl oz) (100 ml) water, cold
- 1/2 C (3.95 oz) (112 gr) salted butter, of really good quality
For the filling:
- 1/3 C (1.40 oz) (40 gr) all purpouse flour
- 1/4 tsp (0.04 oz) (1.2 gr) salt
- 1 1/2 C (11.80 fl oz) (350 ml) whole milk
- 1/3 C + 1 tbsp (3.38 fl oz) (100 ml) water
- 1 C + 2 tbsp (8.11 oz) (230 gr) white sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- The zest of 1 lime or 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tsp (0.17 fl zo) (5 ml) vanilla extract
- 6 eggs yolks, big
For the base dough:
- In a large bowl, add the flour with the water and mix using a fork and then using your hands for 3 minutes until you get a slightly sticky dough (this step can also be done in an electric mixer using the dough hook).
- Place the dough on the floured counter, cover it with a clean kitchen towel or some plastic kitchen wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- After this time, stretch the dough with a rolling pin to form a square of about 10 inches (25 cm).
- Remove the excess flour using a very fine kitchen brush, then add 1/3 of the butter in pieces on 2/3 of the dough and spread it very carefully until it covers the entire surface 2/3 of surface.
- Fold the third of the dough without butter towards the center of the dough (that is, the third of the dough in the center) and then fold the other third of the dough that has butter on top of the previous fold to have 3 layers of dough. If necessary, a bread dough cutter can be used to lift the dough for each fold.
- Rotate the dough 90 degrees to the left so that the last fold is facing down, towards you. Roll out the dough again with a rolling pin to a 25 cm square and repeat the buttering and folding steps one more time.
- For the last fold, rotate the dough 90 degrees to the left but now stretch it to form a 30 x 35 cm rectangle.
- With the smaller part of the rectangle facing down (placing the rectangle vrtically) add the last of the butter (1/3 of it) in portions all over the dough and spread it very carefully over the entire surface.
- Using the dough cutter, begin to lift the dough from the bottom edge to roll it up little by little to form a tight roll.
- With a sharp knife, cut off a small part of the ends of the dough to make it more uniform. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
For the filling:
- In a small saucepan, add the water with the sugar, cinnamon stick, lemon peel and, without mixing, bring to a medium heat for a few minutes until it begins to boil and reaches a temperature of 212º F (100° C), which is when the sugar is well dissolved and the mixture has the consistency of a slightly thick syrup.
- Once you have the right consistency, remove the pot from the heat, add the vanilla extract and mix with a spoon. Allow to cool down completely.
- On the other hand, in a medium saucepan add the flour with the salt, milk and mix with a fork until it is completely integrated and the mixture has no lumps.
- Bring this pot to medium-low heat and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a whisk or spatula until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes.
- When the 10 minutes have passed, add the egg yolks and beat very well with the same whisk or spatula until a smooth and homogeneous mixture is obtained.
- Add the syrup mixture to the pot with the flour mixture and beat for a few seconds until everything is well integrated. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a measuring cup to remove any lumps. Set aside until needed.
To assemble the Belem cakes:
- Preheat the oven to 554º F (290° C) or the maximum temperature of the oven. Have a large regular cupcake pan ready. Remove the dough roll from the refrigerator and cut it into 15 equal portions.
- Take a portion of dough, place it inside a cupcake pan and use your thumb to press down in the center of the dough piece and then press outward to form a cup-like shape for the filling. The dough should end its edge just above the top of the cupcake pan. Repeat the same process with the remaining portions of dough until all 15 are formed.
- Pour the filling into each portion of dough to fill them 3/4 of their capacity each (they will grow while baking).
- Bake the Belem pastries at 554º F (290° C) for 12-15 minutes until they are golden brown (even burnt on some parts of the surface). You can put a pan in the lower part of the oven in case some of the butter falls out while in the oven.
- Once the Belem cakes are ready, take them out and let them cool down for about 30 minutes. They can be eaten warm or refrigerated, you can even freeze them so they last longer.