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Tarta de Santiago - Cake of St. James

Penelope Casas

  • 1 hour 25 minutes
  • 8 servings
Cake of St. James
No one knows exactly why this almond cake was named after the apostle St. James. For centuries, each cake has been marked with the cross of the Order of Santiago. Visitors to the great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, where the relics of the apostle St. James are believed to be buried, see this cake in the window of every pastry shop and restaurant. Delightfully moist and fragrant, it makes a beautiful addition to a holiday dessert table.
Rated 4.5 Stars


  • 1cup sugar plus 1/4 teaspoon for topping
  • 1/4tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1/2lb raw Marcona almonds, finely ground
  • 7eggs, separated
  • 1/4tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2pint whipping cream
  • 1tsp brandy (optional)
  • Chopped or ground toasted almonds for garnish
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Cream 1 cup sugar, lemon rind, and egg yolks until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the almonds and cinnamon. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry. Stir a few tablespoons of the egg white into the almond mixture, then fold in the rest of the egg whites.
Pour into 2 greased 8-inch layer pans and bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until the cakes are well browned. Cool briefly, then remove the cakes from the pans.
To make topping, whip 1/2 pint of whipping cream, 1/4 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon very strong brandy (optional) until stiff. Generously coat the top of one cake and place the other cake on top. Place a 4-inch Cross of Santiago in the center and sprinkle the top with powdered sugar.
Make a festive, seasonal cake by using other stencils in place of the cross - a heart for Valentine's Day, a snowflake for winter, etc.
If you prefer frosting, spread the remaining topping on the top and sides of the cake and garnish with chopped almonds. 

Reviews (6)

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Bertha Mercado

Rated 4 Stars

Thanks for the recipe, it is hard for me to get this classic item thru webstores; now my group can enjoy the pleasant flavor of this Spanish torta in our coffee reunion.


Rated 5 Stars

Happy Thanksgiving from Mercent! I used this recipe to replace the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving!


Rated 5 Stars

This recipe looks very similar to the one in Penelope Casas' THE FOODS AND WINES OF SPAIN. It is an excellent recipe that we have loved for years (I plan to make it tonight for Christmas Eve), but I have always wondered about the whipped cream filling/topping. I walked the Camino de Santiago and have spent a lot of time in Galicia, and I have never seen the cake with any topping or filling besides powdered sugar.


Rated 3 Stars

I never had this made with whipped cream neither.


Rated 5 Stars

It is my impression that the *authentic* or traditional tarta from Galicia is made as a single layer in an 8- or 11-inch springform pan or an 8- or 9-inch cake tin. It is intended to be low-slung or slim and trim. La Tienda gilded the lily and added moisture by using whipped cream between two 8-inch layers and atop the second round. The cream topping is optional, they note, perhaps lamenting the loss of the image of the Cross of St. James. There are so many versions of the Penelope Casas recipe that it's difficult to know if Casas, a Greek-American writer expert in the cuisine of Spain, used orange zest in addition to lemon and added ground cinnamon, which some complain detracts from the citrus flavor. La Tienda suggests brandy though this is optional. It's fun to see recipes evolve, but if you want the original (less fat and fewer calories) or something close to it as the original may have been a Passover treat, recipes abound. By all means use the shorter, softer, rounder, and sweeter Marcona almonds in place of domestic blanched almonds. Marconas are called the queen of almonds for good reason! When you grind them, just exercise restraint, and don't process them into a paste.


Rated 4 Stars

Sounds really good, and I appreciate the other comments. One question - do I use raw almonds or cooked (blanched, toasted, roasted, sautéed)?

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