Spanish Almond Cake Recipe or Tarta de Santiago is a traditional Spanish dessert that requires little effort to make. A great dessert to serve with a cup of coffee to end dinner in a glorious way and it's naturally gluten-free!
This cake is part of my collection of Spanish recipes on the blog, where you can find a multitude of dishes to make any time you want to take a culinary trip to Spain.
In addition to many others you will discover Polvorones De Limon- Spanish Traditional Christmas Cookies, Migas Con Chorizo, Carne Con Tomate, or Spanish Cod In Tomato Sauce.
🥧 What is Tarta de Santiago?
Legend has it that this almond cake (tarta de almendras in Spanish) has been around since medieval times. It gets its name from St. James, or Santiago, the patron saint of Spain, who's said to be buried in Santiago de Compostela.
The recipe is a simple one, mostly almonds, sugar, and eggs. That's it! No fuss, no frills, but when these ingredients come together, they create something really special. Sometimes, there is a pinch of cinnamon, and sometimes, not.
This delicious almond cake is traditionally topped off with powdered sugar, and the Cross of Saint James is stenciled right in the middle, making it instantly recognizable.
💝 Why You Will Love This Almond Cake Recipe
- Gluten-Free Almond Cake. This recipe is naturally gluten-free for those who follow a gluten-free diet but tastes amazing so everyone will love it!
- Uses the Authentic Method for Making Almond Cake. I've seen some recipes with beaten egg whites or baking powder added. While there isn't anything wrong with these methods these ingredients aren't how the cake is traditionally prepared.
- Dense Cake Texture. This almond cake cooks up with a dense, yet delicious texture because the ingredients are mixed without whipping the egg whites or adding baking powder to aerate the batter. The cake isn't very tall when cooked, it looks more like an elegant tart.
- Almond flour or almond meal: Choose almond flour made from blanched, skinless almonds for the best texture. Ground almonds, which include skins, will change the cake's texture, so please look for blanched almond flour.
- Eggs: As usual, we use large eggs in our baking. You will need five eggs.
- Sugar: This recipe uses granulated sugar for the cake batter while powdered sugar will be used for dusting the surface of the cake before serving.
- Cinnamon and lemon zest: Cinnamon is optional as some recipe versions include it while others don't. It is a matter of preference. I like cinnamon the warmth the cinnamon gives the cake so it's included in this recipe.
- Butter: Used for greasing the pan before baking the cake.
- Baking pan: A 9-inch tart pan or a 9-inch springform pan. You can cover the bottom of the tin with parchment paper but this is not mandatory especially if your prepared tin has been greased.
🔀Substitutions and Variations
- Can't find almond flour? Don't worry you can make it at home. Buy raw, unsalted almonds and soak them in hot water for 5 minutes. After soaking you can easily peel off the skins, pat them dry, and grind them in a food processor. Be cautious not to over-process into an almond paste. Once ground, the almonds are ready for your cake recipe.
- Prefer more almond flavor? You can add some almond extract for a stronger almond flavor.
👩🍳 How to Make Spanish Almond Cake
There are different methods to make this Almond Cake but we are using the traditional one in this recipe. Make sure you check out the recipe card at the end of this article for the complete list of ingredients and instructions.
- Combine the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
- Mix them together.
- Add the almond flour, lemon zest, and cinnamon to the bowl.
- Mix together gently to create a smooth batter, then place it into the baking pan and bake.
❄️ How to Store
At room temperature: This traditional Spanish almond cake can last for several days and up to a week or more if stored properly. However, it's best to consume it within 2-3 days for optimal taste and texture. It does not need to be refrigerated, but it should be kept in a cool, dry place. You can store it at room temperature in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap.
In the freezer: Freeze Spanish Almond Cake whole or in slices, wrapped in plastic, and stored in a container or freezer bag for up to three months. Do not sprinkle powdered sugar on it if you plan to freeze it. Thaw at room temperature before serving and sprinkle powdered sugar on the surface.
💡 Expert Tips
- Use the Right Almond Flour. You want almond flour made from blanched, skinless almonds for the best color and texture.
- How to Make the Cross of Saint James.Print out a picture of the cross online and then cut it out. Place the cutout cross on top of the cake and then sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar. Carefully remove the stencil.
- Room-Temperature Eggs: Use eggs brought to room temperature for easier mixing and a better texture in your baked almond cake.
- Over-Baking Alert: Almond flour can be a bit tricky. To avoid over-baking, keep an eye on the cake during the final 10 minutes. You can check the doneness of the cake by inserting a toothpick and if it comes out clean you should remove the cake. Over-baked almond flour can turn overly crumbly and dry.
- Almond Flour: Check the freshness of your almond flour. If it's stale or rancid, it can affect the overall taste of the cake. Store almond flour in the fridge to extend its shelf life.
🙋♀️ Recipe FAQs
The original almond cake recipe requires raw Marcona almonds, but any almonds will do if you do not have that type of almond. As I am located in the US, I usually get almond flour at the grocery store.
On July 25th, Spain celebrates the Feast of St. James, a public holiday in the Basque Country and Galicia. It's common to bake Tarta de Santiago, to celebrate this event because it reflects Spain's status as a major almond producer. This cake with protected geographical indication (PGI) status from the EU must be made in Galicia using traditional methods to bear the name Tarta de Santiago.
It is not mandatory to use the cross on top of the cake. I just wanted to show you that this is how it looks traditionally. Most of the time when I make the cake, I only decorate it with slivered almonds and dust it with icing sugar. Keep it simple, and your dessert will be a hit!
🇪🇸 More Spanish Recipes to Love
Spanish Almond Cake (Tarta de Santiago)
- 5 eggs large
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 2 ⅔ cups blanched almond flour
- zest of 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter for the pan
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting the cake
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Rub the bottom and the sides of a 9-inch round cake pan and line it with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is foamy.
- Add the almond flour, cinnamon and lemon zest and fold them in gently to make sure you don't remove the air from the mixture.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Take the cake out of the oven and set it on a cooling rack. Give it a good 10 to 15 minutes to cool down before you attempt to take it out of the pan. Once it's ready, go ahead and sprinkle some powdered sugar over the top.