Tarta de Santiago (Almond Cake)

By • July 12, 2013 • 24 Comments



Author Notes: This simple almond cake with its beautiful design is sold in Santiago de Compostela in Spain, at the end of the Way of St. James, a pilgrimage that has existed since the 9th century. The cross is that of St James, whose relics are believed to lie in the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

As a traditional cake, I didn't want to stray far from existing recipes -- I based this on Claudia Roden's recipe in The Food of Spain. I halved the recipe as I tend to make small cakes. If you want to make a bigger one, double the recipe and use an 11-inch tin. I also removed the almond extract, as I'm not a fan and I think the almond flavour is strong enough without it.
Poires au Chocolat

Makes 6 to 8 slices

  • 125 grams (1 cup) blanched whole almonds
  • 3 large eggs
  • 125 grams (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) granulated sugar
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon (or 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 an orange)
  • Icing sugar, to dust
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 7-inch tin then dust with flour until fully coated. Tap out any excess flour.
  2. Blitz the almonds until they're finely ground, though not super fine, as you want a bit of texture.
  3. Separate the eggs and place the yolks in a bowl with the sugar and salt. Whisk until they are pale, thick and glossy.
  4. Stir in the zest, followed by the almonds, to make a thick paste.
  5. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl to soft peaks. Add a big spoonful of the whites to the yolk paste and fold through to loosen it.
  6. Scrape the loosened yolk paste into the side of the bowl of whites. Carefully fold the two together until they are well combined with no lumps.
  7. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The cake should be set, golden brown and a toothpick should come cleanly out of the center.
  8. Cool on a wire rack. Remove from the tin then place the cross template in the middle of the cake. Dust with icing sugar then carefully remove the template.
Jump to Comments (24)

Comments (24) Questions (0)

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4 months ago mozhan

Love this cake so much. Just a quick question. I have made it twice and it doesn't seem to rise as much as it looks like it does in this photo. How high is this cake, normally?

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6 months ago ghainskom

Delicious little cake! My daughters (2, 6) loved it and one of them is very picky about cakes...However, I think I'll cut back on the sugar next time I make it.

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6 months ago Angus Patterson

Ignore that last question; I had become fixated on the "1 cup"! :-)

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6 months ago Angus Patterson

Did Celine get a response to her question about what weight of ground almonds she should use, if she didn't want to use whole almonds?

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11 months ago abatjour

has anyone thought about beating egg whites FIRST and transferring them to another bowl? i do this all the time -
to no detriment to a recipe.


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about 1 year ago celine

If I did want to try almond meal instead of grinding my own (understanding it would be less fine to use my own), do you have an idea of how much almond meal to use? Thanks!

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about 1 year ago Louise B

Have you seen the terrible rail accident in Compostelle ?
78 pilgrims dead.

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about 1 year ago zephyrflora

I've walked to Santiago two years ago, and a friend who did it a couple weeks ago will visit next month. So going to try this recipe then! Thanks :D

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about 1 year ago Louise B

I was asked to bake two cakes for a charity garden party and I have decided to make both of them the same. They are so distinctive with the cross. So many people eat gluten free now.

Sara_clevering

about 1 year ago sarabclever

Can't wait to try this!

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about 1 year ago jaimz

This cake is beautiful and delicate!!! Very fun to make and tastes wonderful

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about 1 year ago Poires au Chocolat

I'm so pleased you enjoyed it! I always think it's surprisingly delicate - so many almond cakes are quite dense (which is lovely too, of course).

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about 1 year ago Louise B

I buy my almonds already ground. I cook a lot of cakes gluten free and they always turn out great. 100 grams of ground almonds cost 1.49 and well worth it. No filler and dated for freshness..I buy many and freeze some. I always freeze nuts.

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about 1 year ago Poires au Chocolat

I also buy ground almonds but for this cake I think it is worth the extra step of grinding them yourself, as I don't take it quite as fine as the shop-bought almonds, which gives the cake a wonderful texture. Thanks for the tips.

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about 1 year ago Louise B

I would do that also but for our grandaughter it is also a question of texture. Don't like hard bits she calls them.

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about 1 year ago Poires au Chocolat

That makes sense, I can understand that the extra texture isn't for everyone.

Georgetown_at_night

about 1 year ago Georgetown-DC

I just made this cake. Something went terribly wrong. It looked beautiful when it came out of the oven the toothpick came out clean. Then when I got ready to run the knife around the edge it became clear the cake failed. The top cooked (about 1/8 inch) and it looked fantastic. The rest of the cake was uncooked and stuck down at the bottom. The only thing I can imagine is that something went wrong with the egg yolks, which I just got this morning from a very reputable farmer. When I was mixing them with the sugar it was very thick and clumpy, vice pale, thick and glossy. I almost redid that step but thought what could go wrong. The only other thing it could be is that I soaked the almonds over night in water to get the skins off vice blanching them. Perhaps there was too much water in the almonds. The top tastes fantastic. I'm trying to recook the bottom but at this point it's a failure. But the parts I have tasted are AMAZING. I will retry this in the future. I'm a cook not a baker, but I have never made this much of a mistake. THe good news is that I'm totally willing to do it all over again. My lunch party today though will have no dessert, we can have peaches instead. It's all good. I love concept of this cake and it's history. That's what made me want to make it. Thank you for sharing.

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about 1 year ago Poires au Chocolat

I'm so sorry to hear you had problems. It sounds like yolks weren't quite right - did you whip them for a long time? It takes quite a few minutes on a stand mixer to get them fully pale. I can't imagine why else it would clump. Did it look like the batter in the step-by-steps in the article (http://food52.com/blog...)? I think the extra water from soaking the almonds could also have made a difference - if I blanch them for this I dry them out in the oven for a bit before grinding them. Perhaps the cake also needed longer in the oven? Maybe if you're nervous of it sticking tot he bottom again, you could line the bottom of the tin with baking parchment, though it's not normally needed. I do hope you try it again - I'm sorry it didn't work out! Do let me know if you have any other questions.

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about 1 year ago Louise B

Will try it this weekend

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about 1 year ago Poires au Chocolat

Do let me know how it goes :)

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about 1 year ago Louise B

It was great !! Our celiac granddaughter took the rest at home with here, I served it with a coulis of fresh rasberry.
I love your nickname, obviously french. I make poires au chocolat with almond paste inside.

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about 1 year ago Poires au Chocolat

Ah, brilliant, I'm so pleased! The coulis sounds lovely.
It's the name of my blog - the first really good recipe I wrote from scratch was a pear and chocolate cake and so I named the blog after it. It's in French as my mum lives in the Swiss Alps. Your recipe sounds interesting, do you stuff the pears with the almond paste then?

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about 1 year ago zeidy

Thanks for sharing. My mom loves this "tarta" I will do it for her next birthday! Thank you very much.

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about 1 year ago Poires au Chocolat

I'm so pleased you like it - I hope your mom likes it too!