Bolo do Caco

Bolo do caco is the bread of Madeira Island and the neighboring island of Porto Santo. The islands were discovered in 1418. Madeira Island located in the North Atlantic Ocean, about 600 miles from Portugal. In the 1500s it was forbidden to build private ovens. Ovens were only allowed to be owned by nobility and the clergy. The bolo do caco did not require the an of an oven for cooking. Bolo means cake – referring to its shape. Caco refers to the basalt stone on which the bread was historically baked.

bolo do caco bread oven

When visiting Madeira, you will find it at most restaurants and often see it being sold by street vendors.  It is the most common bread variety on Madeira that is usually served as a warm appetizer with garlic butter spread, but it can also be enjoyed as a sandwich or as a side to various traditional Portuguese dishes. For example you will always see it served with the famous espetada – meat that has been skewered on a bayleaf branch and cooked over hot coals. There are a few popular variations: Bolo do coco thinly sliced in half with butter, or garlic butter and parsley; you can also find it stuffed with sausage. 

Portuguese Bolo do Caco bread from Madeira Island

The ingredient that really makes bolo do caco unique is the addition of puréed white sweet potato. Before starting the dough, some sweet potatoes are boiled, then be mixed into the dough.  If English muffins, and naan got together and had a baby, it would be called bolo do caco. They are super soft on the inside and crispy on the outside from being grilled before baking. It has a chewy firm but thin crust and a soft, airy crumb, and a moist slightly sweet flavor from addition the sweet potato.

Sweet potato tuna 8864 scaled
bolo do caco

You cannot visit Madeira without tasting bolo do caco!

Have many fond memories I’m eating this bread at Portuguese festivals in Hayward California. My parents we’re originally from Madeira Island and would often bring home a few extra loaves that were often sold at the festivals. This bread freezes well, the addition of sweet potato allows it to still be moist after defrosting.  So if you give this recipe a try, make a few extra bolos de caco.