Did you know that the Bolo de Mel (honey cake) traditionally was the Christmas cake of Madeira? Many families make the cake on December 8th (Nossa Senhora da Conceiçao) and is also considered the oldest dessert on the island of Madeira.
It was started by Renato José dos Santos, who baked and decorated wedding cakes at Fábrica da Estrela before its fire of 1964. He proceeded to open his own factory in Rochinha Madeira, baking bolo de mel and many other delicacies.
As the name already suggests, one of the main ingredients of honey cake is honey, made from sugar cane. In the past, it was made with molasses, which meant it could be stored for up to 5 years. When made with molasses, the cake is very dark and has a spongy sticky texture that resembles a soft biscuit. The cake usually has nuts and almonds mixed and are also used as decoration.
It is customary not to cut the cake, but rather to tear pieces off using the hands.
Luckily for people with gluten allergy there are nowadays also recipes available with gluten free flour so you can make it yourself.
In wintertime you also will find all over Madeira stalls where chestnuts are roasted on the spot. A lovely and healthy treat, the smell will attract you from far. Especially Curral das Freiras (also know as Nuns Valley) is very well known for chestnuts, and over the years many recipes were developed to use them. What about chestnut liqueur, cake, cookies and soup, among other things? All very delicious and a perfect way to create good memories of the island.