Light, moist and scented with citrus, this Iberian-inspired cake will be the star of your table. A perfectly lovely springtime treat.
My first introduction to this cake was long, long ago- and yes, in a land far away! I remember fondly and will always cherish my first bites of this delicacy while traveling with my family through northwest Spain.
In the town of Santiago de Compostela, the city at the end of the famed pilgrimage trail that winds through parts of France and northern Spain, almond cakes can be found in just about every bakery window. There, the sign of St. James, the patron saint of the city, is marked atop the cake using a stencil and heavy dusting of powdered sugar.
Residents and visitors alike can be seen enjoying Tarta de Santiago for breakfast, for dessert, with coffee in the afternoon… and just about any other time!
My favorite time to bake this incredibly moist, delicious cake is spring.
I love it for Easter, with it’s hints of citrus and vanilla. It looks so pretty on the Easter brunch table.
Many years we have also enjoyed this dessert for Passover seder. Most cakes are out during this holiday, however, this one, free of rising agents, complies. Despite it’s current markings of St. James, it is actually thought that this cake was brought to the northwest corner of Spain by Jews in the 12th century, as they were fleeing persecution, and served during Passover.
Traditional Tarta de Santiago recipes use blanched almonds that are finely ground in a food processor, however I find that a good almond flour works beautifully, and saves a step. Just make sure to use a fine ground almond flour (also called almond meal), not a coarse variety.
Stenciling is not required, but the dusting of powdered sugar is! Make sure that the cake is completely cool before dusting, otherwise the sugar will melt into the cake and create a glaze instead of a pretty white coating.
If you choose to stencil, you can cut out any shapes you like with paper, lay them directly on the cake, dust with sugar, then carefully remove the stencil to reveal the marking.
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Spanish Almond Cake
- 2 cups fine almond flour also called almond meal (225 grams)
- 6 large eggs separated
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- Zest from 1 small navel orange about 1 teaspoon
- Zest from 1 lemon about ½ teaspoon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon optional
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Generously butter a 10-inch springform pan.
- Place the egg whites in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat to stiff peaks (when you pull the whisk out of the egg whites, it will form a peak that holds its shape). Remove the egg whites to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- Place the egg yolks and sugar in the mixer and beat them with the whisk attachment until thick and pale yellow, about 6 minutes. Beat in the orange zest, lemon zest, vanilla and cinnamon, then mix in the almond flour until just combined.
- Add about ⅓ of the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture and fold in gently, using a spatula. The egg yolk mixture will be quite thick, and it is important to lighten it with a little of the egg whites before adding the rest. Fold in another ⅓ of the egg whites, then the remaining amount.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, place on a baking sheet and place in your preheated oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the sides have pulled away from the pan and the cake is set in the middle.
- Let the cake cool completely, then dust with powdered sugar using a fine mesh sieve.
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