The Tarta de Santiago (Spanish for Cake of St James), originated in Galacia, and dates back to the Middle Ages. It is made with almond flour, which means it’s gluten-free. The Galatians were apparently very trendy. The taste is similar to a pound cake, but almost better in my opinion. You can mix it together in minutes.
The recipe calls for six eggs, which actually serve as the only leavening agent. They hold and trap air as they are beaten, and when baked, the water in the eggs evaporates in the oven and creates steam, which makes the cake rise. Because of that, there’s no need for baking powder or baking soda.
This is my adaptation of a recipe from the July/August issue of Bake from Scratch magazine. I made very few changes. I used Meyer lemon zest instead of orange, and I added a teaspoon of vanilla. I saw a few other recipes that used almond extract, but I’ve never been a fan of it. If a recipe calls for almond extract, I almost always substitute with vanilla.
Bake from Scratch is a great magazine for bakers at any skill level. You can also follow them @thebakefeed on Instagram.
The Tarta de Santiago requires very few ingredients. I should try more medieval cookery.
This is the almond flour I used. Bob’s Red Mill is a great brand, but there are many others. It’s available in some grocery stores, but you can also get it here.
Be sure to get almond flour for this, not almond meal. Keep it in the freezer between uses.
The recipe didn’t say to, but I sifted the flour. And by sift, I really mean I ran my fingers over it so it would pass through the strainer. The lumpiness of the flour was worrisome to me.
I have had this pan for years, and it makes a beautiful pound cake. I thought this cake would look nice baked in it as well. It is a 10″ pan, and the recipe calls for an 8″ pan, so my cake ended up being thinner. Next time I will use an 8″ cake pan. I was not that impressed with how this cake looked after it was baked.
In case you are interested, this is a MariAnne Pan by Nordicware. I’m pretty sure I bought it at Williams Sonoma, but that was a long time ago and they don’t carry it anymore. If you’re interested in buying one like it, I found it here on Amazon, for around $65, which is double what I paid for mine. I also found some preowned ones for much less on eBay here.
The recipe said to line the pan with parchment, which I couldn’t do with this one, so I sprayed it with a copious amount of Baker’s Joy. It worked very well.
Since the eggs play such a key role in this cake, I was glad I had free range eggs that came from hens who had been loved. And apparently hugged.
Just whisk the eggs and sugar together. No need for a mixer. The yolks were a gorgeous bright yellow, which I know added to the rich flavor and golden color of the cake.
Add vanilla and lemon peel. There isn’t a photo of adding the flour and salt, but do that, too.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes. Adjust your baking times according to your pan size.
It bakes to a lovely golden brown. Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes. Then remove from the pan and continue to cool on the rack. Dust with confectioners sugar. If you would like to use a stencil of the signature cross of St James, you can download it here. I wasn’t interested in achieving that degree of authenticity, but go for it if that is appealing to you.
You can see how dense the cake is. The almond flour adds an amazing flavor and the cake is very moist even though there is no butter in the recipe. I can’t even describe how delicious it is. I had no idea it would be so good.
It was suggested to serve this with Dulce de Leche, which would be fabulous. Whipped cream and fresh fruit would be great, too.
But it is definitely good enough to serve unadorned.
- 6 large eggs
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon or orange zest (I used a Meyer lemon)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (or almond extract if you'd prefer)
- 2½ cups almond flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Line an 8 inch cake pan with parchment paper.
- Whisk eggs and sugar together in a large bowl. Add lemon zest and vanilla.
- Add almond flour and salt and whisk until well combined.
- Pour batter into pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes.
- Allow to cool in pan for about 15 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack.
- Dust generously with confectioners sugar.
- Serve with fresh fruit or dulce de Leche, if desired.