Tania Braukamper

This Portuguese Town Is Famous For Its Ridiculously Phallic Cakes

"Doces falicos" are given to unmarried women as good luck charms.

If you’re making vacation plans for next year, you might want to consider a trip to the Portuguese village of Amarante.

In early June, this quiet village becomes a bustle of activity as residents prepare for the São Gonçalo festival, an annual celebration with some pretty strange customs attached to it.

The most notable are the “Doces falicos” or “phallic sweets”—sugary, glazed treats shaped unambiguously like the male member.

Bolos de São Gonçalo

“These cakes are so integral to the identity of the village, in fact, that they’ve become its most recognizable icon,” recounts travel writer Tania Braukramper.

“In their honor, phallic symbols are rife. Even the bunting overhead flutters with white paper phalluses.”

atlas-obscura
Tania Braukamper/Atlas Obscura

It’s believed the cakes, also known as “Bolos de São Gonçalo” (Saint Gonçalo cakes) are part of a fertility ritual that predates Christianity. They’re given as tokens of affections—sort of like X-rated Valentines—and are sometimes bought by single women in hopes of finding Mr. Right. (Judging by their size, that’s a pretty tall order to live up to.)

Bolos de São Gonçalo

Saint Gonçalo, for whom the festival is named, was a 13th century priest known for his hardline views. (He was actually banished from the area, though its not clear why.) He joined a Dominican monastary and spent the rest of his days as a hermit.

amarante portugal
Wikipedia Commons

Did Gonçalo perform miracles that helped women get pregnant? Was he particularly well-endowed? The answers are lost to history. But the cakes continue to symbolize unity, fertility, and fidelity—
and we’re told they’re delicious!

Some come in miniature form, or have cream filling (because of course they do).

amarante Bolos de São Gonçalo

In the 1930s, Portugal’s fascist Second Republic outlawed the cakes as being obscene, but the villagers of Amarante continued to make and exchange them secretly. After the dictatorship fell in 1974, the Bolos de São Gonçalo came back out of the closet.

Another unusual custom attached to the São Gonçalo festival: Residents enter the church with wax models of various body parts, hoping for a miracle to cure them of whatever affliction they suffer from.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery