Sericaia: A Traditional Portuguese Pudding Recipe from the Alentejo

Written By Becky Gillespie

Sericaia: A Traditional Portuguese Pudding Recipe

Sericaia, a delightful traditional dessert from Portugal, holds a special place in our recipe collection. This classic Portuguese custard comes from the city of Elvas in the Alentejo region of Portugal. It is often served with a generous helping of plums and is perfect as a cozy dessert or a sweet treat alongside a cup of tea.

What is Sericaia?

Sericaia, also known as “Sericaia Alentejana,” is a sublime combination of egg yolks, sugar, flour, milk, and cinnamon, creating a unique texture and flavor profile. Like many Portuguese conventual sweets, it boasts a history linked to the resourcefulness of nuns in convents who, in the past, used leftover egg yolks to create various desserts. This particular dessert links back to the nuns at the convents of Nossa Senhora da Conceição and Santa Clara in Elvas.

Sericaia, Photo by Food from Portugal, Flickr

The History of Sericaia

The history of Sericaia is as rich as its taste. There are two different theories about the origins of Sericaia. One states that sericaia may have been influenced by a coconut custard described as serikaya, which resulted from the Portuguese colonization of Malacca in the early 1500s. The governor of Goa, Portuguese India, Constantino de Bragança, is believed to have brought the serikaya recipe back to Portugal in the 1500s. The Elvas nuns then reinterpreted it, later adding cinnamon when it was brought back from Asia in the 1600s.

A second theory suggests that it was the Portuguese sericaia that influenced the creation of serikaya. Bread replaced pastry, and coconut milk replaced dairy milk in the Malay-Indo region. Regardless of how sericaia reached the Portugal table, it is now here to stay. It is often served with stewed Reine Claude plums grown in the region.

The Sericaia Recipe

6-8 portions

Here, we share our favorite recipe for Sericaia, inviting you to recreate this Portuguese culinary gem at home.

Ingredients

For the Pudding:

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 150 g granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 500 ml whole milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Lemon zest from one lemon

For the Plum Compote:

  • 500 g plums, pitted and quartered
  • 100 g sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Water as needed

Instructions

For the Pudding:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Gently fold in the flour.
  4. In a saucepan, heat the milk with the cinnamon stick and lemon zest until just about to boil. Remove the cinnamon stick.
  5. Gradually add the warm milk to the egg mixture, stirring continuously.
  6. Pour the mixture into a shallow, ovenproof dish. Sprinkle the top generously with ground cinnamon.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the pudding has a slight wobble.

For the Plum Compote:

  1. In a saucepan, combine plums, sugar, cinnamon, and a splash of water.
  2. Cook over medium heat until the plums are soft and the sauce has thickened.
  3. Serve the compote warm over the baked sericaia.
Freshly made sericaia, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Enjoying Sericaia

Sericaia is best enjoyed warm, with the plum compote adding a delightful contrast to the creamy, subtly sweet pudding. Store any leftover sericaia in the refrigerator and eat it within three days.

Feel free to share your experience or ask any questions in the comments below. We hope you enjoy making and savoring this exquisite Portuguese dessert as much as we do!

Try to find this can of plums in a Portuguese supermarket for that perfect plum accompaniment to the sericaia, Photo by Becky Gillespie
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