Recipe of the Month – Tarta de Santiago

Tarta de Santiago - slice

By on July 3, 2019

While walking along the Camino de Santiago, there is always plenty of food to choose from, but one of my favorite things is to ask for “especialidad de la casa” or specialty of the house. Whether it is garlic soup, barnacles, home-made cheese, tuna ragu, or octopus, they were always fresh, usually delicious, and definitely a taste of the local culture. One of our favorite local specialties was Tarta de Santiago, an almond cake commonly found in Galicia, but popular across Spain. With only six simple ingredients, the cake is actually quite easy to make and delicious for any occasion. If you are going to walk the Camino, many local stores will sell metal knight’s cross stencils to use for decorating the cake, but a quick google search for the cross of St. James will give you plenty of options to print out. I printed mine on card stock to make it easier to lift off the cake once it was covered in powdered sugar.

After working through several recipes and a couple of different methods, this cake is most like the ones we preferred while doing our taste-test research in Spain. This cake is naturally gluten-free but we did find some that were commercially baked that did contain wheat flour. After some experimentation, here is my recipe for Tarta de Santiago.

Prepare a 9-inch cake pan by cutting. piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Butter the bottom and sides of the pan and place the paper in the pan. Buttering the bottom keeps the paper from moving when you pour the batter in.

In a small bowl, separate 5 large eggs. Use a cereal bowl and then pour the whites into a large bowl so that if a yolk breaks you don’t ruin the entire batch of whites.

Beat the egg yolks with one cup of powdered sugar until they lighten in color and stream off the beaters in thick ribbons.

Zest a lemon and then mince the lemon west until it is very fine. I don’t like biting into a piece of zest when I’m eating the cake. Mix the zest and one teaspoon of pure almond extract into the egg yolk mixture.

Add two cups of finely ground almond flour into the egg mixture by hand. Try to find almond flour that is pale white in color. Many brands are ground before the skins are removed and have brown flecks in them. This will not affect the flavor, but the cake isn’t as pretty in the end. This mixture will be very thick

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with half a teaspoon of salt and a quarter cup of powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.

Take a quarter of the egg whites and mix into the yolk mixture to begin to lighten it. Add another quarter and continue to gently mix together. Finally, add the last half of the eggs whites and mix gently until fully incorporated. Don’t over mix at this point or the cake will be less light. Some recipes skip the step and the whole eggs are added at the beginning. These versions of the cake will be more dense and heavier. We did taste some like this in Spain but they weren’t as good, in my opinion.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350º for 30 minutes. Check the cake and if the center seems too wet, bake for another 5-10 minutes but don’t wait for it to be dry in the center. Also, I would not recommend putting the cake tester directly in the center because you will see the hole since the powdered sugar will not cover it.

Let the finished cake rest in the pan until it is cool and then use a thin knife to cut around the edge to help the cake release. If you are not serving it immediately, wrap it in plastic wrap so that it doesn’t dry out. Gluten-free baked goods are notorious for becoming more dense and dry as they sit, so do not refrigerate it either. I baked this cake the night before we were serving it and it was still perfect the next evening and leftovers on the third day were just as good.

Right before serving, place the cross on the cake and dust with powdered sugar poured into a sieve. Carefully lift off the cross using the tip of a knife to leave the imprint behind.

Tarta de Santiago

  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 c powdered sugar, divided, plus more for dusting the finished cake
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 2 cups finely ground almond flour
  • 1/2 t salt

Separate the eggs into two large bowls. Using a mixer, combine the yolks and 1 cup of sugar until pale in color and thick ribbons form. Beat in the finely minced lemon zest and almond extract. Stir in the almond flour until well combined. The mixture will be very thick.

In the other bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt and 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff peaks form. Work a quarter of the egg white mixture into the yolk mixture. Continue adding the white a bit at a time until fully incorporated, being careful not to overmix and deflate the whites.

Pour into a 9-inch cake pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350º for 30-40 minutes, being careful to not dry out the cake. It should still be moist in the center. Fully cool before removing from the pan.

Before serving, place a cut-out of the cross of St. James on the cake and dust with powdered sugar. Remove the stencil with the tip of a knife.


Serve the cake with cafe con leché, orujo, or your favorite glass of Spanish wine and enjoy this taste of Northern Spain and the Camino! We hope you’ve enjoyed our journey so far across Spain and now up the coast of Portugal. If you haven’t already, make sure to hit the subscribe button and check us out on Instagram and YouTube.



2 comments on “Recipe of the Month – Tarta de Santiago

  1. Thanks so much for your messages. It brings back wonderful memories. The torta,I had made a couple of times at home and it is always a hit. Enjoy your adventures.

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