Tarta de Santiago (Galician Almond Cake)
by The Tapas Lunch Company
From the TLC Blog
I am very choosy about the cakes I eat in Spain. So many are so very calorific.
Not so the delightful Galician Almond Cake known as Tarta de Santiago.
How this treasure came to be named after the apostle of St. James remains a mystery to all.
What is not in doubt is that for many centuries now the cake has been adorned with the cross of the knights of St.James, the famous saint and patron of the whole of Spain.
Santiago de Compostela has attracted pilgrims for centuries. There was even a charming film made, starring Martin Sheen, set in Galicia in which he plays a man walking the El Camino de Santiago.
He takes sustanance en route, including a slice of Tarta de Santiago.
The cake is easy to make. Different cooks have their own take on how to make the best sample, but eggs and sugar are mandatory.
You should knead a short pastry with flour, sugar, butter and egg. Add a little milk if required.
Form a ball, wrap in foil and leave to stand in the fridge for half an hour.
For the filling, beat together the eggs and sugar until creamy. Fold in the lemon rind, ground almonds and cinnamon.
Roll out the pastry on a floured work surface. Line a greased, loose bottomed pan with the pastry.
Prick it all over with a fork and spoon the filling on top. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 c. for around half an hour, but until golden brown.
Leave the almond tart to cool in the pan. Once cool, transfer it to a serving plate and dredge with confectioners' sugar before serving.
And do not forget that cross in the middle. It is the star attraction. The icing on the cake!
Confectioners in Galicia will use original metal templates, some of which are now considered to be antiques in their own right.
But if you do not have a metal version in your kitchen, fear not. You can still create the perfect cross (as photographed above). That cake was made by baker and writer Emma Gardner.
She says: "I found my cross template online, printed it out, cut around it and then used it as a stencil. I’ve kept it so I always have it on hand. It’s a very effective technique - I’d love to try and use it with other patterns to decorate simple cakes - some initials, perhaps, or a number for a birthday."
Emma uses a version of the recipe offered up by the famous cook Claudia Roden.
Another long term convert to the joys of Spanish food, Elizabeth Luard, has a slightly different take on the recipe. But she is fascinated by its place in culinary history.
She says: "It is said the Tarta de Santiago fortified pilgrims on the long walk to Santiago de Compostela, the shrine of St.James and one of the three most important places of pilgrimage in the Catholic world, ranking alongside Rome and Jerusalem."
Elizabeth adds: "The lemon is for the sorrow of Good Friday and the almonds, grown from stock from the Jordan valley, serves as a reminder of the Holy Land."