The production of mantecados has traditionally been a domestic practice in Estepa. Originally, it consisted of making a torta (flat cake) with flour and lard for consumption, preferably at Christmas time. Later, sugar, cinnamon and sesame seeds were added as basic ingredients, to which variations have been later added.

Today, Christmas confectionery is one of the most important manufacturing activities in Estepa and Andalusia, and is an important driving force for economic development in the town. The products are sold on the local, national and international markets. Eighty-five per cent of the mantecado workers in Estepa are women, and their trade is known as mantecaeras.

Historical notes

According to stories in Estepa, the origin of this industry dates back to mid-19th century, and is linked to the innovative capacity of one of Estepa’s neighbours, Micaela Ruiz Téllez, named La Colchona, who was often paid with lard for her work as a mantecaera. She used a technique to make the product last longer:  drying the flour. From that time onwards, the products began to be distributed through the villages along the route from Estepa to Córdoba, as well as in local confectioners’ shops, thus giving rise to the Mantecado de Estepa industry.

Other ingredients such as almonds, cinnamon and natural flavourings are added to the mixture of wheat flour, sugar and lard. The first traditional products are the mantecado, polvorón de almendra (kind of almond shortbread), alfajor (sort of almond pastry sweet) and rosco de vino (wine bread roll). The diversification of production in search of new market sectors has led to the introduction of so-called ‘specialities’ made by each factory.

Although the production processes are the same, depending on the factory, they are more or less mechanised. In family-run factories, the processes of preparing the ingredients, making the dough, moulding the baking and packaging are carried out by hand or with manual tools. In the process of making these Christmas sweets, women have played a fundamental role, passing on their knowledge traditionally from mothers to daughters and sons at home.

Another aspect currently highlighted by the Regulatory Council of the Protected Geographical Indication Mantecados y Polvorones de Estepa and the Town Council as identifying the municipality is the sensory aspect of the aroma given off by this activity during the months of elaboration, which they consider to be a value in the collective memory of the inhabitants of Estepa and an aspect that is positively valued by visitors to the town.

There are currently 22 mantecado factories in Estepa, including those known as “handmade mantecados”, with a production of more than 200,000 kilos, whereas in the 1940s there were some 40 factories in the town, reaching as many as 120 factories in earlier times.

Other Andalusian towns not less famous for the production of mantecados and Christmas sweets, having their own varieties and production processes are Antequera, in Malaga, and Rute, in Cordoba.

Seasonal. The production of mantecados, being essentially a Christmas product, is carried out in annual campaigns from August to December. Depending on the factory, production starts earlier or later, as it also depends on the diversification of other Christmas products, lasting up to Christmas eve.

Mantecado de Estepa Casero. Photo: Consejo Regulador.

Preparando la almendra para molerla. Photo: Isabel Aguilar Majarón. © Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Histórico

IAPH image under the conditions established under license cc-by 3.0 de Creative Common.

Envasando mantecados. Photo: Isabel Aguilar Majarón. © Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Histórico

p>IAPH image under the conditions established under license cc-by 3.0 de Creative Common.

Proceso de horneado. Mantecado de Estepa. Photo: Consejo Regulador

Proceso de liado a mano. Mantecado de Estepa. Photo: Consejo regulador

Canal Sur. (2021). Así se hacen los mantecados en Estepa. Consumo Cuidado. [Video File].

TÉLLEZ INFANTES, Anastasia.. Una industria alimentaria generadora de identificación local: el caso de Estepa y la fabricación de mantecados..