Recipe and photos contributed to Hispanic Kitchen by Veronica Shine
The Easter holiday has left an imprint on holiday cooking, and Spain, a predominantly Catholic nation, is certainly an example of this. Semana Santa (Holy Week) has not only had obvious effects on Spain for centuries, but has transcended time in cultural practices that continue even today in all forms, including food.
The Tarta de Santiago, for instance, is a popular Spanish dessert that is believed to date back to medieval times. Named in honor of the apostle, St. James, the patron saint of Spain, this cake is made with ingredients typical in many Iberian desserts such as egg, lemon and almonds.
It also incorporates the image of the St. James cross (similar to the shape of a fleur-de-lis) made by placing a paper or cardboard cutout of the cross onto the finished dessert and sprinkling the entire cake with powdered sugar. When the cutout is removed, what remains is a symbolic and culinary reminder of what Spain is known for.
Steeped in history and infused with tradition, Tarta de Santiago is a dessert especially popular in Santiago, located in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain.
It is not a light and airy type of cake, but rather thick and rich, and ideal for indulging with a cup of coffee. Tarta de Santiago is nearly fail-proof to bake and is a traditional Spanish dessert served during Holy Week.
2 2/3 cups almonds
3/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
8 tbsp butter (at room temperature)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup water
1 lemon grind
Zest of 1 lemon
1. Take almonds, and place them in a grinder or food processor to create a fine powder. Set aside.
2. Heat oven to 350ºF degrees. Grease a round 8″ spring-form pan.
3. Cream the butter with sugar until fluffy.
4. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs one at a time.
5. Stir in flour, ground almonds and lemon zest.
6. Add butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, and water and stir until thoroughly mixed into a batter.
7. Pour batter into cake pan.
8. Bake for about 45-50 minutes.
9. Insert a toothpick and make sure it comes out clean. Allow to cool.
10. Sprinkle the juice of one lemon over the top.
11. Decorate with powdered sugar.
The traditional way to decorate the Tarta de Santiago is to sprinkle powdered sugar around a cutout of the insignia Cross of the Order of Santiago. Fold a clean piece of paper in half, draw a vertical half of the fleur-de-lis cross along the folded edge, and cut out. Place the stencil in the center and dust around it with powdered sugar.