Tarta de Santiago– Torta Real (“Royal Cake”), Tarta de Almendras (“Almond Cake”), and Saint James Cake are all names for this dessert. It seems that all roads lead to the ancient city of Santiago. Not only is it the capital of the Galicia, a state in the northwest corner of Spain, but it is where the remains of Saint James the Apostle, the patron saint of Spain, lie.
The first reliable recipe of this dish appeared in the 19th century although historians believe it has a much older past, as variants were most certainly passed by word of mouth from grandmothers to daughters for generations.
Although this cake is typical of Galician cuisine, it is loved widely throughout Spain. Many believe the cake came to fame thanks to the Saint James’ Way, the annual pilgrimage to the Cathedral de Compostela in Santiago around July 25th, the day of Saint James’ Feast. With the automobile and train making travelling long distances possible in the 20th century, pilgrims exposed to this tasty cake to residents along the way.
Tarta de Santiago – Almond Cake from Gallegas
- Stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment
- Two 8-inch round cake pans
- 1 cup Sugar
- ¼ tsp Lemon zest
- 7 Egg, yolks and whites separated
- ½ lb Almond, ground fine
- ¼ tsp Cinnamon
- Chopped or ground almond for garnish
- 1 cup Heavy cream
- ¼ tsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Strong coffee or espresso powder
- Cream sugar, lemon zest, and egg yolks in stand mixer with whisk attachment until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stir in almonds and cinnamon. Remove to a bowl and wash out bowl in cold water. Whisk egg whites in bowl until they become stiff (but not dry). Stir a few tbsp of the egg white into the egg yolk mixture, then fold the rest in. Pour into greased 8-inch cake pans. Rinse out bowl and whisk and put both in freezer.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Put cake pans in oven and bake for 45 minutes until they are well browned. Cool briefly and then remove from pans.
- Whip the cream with sugar and coffee until stiff. Spread between layers, and cover top and sides. Sprinkle with chopped or ground almonds. Let sit a few hours on the counter to allow cream to moisten the cake. Serve.
- To decorate the cake as it’s done in Spain, place a cut-out of the Saint James’ Cross or Fleur de Lis on top of the cake, dust powdered sugar over the top of the cake, remove the cutout and voila.