It’s the first Wednesday of the month and time once again for another celebration of Camino Flavors. This month it’s Tarta de Santiago the famous cake with the cross on the top.
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Tarta de Santiago is made from almond flour, eggs and sugar and not much else except for some flavorings. There’s no avoiding it when you walk the Camino…any why would you want to? The flavor is exceptional and the texture is like a sponge cake rather than coarse and heavy.
There are entire shops in Santiago dedicated to baking this treat for tourists to take home with them. They walk out of the bakery with armloads of paper wrapped cakes and big smiles.
Despite the confectioner’s sugar on the top, tarta de santiago isn’t an overly sweet cake. The decorative cross of St James is traditional. In Spain you can find the stencil made from stamped steel as shown in the photo. Many people cut their own from heavy paper. Click on the image of St James’ Cross to open a PNG file sized to print at 8×10 inches. Right click and download the image to your computer. You should be able to resize to fit whatever pan you’re using. Then print it out on heavy paper and cut out to use as a stencil.
For best results use a tart pan with a removable bottom, but if you don’t have one don’t worry. I used a 7 inch cake pan with a parchment paper circle in the bottom and had no difficulties removing the cake from the pan.
There is no leavening in this cake so it doesn’t rise much. It doesn’t take long to cook, either. It was less than 15 minutes in my oven at 400F/200C. If you’d prefer to bake in a more moderate 350F oven, increase the cooking time slightly. When done, the cake will be fragrant with a nice golden color on the top. The sides will have pulled away from the pan a little bit and a toothpick inserted in the center will be clean.
As expected with Spanish recipes, there are many varieties. Some people flavor the cake with brandy or Orujo, the herb liquor from Galicia. Others use orange and lemon zest. Still others add a bit of cinnamon.
The recipe I used is a very popular one provided by a peregrina named Tia. Her recipe was in grams so I’ve converted it. It was a perfect fit for my 7 inch cake pan. Please note when measuring the almond flour I didn’t pack it into the cups, just filled and leveled off. Same with the sugar.
Speaking of sugar, I haven’t tried it, but there were people who have successfully substituted other sweeteners like erythritol for the sugar, both in the cake and on top. If you decide to use honey instead consider adding another tablespoon or so of almond flour to balance the increase in liquid. You’ll have to check the labels to find out the equivalent to a half cup of sugar and no guarantees about the end results!
I will have to experiment with other sweeteners because this cake is addictive! I cut it into 16 pieces for portion control which was a waste of time as I could have eaten the entire thing…but I refrained. But I could have…
Let that be a warning (or an invitation).
- 1½ cups fine almond flour (140 gms)
- ½ cup sugar (I used white sugar) (115 gms)
- 2 large eggs
- pinch of salt
- zest from a large lemon (about a tablespoon)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
- confectioner's sugar to dust the top of the cake
- Prepare a 7 inch round cake pan with butter (or cooking spray) and cut a round of parchment paper to fit the bottom.
- Preheat the oven to 400F/200C
- Beat the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla together until frothy.
- Add the almond flour and lemon zest, combine to make a thick batter.
- Transfer the batter to the cake pan and bake for about 10 minutes.
- The cake is finished when the top is golden brown, the sides have pulled away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center is clean.
- If you'd rather bake at 350F, increase the cooking time. Begin checking at 10 minutes and look for the signs above to indicate when the cake is finished.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan.
- Transfer to a platter and place the cross template on top.
- Dust with confectioner's sugar to suit. Remove the template and slice.