For my first attempts at baking this cake many, many years ago I used a recipe that included butter and very pleasant it was too. Then someone from Spain told me that I should try it without the butter and that’s the way I prefer to make it now. This version is light, moist, simple, flourless and, admittedly, a little fragile.
Although you can serve it very successfully with tea or coffee, this cake comes into its own as an excellent and easy dessert at any time of the year and after pretty much any sort of main course. You can serve it with cream, custard, yogurt or ice cream. You can also serve it with either fresh fruit or, even better I think, a seasonal fruit compote. Apricots poached in syrup with a dash or three of amaretto work especially well. I've even known some people to serve it alongside young, fresh-tasting cheeses.
Traditionally, the cake should be sprinkled generously with icing sugar while a template is laid across the top in the shape of the St James cross. It’s a lovely tradition but I never use the template since it implies to me that I know what I'm doing and that I’ve made a genuine and authentic Tarta de Santiago. I’d never claim that.
You can use orange instead of lemon zest or a combination of both if you’d prefer. If I was being authentic I'd add cinnamon to the mix, but I prefer it without.
4 eggs, separated
200 g golden caster sugar
200 g ground almonds
Zest of 1 lemon
4 or 5 drops of almond extract
Icing sugar to finish
Carefully butter and line the base of a 20 cm cake tin. A springform tin is probably easiest – it doesn’t need to be very deep. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together thoroughly. They should be very light in colour by the time you’ve finished. Sift the ground almonds to get rid of any lumps and stir them into the egg yolks. Then stir in the zest and almond extract. (The mixture will be quite firm at this stage). Whisk the egg whites to the stiff peak stage. Stir a few spoonfuls of the egg whites into the almond and egg mixture to loosen it and then fold in the rest.
Put the mixture into the prepared tin, level the top and bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes. Test with a skewer or the point of a knife. The skewer should come out clean but ideally the inside of the cake should remain moist and just a little squidgy. If the cake seems to be darkening too quickly during cooking, cover it loosely with foil after 15 minutes or so.
Allow the cake to cool a little in the tin before removing carefully to a cooling rack. Once cold, dust the cake generously with icing sugar (with or without a template in place).
‘T’ is the chosen letter in this month’s AlphaBakes challenge hosted by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker (the host for this month’s challenge) and Caroline from Caroline Makes. So I'm submitting the Tarta as my entry.