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
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
- 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.