Cuisine Fiend

tarta de santiago


Tarta de Santiago

Three basic ingredients and no electric appliances required: that’s St James’ cake, or tarta de Santiago. It’s a Galician specialty going back to Middle Ages; it may have had its origin in a Passover cake brought to Galicia by Jews fleeing Andalucía in the 12th and 13th centuries. They bake it in a multitude of pastry shops in Santiago de Compostela, the capital city of Galicia which is the destination of famous Christian pilgrimage route through Northern Spain.

Torta Santiago

Simple as James the patron saint of pilgrims, the only thing fancy on it (by no means obligatory) is the cruz de Santiago, St James' cross adornment stencilled with icing sugar atop the cake. The flavourings are usually lemon and/or cinnamon but I understand the addition of sweet wine, brandy or grape pomace would not be a cardinal sin. And it’s gluten free, as incidentally as scrambled eggs are such.

Cross of St James

I am normally not too seduced by the ‘three ingredients’ recipes. As I often said before, I don’t understand what the merit of those dishes might be: expense? Caviar and blinis ain’t cheap. Simplicity and ease? Try making mayo at home – it’s just egg and oil. Little to remember? Do we have to memorise a recipe prior to following it? But the tarta de Santiago has the simple beauty of, say, a good meringue – a mix and match made in heaven, with St James supervising.

Spanish almond cake

My recipe is the result of trawling through the Internet of pilgrims and Spaniards. The latter I decided knew better what they were talking about so credits include Basco of Fine Foods – muchas gracias!

tarta de santiago

Servings: 12-16Time: 10 minutes plus 40 minutes baking


  • 200g (2 cups) ground almonds
  • 200g (1 scant cup) caster sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • zest grated from 1 lemon
  • 4 large eggs
  • icing sugar for dusting


Preheat the oven to 175C/350F/gas 4. Grease and line the bottom with parchment a round 20cm springform cake tin.

Mix the almonds, sugar, zest and cinnamon in a large bowl, add the eggs one by one and whisk in until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin.

Galician almond cake

Remove the cake from the tin and sift icing sugar over the top, using the cross of St James as a stencil if you like.

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