Tarta de Santiago: a Spanish sweet pleasure beyond the festivity
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We have just entered into the last week of July and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have finally begun. For those who love sport -like me- is just THE MOMENT, specially if we bear in mind the extra year of wait due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spain has already won its first medal as Taekwondo fighter Adriana Cerezo earned a silver on Saturday. It is fair to say that was quite bitter sweet: she fought a great final against a very difficult opponent, taller than her. However, she conceded an unlucky point nearly at the end and lost the gold, but not many people can say they won an Olympic medal aged 17. As a former Taekwondo fighter, I think she is very promising and the best is still yet to come.
Still on the weekend, yesterday was Santiago Day and Galicia’s National day. The celebration is invariably linked to religious events, the famous Camino de Santiago and a cake that everybody loves. On this day, Tarta de Santiago populates households tables, supermarkets shelves and bakeries windows. This is a long lasting tradition that has evolved over the years following the declining role of the religion in Spanish society. Today, Tarta de Santiago is enjoyed at any time: it is available for shopping all year round and restaurants serve it as a dessert in their menus. Good point to be fair because it is too good to be eaten just occasionally.
The singularity of this cake is that it does not contain any flour at all. Instead, ground almonds play this role – hence why it is also known as Almond cake. It is understood the cake was restricted to the Galician upper classes due to the expensiveness of this fruit. This dates back to the 16th century. What is more recent (less than 100 years old) is the Santiago cross’ decoration. In 1924, the owner of Casa mora bakery, Jose Mora, invented it as a method for turning profits-and so he achieved! From the cooking point of view, it is an easy, mess free cake which just needs four ingredients and 30 minutes to come together. The inside of the cake should be moist and soft, so don’t panic when you take it out of the oven.
INGREDIENTS (SERVES 10 SLICES)
Almonds (200 g)
Caster sugar (200 g)
Cinnamon (1 teaspoon) – Optional
Icing sugar to decorate
DIRECTIONS FOR COOKING
Using a food processor, grind the almonds until you achieve a fine, flour-like texture. This is going to be the base of your cake. Alternatively, you can buy the almond already ground in sachets and skip this step.
2. Mix the almond and the sugar in a separate bowl. Then, add one egg at a time and incorporate well. It should result in a smooth, uniform, easy to stir batter. Finally, tip the lemon zest and the cinnamon and stir.
3. Tip the batter into a cake tin covered with baking paper (you can also grease it with butter). Preheat the oven at 180 Celsius and bake for 30 minutes. You will notice that is cooked when the top is golden brown.
4. Remove from the oven and set aside for cooling. Once it is completely cold, place a template of the Santiago cross and sprinkle some icing sugar on top. On this step, help yourself with a strainer.
5. Carefully remove the cross from the cake and will be ready to serve.