Portuguese Mini Lemon-Orange Cakes ~ Queques

These Portuguese mini lemon-orange cakes, called queques, are sweet, buttery, citrus-infused bites perfect for snacking or breakfast.

Portuguese mini lemon-orange cakes piled on a cake stand.

Queques are mini Portugeuse cakes that can be flavored with most anything: vanilla, lemon, orange — even savory bits such as chicken, chouriço, or presunto. I’ve never been a big fan of them; I find them either a bit dry, too firm, or overly sweet.

But on one visit to Portugal, The One and I stayed at a small hotel in the walled town of Évora, where citrusy queques were served as part of breakfast. What a revelation. They were buttery, with soft insides and crispy edges. I asked the chef for the recipe, which he was happy to oblige. But it soon became clear that some recipes don’t always translate. Determined, I made batch after batch after batch until I approximated what he serves his justly fawning clientele.–David Leite


These mini cakes should be eaten warm from the oven. Even though they’re perfect for dunking — especially in tea — they can lose some of their appeal overnight. Refresh the queques in a warm oven for 10 minutes.

Portuguese mini lemon-orange cakes--queques--piled on a black surface.

Portuguese Mini Lemon-Orange Cakes ~ Queques

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 15 M
  • 45 M
  • Makes 30 (2-inch | 5-cm) cakes
5/5 - 2 reviews
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Position the rack in the middle of the oven and crank the heat to 400°F (200°C). Brush two 12-well mini-muffin tins (1 3/4-by-7/8-inch) with butter. Set aside.

Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until the butter is melted. Remove the pan from the stove and let the mixture cool until warm.

In a large bowl, rub the lemon and orange zests into the sugar with your fingers until fragrant. 

Dump in the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine.

Stir the egg, yolk, and vanilla into the warm milk mixture and then pour it into the flour mixture in several additions, stirring gently until the ingredients are just incorporated and the batter is smooth.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, three-quarters full. Bake until the cakes are well-risen and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. 

Transfer the pans to a rack, cool for 5 minutes, and then pop out the mini cakes. Serve warm piled high in a napkin-lined basket or large cake stand. Originally published May 15, 2009

Portuguese mini lemon-orange cakes scattered on a black background with one torn in half.
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Recipe Testers' Reviews

These Portuguese mini cakes shine bright in their simplicity. Perfectly domed and tender-crumbed, buttery with a nuanced hint of citrus and vanilla, they are refined and unpretentious at the same time. Do serve them warm while the edges are slightly crispy—biting into them to reveal the soft interior is addictive. (Settle down with a basket of them on a Netflix night. Like fresh popcorn, these lovelies would not last a movie, just FYI.)

Even better, the recipe is as simple and straightforward as the cakes. The batter took just a few minutes to mix, and it came together, smooth and lump-free, with only a rubber spatula.
Portuguese mini lemon-orange cakes piled on top of each other in a red cloth.

One word for these queques: yummy! I love citrus, and this recipe didn’t disappoint. These cakes were quick and easy, and didn’t call for any unusual ingredients or require any special equipment.

For these Portuguese mini lemon-orange cakes, I used one of my 24 cup mini-muffin tins and my #70 cookie scoop to fill the cups. I slightly mounded the dough and it was the perfect amount to fill my pan. My cakes were done at 18 minutes, and after cooling for 5 minutes, they came right out of the pan.

The crunchy edges and light but distinct citrus flavor was just right. I’ll be making this recipe again.


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  1. Does this recipe work if you make the batter the night before & refrigerate it?
    Thanks for all your wonderful recipes, David (and the great commentary to go along with!).

    1. Hey, Trisha. I’ve never done that, but I don’t think so. The chemical action of the leavening will happen in the fridge, not the oven, so it won’t rise properly.

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