Regional confectionery in Portugal has very much to do to with the sweets, cakes and pastries made at convents. These houses of seclusion were true centres of gastronomy, where the abundance of food and ingredients was well known. It was in the convents for women, from the 15th and 16th centuries, that the confection of Portuguese sweets reached its peak, mostly due to the high rates of sugar production that made Portugal stand out from the rest of Europe.
The convents, possessing high quality food products and more than enough spare time for developing recipes, became great confectionery-making centres. These were not for sale, but for consumption at the great banquets within their walls. The rivalry between monasteries was such that the secrecy of the recipes was more than compulsory among nuns. However, once the religious orders were dissolved, convents started selling sweets in order to survive.
Nowadays, the recipes have escaped their imprisonment within the convent walls and landed straight into the hands of bakeries that now sell them, although they are no longer made entirely according to the original recipes. It seems to be that sweet making is an art of circumstance, and as such it has had to adapt to the times we live in.