Tarta de Santiago, a dense almond cake, is one of the most traditional dessert recipes of Galicia, a region in the north-west region of the Iberian peninsula. Its name meaning literally Saint James’s cake, some claim it to be of Medieval origin though it is first mentioned in the year 1577 and it is named not only after the patron saint of Galicia, but indeed after the beautiful town of Santiago de Compostela. Also famed for the Saint James’s cross stencil apparently initiated in Casa Mora, a traditional pastry shop in Santiago de Compostela, which started selling cakes decorated with this pattern. The Tarta de Santiago qualified in 2006 to have Protected Geographical Indication status and, so, any cake made under its name must follow certain guidelines and ratios in its ingredients in order to be considered a true Saint James’s cake, and to be certified as such if it is meant to be commercially sold.
*From El invita De invierno
Recipe by Santi Louzán
Photograph by Bruce Tuck
- salted butter, to grease
- cake flour, to dust
- 240g good-quality raw almonds/almond flour
- 4 eggs
- 240g white sugar
- zest of 1 lemon (optional)
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
- icing sugar, to dust
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease and dust a 22 - 24cm round, springform cake tin. Set aside until needed.
Place the raw almonds/almond flour in a food processor and blitz until very fine. Set aside until needed.
Beat the eggs slowly, so as not to create any bubbles. Set aside.
Mix the sugar, lemon zest, ground almonds and ground cinnamon together in a large bowl. Fold in the eggs until a smooth batter forms. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, then smooth the surface using a spatula.
Bake in the preheated oven until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the cake to rest, in the oven, for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to let the cake cool in the cake tin.
Once cooled to room temperature, remove the cake from the cake tin and turn it out onto a plate.
Find a template of Saint James’s cross online and make a cut-out of it. Place the cut-out on the finished cake and dust with a generous layer of icing sugar. Carefully lift the cut-out off the cake to reveal the shape.
Grind your own raw almonds, for better flavour, texture and moisture. You can also lightly roast the almonds before grinding for added depth. Traditionally, blanched almonds are used, but I love to leave a small amount of almonds unblanched – the skins give the cake a nice crunch. Also, make the cake gluten-free by sprinkling the tin with cornstarch/gluten-free flour alternative instead of cake flour; and make it more than once for a layer cake.