26 October 2014

Tarta de Santiago - A Random Recipe

Tarta de Santiago and tea ...

This month's random recipe begins with a dream I have and a thing I call 'my culinary bucket list'.

For the past year or two, I've had it in mind to return to Spain to see friends and to make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela along The Way of St. James. Silent Bob is such a hiker, but there is no way that I could do the hikes that he does with a forty pound pack on my back, and yet I would love to retreat from all the hub-bub of life for a while and just walk out into the world with precious little baggage and time for reflection, peace and quiet. So, I began reading about the pilgrimage route that might take me back to Europe and let me have my cake and eat it too ... so to speak.

I was reading one pilgrim's blog about his experience along the Camino de Santiago and was reminded of a cake that has become a specialty for bakers in the Galicia. The Tarta de Santiago is a bright, citrus-flavoured, single-layer cake that is made with powdered almonds, eggs, and sugar with the zest of oranges and lemons and some almond extract added. It is an extremely light and fluffy dessert that is perfect with tea or strong coffee and is a frequent treat for pilgrims that stop along their route to rest and fortify themselves before continuing on their way toward the Cathedral of St James in the city of Santiago de Compostela. The tarta has been a traditional cake of the Galicians for centuries, known as Torta Real. When the batter is baked in a sweet tart shell and it is topped with a template and dusted with confectioner's sugar that leaves the cross of St. James in a design atop the cake, it becomes the Tarta de Santiago. From torta to tarta ... I,however chose to pass on the tart shell ( I KNOW... not authentic, but gluten-free.)

The cake has been on my culinary bucket list for a few years. It recently struck me that the first step in making my way back to Spain and hopefully, to the pilgrim's way might just be for me to make that tarta that has had me so intrigued for so long!

Searching around the Internet for the recipe for this sweet treat certainly fit the criteria that Dom set for this month's Random Recipe, so here you go ... the recipe for Tarta de Santiago comes from Epicurious.com. This morning, I made the cake and had it ready for tea time.

Here's the link for the template for the Cross of St. James

Silent Bob and I had no trouble polishing off a couple pieces each before our afternoon walk with the Corgis. Perhaps that walk could be considered training for the long walk along St James' Way. Stay tuned ...

Tarta de Santiago
slightly adapted from Epicurious.com’s recipe

½ lb. blanched almonds, pulverized to a fine crumb
6 eggs, separated
1 ¼ c. sugar
4 drops almond extract
Zest of a lemon and an orange
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
A pinch of cream of tartar

Making the Tarta:

  1. Download the Cross of St James template. Trace it onto a thick piece of cardstock paper, cut it out and set it aside.
  2. Grease and line the bottom of a spring form cake pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Pre heat oven to 350°F.
  4. Separate the eggs, putting the egg whites in a clean deep metal bowl. Add the pinch  of cream of tartar and whip the egg whites to a stiff meringue that has standing peaks of fluff. Set aside.
  5. In another deep bowl, place the egg yolks, sugar, almond extract, and vanilla extract. Whip until the mixture is light yellow and extremely fluffy.
  6. Turn the zests of the lemon and orange into the sugar mixture.
  7. Add the pulverized almonds (I placed slivered almonds in my food processor and whizzed them to a fine powder.) and stir in with a spatula.
  8. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, folding until there are no white streaks.
  9. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven (center rack).
  10. Cool in the pan for 15 – 20 minutes before running a knife around the pan edge and removing the cake to a pretty platter.
  11. Let the cake cool completely. Then, lay the Cross of St James template atop the cake and use a fine sifter to sprinkle the cake top with confectioner’s sugar.
  12. Carefully, lift the template off the cake and admire! Pretty, huh?
An afterward: The walk was just as golden as the Tarta de Santiago ... and I don't normally post photos of myself, but SB managed to get a decent picture of me in my world, so here you go. Pete, the Smart Corgi and I on our afternoon walk.


  1. oooh, almonds and orange, two flavours to me that are THE taste of Spain, how lovely does this cake look and if anything will instantly transport you back to Spain then this cake will be it, although I insist you book tickets for a European vacation and come see me too!... Thanks so much for entering into Random Recipes this month x

  2. OMG!!!!! I love Santiago de Compostela.
    It's such a lovely place...I was there twice and I could see this cake in every bakery shop.
    If you have never been there hope one day you will!

  3. I would love to walk with you. Love the cake, the corgi, the beautiful color of the woods, and I'm sure I would love visiting with you! We could talk books, cooking and music.

  4. Sounds delicious! Gluten free too!!!!


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