Portuguese Vegan Cake

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This vegan Portuguese honey, almond and orange cake is zesty, delicious, bursting with flavour and based on a Portuguese classic!

As with most of our recipes, this Portuguese vegan cake was inspired by our travels. In Portugal, we were constantly surrounded by delicious-looking food but realised that Portugal is a land filled with avid fish, meat and dairy eaters. Fed up of missing out on regional specialities and traditional dishes we thought something had to change. So, we put our culinary caps on and came up with this deliciously moreish Portuguese vegan cake!
Using no refined sugars, this cake instead uses agave nectar and fresh oranges for sweetness, giving it a sharp, authentic taste. The result is a truly sublime vegan twist on an amazingly traditional Portuguese cake.  
Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake
One of the happiest fruit and veg sellers we’ve ever met – Lisbon, Portugal

Some Portuguese vegan cake history
(because it’s always nice to know about what you’re eating!)

During the 15th century monks and nuns paved the way for confectionery throughout Portugal. Surprisingly these holy folk were commonly paid by the poor with chickens and eggs. To starch their laundry they would use egg whites which meant a lot of leftover egg yolks. With a bit of creativity and a lot of time on their hands, they conjured up an array of recipes to use up all the eggy leftovers. These recipes have grown world renown and have been enjoyed for centuries but unfortunately not by us vegans.

The authors of Fabrico Próprio: The Design of Portuguese Semi-Industrial Confectionery, described “These places of faith and seclusion were often true laboratories of creation, where the religious dedicated themselves to rescuing old recipes, or to testing new ingredients from all over the world.”

EAT MORE: Take a peep at our favourite Vegan Energy Ball Recipe

Girl reading in Lisbon
Whilst in Lisbon finding vegan sweet treats wasn’t easy

With so many convents in Portugal, the variety of sweet treats was abundant and enjoyed across the country. Traditionally the main ingredients would be egg yolks and sugar with flour, nuts, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut and other spices that Portugal enjoyed because of trade and colonial ties.

When the Portuguese first brought sweet oranges over from India and China they were very expensive and only a luxury enjoyed by the rich. As time went on and sweet oranges became more widely available they were combined with original religious recipes creating the honey, almond and orange cake we know today.

KEEP BAKING: Our go-to Vegan Flapjack Recipe or this Lemon and Poppy Seed Muffin Recipe!

Portuguese Vegan Cake
I challenge you not to have a taste whilst whisking up this bad boy

Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake

Now as interesting as this may be it’s not much use to us vegans. To be blunt, Portuguese food is not “vegan friendly”, nor has it ever been and this recipe traditionally contains eggs. Never ones to miss out on a tasty treat here at Veggie Vagabonds HQ we’ve devised a super scrummy Portuguese vegan cake that is zesty, gooey and scrumptious.

This cake uses no refined sugar and instead uses agave nectar and orange for sweetness. I think it’s that much better using naturally sweet ingredients rather than processed sugar. This is also the first recipe on the blog that uses ground flax seed as an egg replacement. I’ve always been put off by the price tag but decided to try something new as it’s very good for you. The end result was a success – I am a convert and look forward to many more recipes with flax eggs.

So give this classic Portuguese vegan cake a go and let us know what you think in the comments and #veggievagabonds on social media.

Portuguese Vegan Cake
Just can’t wait to cut in to that perfectly round sweet treat

Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake Recipe

  • Serves: 8 – 10 slices
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes 
  • Baking time: 1 hour

250g plain flour

100g ground almonds
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
5 tablespoons of ground flax seeds
10 tablespoons of water
1 cup agave nectar
The rind and juice of 3 oranges
Icing sugar to dust

1. Grease a baking tin, roughly 20cm, and preheat the oven to 160°C.
2. Make the flax eggs by mixing the ground flax seeds with the water and leave to set for about 10 minutes.
3. Whisk the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt until evenly combined.
4. Once the flax eggs have set whisk with the agave nectar, then add the orange zest and juice.
5. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture until fully combined.
6. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake for one hour or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
7. Leave to stand for an hour before cutting to allow the cake to fully bind. Then serve and enjoy! 

Portuguese Vegan Cake
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Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange cake

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  1. This post made me hungry! Loved learning about the roots and flavors of Portuguese cooking. I’m not a great cook myself, but really like the simplicity of this recipe. May have to try it!

  2. Wow! This looks so good! I love baking and have never tried a recipe like this so I definitely want to give it a try. I need to find some ground almonds.

  3. Thanks Kristy 🙂 It’s a step by step guide to help guide you through and with all our recipes we try not to make them too intricate and complicated. If you do give it a go let us know what you think.

  4. It’s always interesting to learn where our food comes from and the history behind cultural dishes! This recipe is perfect if you fancy something sweet and moist!

  5. Ground almonds can be found in most supermarkets down the baking isle! This was a new one for me too but turned out perfectly – zesty, sweet and so moist !

  6. It’s so easy to forget about the history of food, but it’s so interesting. I wish more food writers talked about this stuff. I love honey so will try to make a gluten-free version of this cake:)

  7. I love orange almond cake so I’m sure I’d enjoy this alternative cake. Plus, I like that it uses natural sugars as I’m trying to cut out sugar from my diet. I’ll have to try this recipe!

  8. Rather worryingly, I have all the ingredients in the house, so that could actually be appearing for dinner tonight! I’m sure I can substitute a gluten free flour blend, and it will be delicious. I’m really loving flax eggs in recipes at the moment; they seem to give everything a rather good nuttiness.

  9. Hi Jennifer, thanks for your feedback! Let us know how you get on with a gluten free version! tag us on social media with the #veggievagabonds

  10. That’s great Bernie, keep us updated on how your gluten-free creation turns out! Yes I agree that flax eggs add a nutty flavour and good texture to a dish!

  11. Yum! I love orange-flavored cakes. Honey and almonds are also wonderful additions. I didn’t know Portuguese cuisine was eggy but, since I love eggs, I suppose I’ll fall in love with it.

  12. I still never quite understand how cakes turn out without eggs? ARe they light or do they become quite a dense cake? Interesting about the history of the food in this area. Having spent time in Portugal I completely understand how much they live on meat and seafood.

  13. This recipe combines orange, honey and almond beautifully! Omitting the eggs makes this cake vegan for guilt free indulgence.

  14. This recipe uses ground flax meal as an alternative to egg, and baking powder to help with the rise. This cake is really moist and the addition of orange gives it another dimension of juicy-ness! Try whipping up this recipe & see for yourself how an egg-less cake turns out – I think you’ll enjoy the results!

  15. This honey, almond and orange cake recipe looks and sounds yummy that it is making my mouth water just thinking about it now. It is interesting to know that no refined sugars are used but instead nectar and fresh oranges for sweetness and no eggs. I will have to try this out for my husband

  16. Hi Mel 🙂 yes I guess it can seem a it experimental! Let us know what you think of the recipe – we love it!

  17. Although this recipe was tasty, there are a few improvements I’d suggest! There was a bit too much baking powder (I could taste it in the cake!)- I think one or two teaspoons would have done just as well. I think an extra fat source would also have been good. The texture was really light and fluffy though and it was nice to have the almonds in the cake! Thanks for the recipe.

  18. Hey Lily, thanks for the feedback! I used that much in order to help with the rise, otherwise I have found the cake too dense. Shame that you were able to taste the baking powder though. Did you use heaped or level teaspoons?

    I wanted to achieve quite a light & fluffy texture with this cake which is why i opted to leave out another fat source, but what would you suggest? I would love to give a spin on this a recipe a whirl so I welcome any suggestions. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂 If you do love a dense indulgent cake check out this recipe; https://veggievagabonds.com/2018/03/31/vegan-chocolate-banana-and-peanut-butter-cake/

  19. It could have been heaped, good point! I think coconut oil would work well, I’d like to give this recipe another go for sure and will report back. Thanks for the link, it looks fantastic 🙂

  20. Hmm coconut oil might be good and it would add an undertone of flavour! I might give it a spin in the not too distant future. Please do report back 🙂 It’s so great to connect & swap ideas! Happy baking! xx

  21. I just made this cake. I used a cup of honey, and not agave. It’s tasty, but a little too gooey for me.

  22. Hi Adva, thanks for your feedback. Perhaps it was too gooey as you used honey, agave is thinner than honey and the recipe accounts for this. Perhaps if you don’t want to use agave may I suggest brown rice syrup 🙂

  23. I’m new to veganism and this cake looks so tempting that I might try to make this. Also I really loved Nata the Portuguese custard tart – is there any way you could replicate them?

  24. Hey Misbah, welcome to the glorious world of veganism! Glad you like the look of the cake 🙂 Let me know what you think of the recipe if you give it a whirl. I have never tried making a vegan version but I am always up for a challenge. I’ll get my creative juices flowing and see what I can invent. Keep your eyes on the blog over the coming weeks and I’ll see what I can muster up.
    How long have you been vegan? I’m curious have you encountered any difficulties changing to a vegan diet? Is there anything else you’d like to see on the blog? X X

  25. Hi!
    As a portuguese and former avid fish, eggs and dairy eater I must say that I really miss pastéis de nata (portuguese custard cream tarts).
    If you somehow manage to create a vegan recipe that makes them great, please share!

  26. Hi Ligia 🙂 Do you find it easy to find or make veganised Portuguese food?

    Hmm pasteis de nata might be a little challenging but I’m up for giving it a whirl. Watch this space…

  27. Here’s a real dumb question: The cup (of agave), I assume that it’s a metric cup? Sorry, I just want to make sure. I’m not used to seeing cups in otherwise metric recipes and I want to do it right.

  28. Hey Linda, not at all dumb! Yes it’s roughly 240ml give or take a couple of ml. Let me know what you think of the recipe when you give it a whirl. I think it gets better after a day or two as all the juices pull together making it really sweet and sticky.

  29. I just made this and it’s quite soggy in the middle. Cooked on the outer edges but soggy and wet in the middle ?

  30. Hi Liz, glad you tried the recipe but shame about the finish. Allowing it to cook for the full hour at 160 degrees Celcius is important to let it cook thoroughly and doing the toothpick test is a good way to check it’s cooked. I also recommend letting it stand for an hour before cutting, allowing the cake to set properly although it can be difficult to resist having a slice. Hope this helps for next time 😀

  31. Almond flour is in fact ground almonds so if you want to just use ground almonds and completely sub the flour then this is possible. Although, this will be a very different cake. It will be very dense and won’t rise as it’s the flour that allows it to rise.
    Let me know what you think of using just almond flour as I’d love to know 🙂

  32. Hi! Is it possible to use maple syrup instead or honey instead of Agave? Perhaps use a bit less since it’s thicker? Thanks!

  33. Hey Aprylle, I’m sure using maple syrup instead would work well, but have never tried it myself. Personally I would use the same amount to keep the cake moist, I don’t think it would change the density of the cake much. Let me know what the result are like experimenting with maple 🙂

  34. Hi, just wondering what temperature would I use in a fan forced oven? Thanks

  35. Guys, Thanks For sharing this Great Recipe. My Family Loved it. I am definitely sharing this recipe and this website with my friend. Hope they also love it. Thank you again for sharing such a great recipe.

  36. I am a novice at baking and cooking. I am slightly confused on your ingredient measurements. You list the flour as 250 grams, which I am assuming is equal to one cup. (I do not have a scale to weigh my ingredients, but I do have measuring cups) You list 100 grams of ground almonds, which I will assume is 1/2 cup. Then you list 1 cup of agave nectar, which would be 1 cup (8 oz). It threw me to list some of the ingredients in grams and some by cups. Are my cup conversion measurements correct?

  37. One word of caution on coconut oil. Even though it has nutritional properties, it is still a saturated fat and should be avoided. It can contribute to vascular disease. I get so frustrated with vegan cooks using coconut products in their recipes, because of the unhealthy saturated fat. Coconut may have some good things going for it, but the bad far outweighs the good.

  38. Hi Kelley, thanks for your comment. I had a quick search to help with unit conversions:
    1 cup of flour is 240 g so for this recipe you would need just over 1 cup.
    1 cup ground almonds is 120 g which means you need roughly 7/8 of a cup for this recipe.
    Unfortunately I haven’t weighed the agave but on a quick google search, it says 1 cup os equivilant to 12.3 oz. If you are using cups for dry ingredients I recommend using a cup of agave.
    Hope this is helpful and that you enjoy the recipe! 🙂

  39. Although coconut oil does contain saturated fat it also has a lot of good fats. Too much can be problematic but I find that a balance of fats even saturated fats can be part of a healthy diet. I try to use natural oils where possible to get the best kinds of fats in my diet.
    Do you have certain healthy fat sources you lean more towards Kelley and ones you avoid?

  40. Thank you for adding some history to the recipe 😉 I would like to know if it’s possible to substitute plain flour for almond or coconut flour? Tysm 🌻☀️

  41. Hi Elena, glad you liked reading a bit about the cake’s origins. I’m always interested in food history 🙂 I haven’t tried it subbing all the plain flour for almond flor or coconut flour. I think it may be possible but it may affect the rise and how dense the cake is are my only thoughts. But otherwise, I think it would work well. I think using just almond flour could give it a really nice flavour. Let me know what you think if you try it!

  42. Glad you like the cake Jackie! It comes into its prime on days 2-4 and then keeps for about 5 days in the fridge. I haven’t tried freezing it myself but from experience with other similar bakes, I would say it would be okay but may not be quite as moist once defrosted.

    Let me know how you find it if you do freeze it 🙂

  43. Hey Leo, it’s the juice of three medium-sized oranges, which is roughly about 235ml. Hope you enjoy the recipe 🙂

  44. Have anyone tried this recipe with gluten-free flour? I’d love to make this recipe so badly but fear it’ll be ruined if I sub the flour for gluten-free one.

  45. Hi Victoria, I haven’t tried it and I don’t try much gluten free baking, so I’d be hesitant to advise. From what I’ve read online, people do have success subbing one for the other, however the consistency may be a little crumbly as a result.

    If you do give it a go, I’d love to know what you think 🙂

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