Tarta de Santiago / St. James’ Almond Cake


This is the third and last article that I planned on writing with recipes gleaned from our summer 2016 trip to Galicia. The bad news is that it has taken me over 6 months to get the three recipes out, the good news is that I do believe that I have left the best till last. This cake is so simple, uses just four readily available main ingredients and, for those of you with allergies, it does not contain any wheat. It has to be one of my favourite cakes of all time. Although here in Spain it is relatively easy to find this cake in shops and in restaurants, the home-made variety is far superior and I would recommend even my Spanish readers giving it a try.

The cake gets its name from the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, which in turn is named after the saint who is supposedly buried in the cathedral there (Originally Sancti Iacobi or in English Saint James). The city itself is a historic and beautiful one, and is also well known as the finishing line of the Camino de Santiago (St. James’ Way) long distance walk.

2016 07 66 Santiago Cathedral

The Cathedral

The Way itself has one fairly main route towards the West before splitting in two as it crosses the Pyrenees via two central mountain passes. After the Pyrenees it starts branching out into a multitude of routes covering the whole of Europe. As the route obviously starts from each pilgrims doorstep, there is no definitive starting point nor distance to be covered. It is not uncommon though to start near the Pyrenees, on the Spanish side, on one of the two branches or indeed where these two routes come together into the one main route. Starting in this general area will entail a hike of some 800Km or 500 miles to Santiago, quite a trek indeed.……. At this point let me just mention three friends, Anabel, Kristina and Pilar, all of these ladies have completed the walk relatively recently, looks like the guys have some catching up to do! Now where did I put my boots…………? 

The Way can be undertaken at any time, but some years are considered special or indeed holy. These are the years when St. James’ Day, the 25th of July, falls on a Sunday. If you want to give it a try and are thinking of choosing a holy year then the good news is that you will have plenty of time to get fit. The next three holy years are 2021, 2027 and 2032!

Although I would love to take the way one day and walk, we actually arrived in Santiago by car. We were met by a couple of friends, Ana and Argi, who showed us around the city. We really couldn’t have had better hosts or guides around the city, so thank you both for that. Not only was Argi born in the city but he knows much of its history. He was able to show us some of the less visited corners and tell us tales of by-gone ages. We were also very fortunate in that we arrived in the Cathedral just as the “Botafumeiro” was being set in motion.

2016 07 68 Santiago Cathedral - Botafumeiro

The Botafumeiro is a enormous thurible that swings over a large arc within the central nave of the Cathedral whilst exuding large clouds of incense. Built in 1851 it is in fact the largest censer in the world weighing in at around 80Kg!  It really is quite a sight and something that should not be missed if you are in the area.

Anyway, back to the cake. This is another recipe from my wife’s Aunt who lives in La Coruña, the first being the “Empanada Gallega” which I published recently. As I mentioned at the start of this article, it is so easy and really is worth a try:

Tarta de Santiago / St. James’ Almond Cake

Serves 8 to 10 people


To make the cake:

300g Sugar

4 Eggs

300g Ground Almonds

½ Lemon

To decorate:

Icing Sugar


½ tsp ground Cinnamon


Grease a 22cm diameter loose bottomed round mould. Place a circle of baking parchment in the bottom.

I used my home-grown almonds so I had to grate mine first. I would recommend a hand grater rather than an electric blender as grating ensures none of the almonds natural oils are released, giving a lighter, free-flowing mixture.


Beat together the yolks of the eggs with the sugar.


Finely grate the lemon rind into the almonds.


Mix together the almonds and lemon rind then beat into the egg yolk mixture.


If you are using cinnamon, beat in now.

Preheat the oven to  180ºC

Beat the egg whites until stiff.


Fold the whites into the beaten yolks.


The whites will mix quickly and easily into the yolks, in spite of the yolks and almond mixture being thick and heavy.

Pour into the prepared mould.


Bake for 45 minutes.

Dust with icing sugar to serve.


It is not uncommon to dust the top of the cake with icing sugar to mark out the shape of the cross of Santiago. If you want to give it a try, please see below an example of how the cake would look and also a drawing of the cross that you can download, cut out and use to create the shape:



If you visit Galicia you will no doubt know to visit Santiago, Pontevedra and the other more famous places. You many know about the “Islas Cies”, given a very good write-up in the Guardian Newspaper or the “Playa de la∫s Catedrales” that both need to be pre-booked as the number of visitors per day is limited. I would also recommend to lesser known towns that are well worth a visit, Mondoñedo and Allariz.

Suggested Links:

Just in case you missed them at the time, here are the other two recipes from our trip to Galicia:


Empanada Gallega


Pulpo a la Gallega


tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml

tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml

Imperial to Metric Measurement:

1 oz – 28g

1 lb – 16 oz – 454g

1 gill – ¼ pint – 142ml

2017 Lincoln W. Betteridge


3 thoughts on “Tarta de Santiago / St. James’ Almond Cake

  1. Pingback: Tarta de Santiago / St. James’ Almond Cake | Other Man's Flavours

  2. Excellent recipe! I tried it and it worked quite well, just a minor adjustment because every oven is different… Quite nice too with the cross and the icing sugar. Wish I could post a picture… Thanks!


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