This delicious Spanish almond cake is one of the most popular desserts in all of Spain. My traditional tarta de Santiago recipe combines ground almonds, sugar, and eggs for a quick, moist, (and gluten free!) cake that’s easy to make at home in less than one hour!
The slice I was served 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 hoping to get that perfect almond taste and dense (yet somehow light!) texture. I tried four different Spanish almond cake recipes — one of them even came from cloistered convent nuns!
I kept searching until I finally found what seemed to be the perfect recipe in one of my mother-in-law’s old cookbooks. The old scribbled-down recipe for tarta de Santiago was simple, and sounded like what I had fallen in love with.
Today I want to share the perfect Spanish almond cake recipe with you — my favorite version of tarta de Santiago.
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
The beauty of this cake is its simplicity — you only need seven ingredients:
- Almonds: I love using Spanish Marcona almonds, but any will do. The traditional Tarta de Santiago recipe uses raw (peeled) almonds, as the skins can give a bitter taste. You can optionally toast your almonds for a deeper flavor. And if you must substitute another nut, hazelnuts work beautifully.
- Eggs: 5 of the best eggs you can buy!
- Sugar: Normal white refined sugar is what we use here in Spain. But feel free to experiment here. Let me know how it goes.
- Lemon Zest: I use the zest from half a lemon for the perfect lemon flavor. Feel free to add more (or omit). You can substitute orange zest.
- Cinnamon: I love the addition of cinnamon to this cake, though many people omit.
- Liquor: The liquor adds moisture and a bit of flavor (if using a flavored liquor). But you can substitute vanilla, lemon, or almond extract.
- Powdered Sugar: A must for the decoration of the cake! If you can, download a stencil of the Saint James Cross to decorate your Spanish almond cake the traditional way.
Recipe Tips & FAQs
Making this cake is super simple, but be careful not to over bake it. A dry tarta de Santiago is no fun!
The first mention of this Spanish almond cake dates back to 1577. It was known for being a mix of equal parts almonds, eggs, and sugar. It is named after Santiago de Compostela and Saint James (Santiago), the patron saint of Galicia.
It is! A traditional tarta de Santiago recipe does not include any wheat flour (only ground almonds). This makes the recipe naturally gluten free.
Store your leftover cake at room temperature wrapped in plastic wrap or an airtight container. It can keep outside of the fridge for up to three days. You can also freeze slices of the cake for up to three months.
More Delicious Spanish Cake Recipes
If you love this easy Spanish almond cake, don’t miss these!
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Spanish Almond Cake (Tarta de Santiago Recipe)
- 2 cups ground almonds Very full cups (250 g). Use raw, peeled almonds for best results. You can optionally toast them in the oven for a deeper almond flavor.
- 1 1/4 cups sugar (250 g)
- 5 eggs
- lemon zest from half a lemon
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp liquor (15 ml) Your preference – in Galicia we use a grape liquor called orujo. You can use vodka, Cointreau, Amaretto, Grappa. And vanilla or almond extract can be substituted if you don't want to include alcohol!
- Powdered sugar to dust
- Fresh fruit not traditional but I love it
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C)
- 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 egg and sugar until the mixture is pale and creamy.
- Add the lemon zest, liquor, and cinnamon.
- Fold in the ground almonds using a rubber spatula.
- Grease a 10 inch (25 cm) springform pan with butter and pour in the almond cake batter.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown. Test with a toothpick and if it doesn't come out clean cover the cake with aluminum foil and bake for five more minutes, then test again. Do this one more time if necessary (for 40 minutes in total).
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan, and then transfer to a serving dish.
- Decorate with powdered sugar, if you wish you can download a printout of the emblematic cross of Saint James.
Update Notice: This recipe was originally published on June 7, 2015 and was updated with new text on March 5, 2021.
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.
What do you think? Is my Spanish almond cake on the menu this week? I hope so!