When it comes to traditional Spanish desserts, one that stands out is the Tarta de Santiago. This almond cake hails from the region of Galicia in northwest Spain and is known for its rich flavor and unique history. In this article, we will explore the origins of Tarta de Santiago, delve into its recipe, and discover why it has become a beloved dessert not only in Spain but around the world.

The Origins of Tarta de Santiago

The Tarta de Santiago, also known as the St. James Cake, has a long and fascinating history. It is closely associated with the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of St. James the Apostle are said to be buried. The cake is believed to have been created by Franciscan monks in the 16th century as a treat for pilgrims.

Legend has it that the recipe for Tarta de Santiago was discovered by a pilgrim who found it hidden inside a wall of a monastery. The recipe was then shared with the world, and the cake became a symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

The Traditional Tarta de Santiago Recipe

The Tarta de Santiago recipe has been passed down through generations, and while there may be slight variations, the core ingredients and preparation remain the same. Here is a traditional recipe for Tarta de Santiago:


  • 250g ground almonds
  • 250g sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until well combined.
  3. Add the ground almonds, lemon zest, and cinnamon to the bowl and mix until smooth.
  4. Grease a round cake tin and pour the batter into it.
  5. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool completely.
  7. Once cooled, remove the cake from the tin and dust with powdered sugar.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

This simple yet delicious recipe results in a moist and flavorful cake with a distinct almond taste. The dusting of powdered sugar on top adds a touch of sweetness and elegance to the final presentation.

Why Tarta de Santiago is Beloved Worldwide

Tarta de Santiago has gained popularity not only in Spain but also around the world. Here are a few reasons why this traditional dessert has captured the hearts and taste buds of people everywhere:

1. Rich History and Cultural Significance

The Tarta de Santiago is deeply rooted in the history and culture of Galicia and the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It serves as a symbol of the journey and the traditions associated with it. People from all walks of life, whether they are pilgrims or not, can appreciate the significance of this cake and the stories it carries.

2. Gluten-Free Option

One of the reasons Tarta de Santiago has gained popularity is its gluten-free nature. The cake is made primarily with ground almonds, which makes it a suitable dessert for those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. This has made it a go-to choice for individuals looking for delicious gluten-free desserts.

3. Versatility and Adaptability

While the traditional Tarta de Santiago recipe is cherished, it has also inspired variations and adaptations. Chefs and home bakers have experimented with different flavors and ingredients, adding their own personal touch to the cake. From chocolate-infused versions to those incorporating fruits or liqueurs, the possibilities are endless. This versatility has allowed the Tarta de Santiago to evolve and remain relevant in modern culinary trends.


1. Can I substitute the ground almonds with another type of nut?

While the traditional recipe calls for ground almonds, you can experiment with other nuts if you prefer. Ground walnuts or hazelnuts can be used as substitutes, but keep in mind that they will alter the flavor and texture of the cake.

2. Is Tarta de Santiago difficult to make?

Tarta de Santiago is relatively easy to make, even for novice bakers. The recipe requires only a few ingredients and simple steps. As long as you follow the instructions and pay attention to the baking time, you should be able to achieve a delicious result.

3. Can I freeze Tarta de Santiago?

Yes, you can freeze Tarta de Santiago. Once the cake has cooled completely, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container before freezing. When you’re ready to enjoy it, let it thaw at room temperature before serving.

4. Can I serve Tarta de Santiago with any accompaniments?

Tarta de Santiago is delicious on its own, but you can enhance the experience by serving it with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The creamy accompaniments complement the nutty flavors of the cake and add a touch of indulgence.

5. Is Tarta de Santiago only enjoyed during the pilgrimage?

While Tarta de Santiago is closely associated with the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, it is enjoyed throughout the year in Galicia and beyond. The cake has become a staple dessert in many Spanish households and is also served in restaurants and pastry shops. Its popularity has transcended the pilgrimage and has become a beloved treat for all occasions.


Tarta de Santiago is a traditional Spanish almond cake with a rich history and cultural significance. Its origins are closely tied to the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, and the recipe has been passed down through generations. The cake’s gluten-free nature, versatility, and delicious flavor have made it a beloved dessert worldwide. Whether you’re a pilgrim or simply a lover of desserts, Tarta de Santiago is a treat that should not be missed.