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
6 to 8 slices
grams (1 cup) blanched whole almonds
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
In This Recipe
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 7-inch tin then dust with flour until fully coated. Tap out any excess flour.
Blitz the almonds until they're finely ground, though not super fine, as you want a bit of texture.
Separate the eggs and place the yolks in a bowl with the sugar and salt. Whisk until they are pale, thick and glossy.
Stir in the zest, followed by the almonds, to make a thick paste.
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.
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.
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.
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.