Spanish Flourless Almond Cake – Tarta de Santiago

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I decided to take a trip to Spain today, a mental and spiritual trip, that is. We don’t always have the luxury of travel due to time, career, or personal restrictions. But we have the power of imagination and foods that can take us back in time or even to places that we have never been to before. Indeed, food is closely tied to our memories, and food can transport us to other worlds. If you are also longing to get away while indulging in something rather sweet, I have just the thing.

I chose Tarta de Santiago as one of my first recipes on this blog because it hits home for me. This delightfully sweet, moist, and flavorful almond cake most definitely has its roots in Spanish and Moorish cuisines, two worlds that I culturally identify with. I have slightly altered this recipe, which has been passed down from generation to generation, to boost its flavors and give it an Eastern Mediterranean kick.

I also highly suggest spreading fig jam on each layer of the cake just before serving. For an extra treat, spread a layer of light cream cheese frosting over the jam. If you would like to make a double layered cake as pictured, double up the ingredients and prepare separately. I hope you enjoy this personal favorite of mine. And please do share the culinary adventure you experienced.

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INGREDIENTS, SERVES 4-6

4 eggs (separated)
1-1/4 cups (250 g) of granulated white sugar
2 cups (300 g) of ground blanched almonds/ almond meal
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coconut flakes

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F)
2. Lightly grease a 9 in. round cake pan and dust with flour
3. With an electric mixer, mix the egg yolks with the sugar until well combined. Beat in the lemon zest, vanilla, cinnamon, and coconut. Gradually fold in the ground almonds with a baking paddle just until well combined.
4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until peaks are formed.
5. Fold the egg whites into the egg and almond mixture until combined.
6. Pour the cake batter into your pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until thoroughly baked and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
7. Leave to cool on a rack for about 30 minutes before serving. Top with fig jam and a double cream or cream cheese frosting. Recipe follows.

Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting

INGREDIENTS

1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
1/4 cup (57 g) butter (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup (113 g) double cream
1/4 cup (30 g) powdered sugar

METHOD

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until there are no more lumps. Add the double cream and slowly incorporate the powdered sugar into the mixture until smooth.
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NOTES

1. To make 2 layers of cake as pictured, make double the quantity separately.
2. Line base of cake pan with baking paper for easier removal.
3. Be sure to use fresh and high quality eggs. Since this is a flourless cake, using the wrong eggs can have an impact on the flavor.
4. Other flavorings that I have used to substitute the vanilla include orange blossom   water or almond extract.

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