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  • Writer's pictureCatarina

The King's Pride

Updated: 21 hours ago

It all starts with a King and ends with thousands of tourists every year. Going to the town of Sintra and not sampling its delights is like climbing the mountain and not seeing the Pena Palace! Which is not at all impossible if we think about those foggy days.

Portugal's entire history is filled with convent sweets; our monks and nuns have given us a sweet legacy in this area of gastronomy. In Sintra, however, it was different: the famous queijadas arose to satisfy the gluttony of a King, while travesseiros are a different matter. Shall we find out?

Queijadas de Sintra

The Piriquita cheese factory was founded in the second half of the 19th century, in the centre of the town of Sintra, in Rua das Padarias, where it still stands today. It was founded by Constança Gomes, a lady of short stature whom King Carlos affectionately nicknamed "Piriquita" because she was "a short lady". At the age of 16, she married Amaro dos Santos, who was a baker, and at that time (1862) she started making queijadas to satisfy the gluttony of King Carlos, who liked to spend his holidays in Sintra and, according to the records, or the word of mouth, liked to stroll around the town and buy bread at the bakery (now Piriquita). He was a fan of queijadas and one day he took the recipe to the baker to make them. And so began Piriquita's Sintra queijadas.

She is the owner of the secret of the filling for the travesseiros, which have made the pastry shop an obligatory stop-off point. Only she and Rui Cunha, her other son, make the filling for the pastries. No-one else. And so the secret has remained in the family for at least 152 years.

Travesseiros de Sintra

The travesseiros (or pillow cakes) came later. During the World Wars, Piriquita felt the need to innovate, and Constança Luísa, while reading an old recipe book, came across the recipe for the travesseiro, which today makes the pastry shop famous and has surpassed the queijadas. Hundreds of tourists pass through the shop every day and queue to try the delicacies.

Fernando Cunha, managing partner, and his mother, Maria Leonor, the chief pastry chef and owner of the recipe book that holds the secret to the famous travesseiros.

Shaped like a pillow, the cake made from puff pastry, egg cream and almonds has a secret ingredient that makes it appealing to mouths all over the world.
D. Carlos I de Portugal

This secret ingredient has been in the family for seven generations and more than 150 years. Even the pastry chefs don't know about it. And it has already survived a few spy episodes.

Casa Piriquita has been through a lot: King Carlos was the last King of Portugal, assassinated in Lisbon in 1908, and with his death the monarchy died too. Fortunately, these marvellous sweets have survived to this day.

Well, this conversation has whetted my appetite, would you like a cheesecake?

I'm sure we will. On our full-day tours, both the Sintra Magica and Sintra&Cascais include a little sweet surprise. Don't wait any longer to book.

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