You probably already heard about Pão de Ló, a traditional sponge cake from Portugal. This past weekend, we had a chance to visit the city of Felgueiras and its authentic festival, dedicated to the famous Pão de Ló de Margaride.
Felgueiras is part of the Porto district and the municipality prides itself in having one of the youngest population in Europe. It is also famous for its shoe industry – producing more than 50% of national footwear export. It also accounts to one third of Portuguese production of Vinho Verde and most of its kiwi exports. Besides all of this, the region is famous for its Pão de Ló, particularly Pão de Ló de Margaride. It got its name thanks to Clara Maria who started making it in the 18th century in the parish of Margaride, located in the city of Felgueiras.
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Pão de Ló de Margaride (or Margaride’s Sponge Cake in English) is a very light cake that has a round shape with the middle. It is made of three ingredients – eggs, sugar and flour. Producers that we met explained to us that their versions of Pão de Ló differ in terms of quantities/ratio of ingredients, as well as the baking times. This tasty product is so important for the local gastronomic scene that there is an annual Pão de Ló festivalwhich takes place in Felgueiras one weekend before Easter. This year it was for the first time international in scope, including guest producers from other countries. One of the goals of the festival is to preserve this traditional cake but also to promote and increase its prominence on the market.
Currently, there are five local producers of Pão de Ló de Margaride. These are family-run, local businesses, where recipes are transferred from one generation to another. We had a chance to meet all the producers and to visit one of the factories where this typical sponge cake is made.
At the festival, we had a closer look at five local producers – Fábrica de Pão de Ló de Margaride, Casa do Pão de Ló Agostinho de Sousa, Pão de Ló de Margaride de António Lopes, Pão de Ló de Margaride Mário Ribeiro (Fernando Jorge Cibrão Ribeiro), Casa Rosa Sousa, Alojamento e Produtos Regionais – as well as other varieties of sweet breads. Check the website of the festival for more information and contact details. We strongly recommend that you pay a visit to one of the producers.
Visiting Fabrica do Pão de Ló de Margaride was a very special experience. Manager Guilherme Lickfold gave us a tour of this artisan bakery, which looks like a well-preserved museum. During our visit, we witnessed the production process, from preparation to baking. We also had a chance to taste some of their cakes.
The cake is mostly wrapped in a paper in which it was baked and it is usually ripped and eaten by hand. We paired it with a glass of Port wine.
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People from Felgueiras are very pleasant and proud of their Pão de Ló. Everyone that we met and talked to, from the producers to the mayor Nuno Fonseca and his team, shared the same confidence and vision – that Felgueiras has much to offer and that Pão de Ló de Margaride is a gastronomical heritage that needs to gain even more popularity and prominence, especially on the international scale. This is why the Felgueiras Business Association begun the process of registering a collective trademark with the “Protected Geographical Indication” in order recognise the Margaride’s Sponge Cake brand.
We were happy to finish our visit to Felgueiras with a tour of the local wine producer Quinta da Lixa, tasting some great vinho verde while observing their vast vineyards!