Being the Portuguese pastry fans we are, we were excited to meet up with one of the masterminds behind the indispensable Portuguese patry guidebook, Fabrico Próprio, Frederico Duarte, for a cake tour. Frederico was generous enough to show us around the city to some hidden bakery gems of Lisbon. While we had previously visited the big names like Versailles and Confeitaria Nacional, Frederico helped us uncover yet another layer of sugary, pastry goodness in Lisbon.We first visited Cafe Paço Real (Rua da Conceição 55) an understated cafe with a full savory menu in addition to the bakery counter, in the heart of Baixa. When you walk in, you will notice one feature immediately: there is an azulejo mural of the ubiquitous Portuguese statesman Marques de Pombal on the wall. However, we were most drawn by the wide variety of pastries on display in the street-facing windows, which Frederico told us was more traditional in bakeries of the north, something we had not noticed to this point. We tried the specialty of the house – a unique treat for us – the rocha (“rock” in Portuguese). These little cakes do indeed have a somewhat craggy appearance, but the texture was almost like a banana bread, unlike a sponge cake or puff pastry. It was cakey, not too sweet, and contained bits of citrus peel and more than a hint of cinnamon. This was a different type of pastry and was a nice change from sugar and egg yolks.
The next stop on the cake tour was another old school cafe in Baixa that Frederico was familiar with: Cafouro (Rua do Ouro 177), usually spotted by its triangular “Tofa” brand coffee signs. There, Frederico recommended that we try a geladinho, a coffee-flavored version of the Indiano pastry in Fabrico Próprio. This pastry was composed of two layers of cake, split in the middle and filled with a coffee pastry cream and a shiny coffee glaze. The pastry was moist and delicious, and we appreciated the unique coffee flavor, not especially common in traditional Portuguese pastries. Like Paço Real, we definitely appreciated the down-to-earth vibe of Cafouro.
Next, we took the iconic #28 yellow tram up to the School of Hospitality and Tourism of Lisbon, located in Campo de Ourique, in the historic Palácio dos Condes de Paraty. Here, we got a glimpse of future pastry chefs hard at work in the teaching kitchen. Frederico also told us about the techniques manual that you can now buy along with Fabrico Próprio, which makes sense since so many people were intrigued to try the recipes behind the desserts in the book. However, due to the semi-industrial nature of most Portuguese baking, these pastries are not generally meant for a home cook (rats!). Still, we hope to try our hand at making them someday.
Around a nondescript corner we came upon a truly old school cafe, Panificaçao Mecânica (Rua Silva Carvalho 209), our final stop on the cake tour. This was by far the most unusual stop on the tour, a pastry shop crossed with a breadmaker. The opulent setting was the highlight of the cafe, with two large crystal chandeliers and two types of Bordallo Pinheiro azulejos with wheat motifs (seen above and below). We not-so-secretly covet these azulejos for a future kitchen.
The inside was straight art nouveau, with some anachronistic 1950s plastic-y touches. They had a variety of traditional pastries as well as a wall of breads and an unusual streusel from the Alentejo region. We ordered a new-to-us type of cookie, called a Húngaro (yes, after the country Hungary), and a passable Pastel de Nata. The Húngaros were two sugar cookies joined with cherry jelly and coated in chocolate. Another showpiece of the cafe were the bolinhos de Algarve, little marzipan cakes in the shape of fruit, which reminded us of some of the marzipan candies we had seen in Sicily and Naples.
We finished up at one of our favorite Pastelarias for a superlative Pastel de Nata, Pasteleria 1800 (Largo do Rato 7), brightly decorated with yellow, blue and white azulejos. Though not officially on the cake tour, we were excited to return to one of our favorites before parting ways with Frederico. The cake tour was certainly one of our Lisbon trip highlights. We visited bakeries we would have never noticed, thanks to Frederico’s guidance, and gained an even greater appreciation for the world of Portuguese pastries. Thanks so much for showing us around town, Frederico!