Tarta de Santiago (Almond Cake)

The Tarta de Santiago is a traditional almond cake, which originates during the Middle Ages in Galicia, the north-western part of Spain. Little is known about the consumption of almonds in this region of Spain during Medieval times; but apparently almonds were considered a luxury and reserved for the rich or special occasions.

According to Wikipedia, the “bizcocho de almendras” (almond cake) was first mentioned sometime during 1577, and the first reliable recipe was written in 1838 by Luis Bartolome de Leybar. The cake is generally garnished with powdered sugar, in the shape of the Cross of Santiago. This is a recent tradition, but one which now-a-days is characteristic of the cake. On March 3, 2006, la Tarta de Santiago was registered as “Indication Geografica Protegida”, something similar to the geographical protection given to wines, cheeses and other specialty dishes.

I first learned how to make this cake from a recipe my mother has (author unknown). I used to make it on special occasions, only because it’s a very rich and heavy cake. However, as I’m on an “almond” kick lately, I figured why not?

TARTA DE SANTIAGO (ALMOND CAKE)

Ingredients:

  •  250g ground almonds or almond flour
  • 5 whole eggs, at room temperature
  • 150g raw honey (or sugar, if you prefer)
  • zest of two lemons
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Process:
Preheat oven to 180C.  In a bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the lemon zest, honey, cinnamon, and olive oil. Beat until well mixed. Add the ground almonds, whilst continuing to beat continuously.
Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 8 or  9 inch spring form cake pan (I used olive oil and coconut flour, instead of butter and wheat flour). Pour the mixture into the pan. On the bottom rack of the oven, bake for 20-25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven, and immediately dust with cinnamon and/or powdered sugar with the design of the Cross of Santiago or your own design. I personally only generally use cinnamon to garnish the cake; however to make the picture look prettier, I did add a bit of powdered sugar (which is completely optional). Allow to cool to room temperature before removing the mold and serving.
This cake pairs well with a Moscatel or another sweet dessert wine.