One of the first Spanish desserts I fell head over heels for was the tarta de Santiago, a simple Spanish almond cake found on nearly any dessert menu in Madrid. The slice looked as humble as could be, and I began to doubt my choice. But with the first bite of moist cake I felt like I’d eaten a handful of almonds. I was hooked.
The almond cakes I grew up eating were flavored with potent almond extract– delicious I’ll admit, but nothing like the almond sweets here in Spain, where the star of the show is always the raw almond itself.
When I finally decided to try a tarta de Santiago recipe at home, I was torn among a few different versions. My favorite Spanish cookbook author, Claudia Roden, has a yummy looking version in The Food of Spain. But I decided I wanted something even more basic. I kept searching, until I finally found what seemed to be the perfect recipe in one of my mother in law’s old cookbooks. It had only five ingredients, which sounded just about right. The old scribbled down recipe was remarkably similar to the one found in Culinaria Spain, another of my Spanish cookbook bibles. As usual, the measurements were vague in both versions, but I attempted it nonetheless, and the results were delicious!
- I used a 9-inch glass pie dish for this recipe-- but in Spain, we improvise! Adjust bake time for a smaller dish.
- 1 egg
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 1¼ heaping cups of flour (you may need more)
- 4 eggs
- 1¼ cups of sugar
- Grated zest from one lemon
- 2 cups of finely ground almonds
- Powdered sugar
- Fresh fruit (not traditional but I love it)
- Beat the egg and sugar with one tablespoon of hot water until the mixture is creamy.
- Fold in the flour using a rubber spatula, until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. You many need more flour to achieve the right consistency.
- Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely ground, however be careful not to turn the mixture to almond butter by over processing.
- Beat the eggs and sugar for about one minute until creamy.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold in the lemon zest and ground almonds.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- Roll the dough out on a floured surface and then fit into a well greased baking mold.
- Prick with a fork and then pour the filling over the base.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan, and then transfer to a serving dish.
- Decorate with powdered sugar and fruit if desired.
My tarta de Santiago recipe may not be very complicated, but it is packed with flavor . It comes out perfectly moist, and tastes like its ingredients– almonds, sugar and eggs. I ate a couple of pieces on their own, and topped others with a strawberry salsa made with fresh strawberries, mint, sugar, lemon juice and a touch of aged balsamic vinegar. The Gallegos may not approve– but I sure do!
What do you think? Is my Spanish almond cake on the menu this summer? I hope so!
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