Here in Spain during the holidays, almonds tend to take center stage. They can be found in all sorts of holiday goodies, from turron to candy covered almonds to, of course, the St. James cake, or tarta de Santiago. This almond cake can really be served at any time of year, and it is seen year round in Galician restaurants, being a cake that is originally from the region of Galicia. Still, for some reason, it just seems to fit better this time of year.
The St. James cake traditionally uses 33%sugar, 33%almonds, and at least %25 eggs. The remaining percentage is what varies from recipe to recipe. Most people add lemon zest and/or cinnamon. Some people add a little bit of wheat flour.
Normally, though, the cake doesn’t use any wheat flour or flours with gluten, so it is a great option for celiacs and others avoiding gluten.
Those who are avoiding white sugar can easily substitute it with other sugars or even honey, like I did. Preparing it with honey converts it into a great recipe for those following GAPS or paleo diets as well.
I find the traditional version of this cake a bit too sweet for my taste, but I’l share the traditional recipe for it, too, for those who want it.
I made mine with honey, not because I follow a GAPS or Paleo diet, but because I’m trying to reduce the amount of processed foods we eat. I believe honey to be a healthier alternative.
Also, the cake is traditionally covered with a sword of St. James cut out of paper, and then a layer of powdered sugar is sprinkled over top. Once the paper is removed, the outline of the sword remains. I did add a layer of powdered sugar to my larger cake, but didn’t add it to my muffins. Obviously the sugar is only decorative, so you can omit it if you prefer.
To be honest, despite the fact that almond cakes are the most popular types of cake served in Spain, I can’t pretend that they are my favorite. I eat them, but they aren’t my first choice. My son, however, loves them, as do most people here.
I saved the small cakes that I had made in the muffin tins for my son’s snack at school, and he kept asking for more, even after the cakes were gone! So, I guess I will have to make these again soon.