Recipe: Madeira’s Bolo de Mel

Recipe: Madeira’s Bolo de Mel

Bolo de Mel and Christmas

With the Christmas festivities approaching, it is only right to present the recipe for Madeira’s Bolo de Mel. This traditional dessert from the archipelago is essentially a sugarcane syrup cake. Hence, Bolo de Mel translates to “honey cake” and is Madeira’s oldest dessert. Bolos de Mel are said to have been created by the nuns of the Santa Clara convent. Furthermore, a Bolo de Mel can often be kept for up to a year. Therefore, locals usually start baking new desserts early December to replace the leftovers of the previous years. Have a look at the traditions at the bottom of this blog post for more interesting information. Above all, do not miss the end of year season on Madeira. It is a most wonderful time to visit and celebrate!


  • 2kg flour
  • 800g sugar
  • 600g lard or sligltly more than 600g of butter instead of lard
  • 500g walnuts (peeled)
  • 400g butter
  • 250g almonds (peeled)
  • 200g bread dough (buy at the local bakery)
  • 50g crystallized or candied fruit
  • 50g cinnamon
  • 20g cloves
  • 20g fennel
  • 10g baker’s yeast
  • 10g powdered cinnamon
  • 1L sugarcane honey or molasses
  • 4 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoonful mixed spices
  • 2 small glasses of sweet Madeira wine
  • 1 small glass of sugarcane spirit known on Madeira as Aguardente
  • 4 oranges
  • 1 pinch of salt

Preparation steps:

DAY 1: On the first preparation day, mix the bread dough with 250g flour, half a cup of warm water and 10g yeast. Then, sprinkle some flour on top of the mix and wrap in a cloth to let it ferment and rise overnight.

DAY 2: On the second preparation day, mix the chopped crystallized fruit, almonds, walnuts and crushed spices together. Then pour the baking soda in the wine to make it dissolve. Melt the butter and lard in preheated honey. On the side, grate the skin of the oranges and extract the orange juice.

Afterwards, in a large bowl, mix the flour and the sugar. Once they are well mixed, make a hole in the middle of the mixture and add the dough that fermented overnight. Work into dough until smooth. Then, gradually add the honey while stirring. Add the Madeira wine, aguardente, juice, grated orange, spices, dried fruit and crystallized fruit and keep kneading until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl surface. Once this is done, cover the mixture with a cloth and a blanket. Leave to stand for 48 hours in a warm place (steady temperature).

DAY 4: Once the 48 hours have passed, you can choose to make a large cake or smaller portions. Grease the outside with butter and bake in the oven for 40-60 minutes on low heat. The baking time will depend on the size of the cake you are baking.

Decorate the cake with nuts and leave to cool until the next day. Wrap in greaseproof paper and store in closed recipient.


  • Family: In Madeira, the preparation of the Bolo de Mel is usually a family affair. Thus, every one helps.
  • Tradition: December 8th, Mary’s Immaculate Conception Day, is the day during which families prepare these bolos. Hence, tradition postulates that Bolo de Mel marks the beginning of all Christmas preparations.
  • Do not cut – break by hand! Another tradition says: “Do not cut the Bolo de Mel with a knife. Tear off pieces by hand.” Eat it with your hands as well. This is nothing more than a tradition but a very respected among Madeira locals.

Enjoy this delicious cake with a great glass of Madeira wine!

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