Mantecados: Traditional Spanish Crumble Cakes

A plate of mantecados, Spanish crumble cakes

Keith Williamson / Wikimedia Commons

  • Total: 40 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Servings: 84 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
99 Calories
9g Fat
5g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 84
Amount per serving
Calories 99
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9g 11%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 12mg 4%
Sodium 33mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Protein 1g
Calcium 6mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

These traditional Spanish crumble cakes, or mantecados, crumble very easily. In fact, they are so soft and light in texture, they will literally melt in your mouth—words will not do them justice. You'll have to make them to see why they are a Spanish favorite and realize why no Spanish home is without mantecados at Christmas.

Manteca means lard or butter in Spanish—these cookies were created centuries ago due to a surplus of lard—and, as you can see, it's also what gives the cookies their name, considering the large measurement of shortening included in the recipe. Mantecados refers to a variety of shortbread cookies, including polvorónes. This version features a delicate anise flavor accented with lemon and cinnamon. 

Anise-flavored liqueur, such as anisette and ouzo, can be purchased at most liquor stores and some gourmet supermarkets. If you cannot find it in your area, substitute two shot glasses of vodka and 1 1/2 teaspoons of anise extract. This recipe makes quite a large batch—over 80 cookies—so feel free to cut down the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 shots of anisette (or other anise-flavored liqueur) 
  • 1 lemon peel (grated)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 7 cups unbleached white flour (plus 1/4 to 1/2 cup more, if needed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg white (beaten for glaze)
  • Optional: Sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to whip the vegetable shortening with the oil. Add the sugar and mix until smooth. Add the egg yolks, anisette, lemon peel, lemon juice, and cinnamon, and mix together.

  4. Add 7 of the cups flour, 1 cup at a time to the mixture, then add baking soda. Be sure to mix well. The dough should be smooth and soft.

  5. Using a teaspoon, scoop out a dollop of dough. Form balls about the size of walnuts using your hands. If the dough is too sticky to roll into balls, mix in additional flour (from 1/4 to 1/2 cup).

  6. Place balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Lightly press down on each ball to flatten slightly. Brush the beaten egg white on the top of each cookie. Bake cookies until they begin to turn light brown on the bottom edges, about 15 to 20 minutes.

  7. Let the cookies cool 5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet, as they are very delicate. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon if desired.

  8. Enjoy.

Recipe Variation

  • For festive-shaped cookies, use cookie cutters instead of rolling the dough into balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough 1/4-inch thick and cut with desired cookie cutters. Place dough 1 inch apart on the cookie sheet and bake as normal.

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