I first tasted Tarta de Santiago (‘cake of St James’) in the back streets of Madrid, but it was at London’s Borough Market that I really fell for its charms. There are few finer ways to spend an hour on a Thursday afternoon than with a flat white from Monmouth or Elliot’s and a sliver of flourless almond cake from beneath the glass canister on the counter of the Brindisa store. I’d often find myself still licking cinnamon and icing sugar from my fingertips while looking out across the Thames to St Pauls – and occasionally pinching myself. Life can sometimes be very sweet. An authentic Tarta de Santiago is flavoured with orange, though I find the genial twinkle of clementine works just as well. A pile of poached clementine segments are just the thing to place in the centre of the cake prior to serving. Meanwhile, the syrup makes an excellent sticky drizzle (and any left over is a real treat as a base for a cocktail – try shaking a dribble of it with gin and Campari over ice).
220 g caster sugar
250 g ground almonds
grated zest of 1 clementine or mandarin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
250 g caster sugar
600 ml water
icing sugar, for dusting
25 g roughly chopped almonds
23-cm springform cake tin, greased and lined with
To poach the clementines, wash them and then prick
them with a fork at the top, the bottom and 5 times
around the circumference of the fruit.
Take a saucepan large enough to hold the clementines.
Put the sugar and water in the pan over low heat and
stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the clementines
and simmer, uncovered, for 30–45 minutes, rotating
them occasionally until the skins are very soft and
a fork easily slides in. Allow the clementines to cool
in the syrup until they are cool enough to handle.
Slip the fruit from the skins and remove any obvious
pips. Place the segments in a bowl and return the
skins to the sugar syrup. Simmer the syrup for another
20 minutes until it has reduced by half. Now you can
either chop the skins into slivers and disperse them
through the syrup, or discard them.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas 4.
Put the eggs and sugar in a bowl and use an electric
whisk to beat them until thick and pale. Fold in the
ground almonds, fresh clementine or mandarin zest
Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake tin and
bake in the preheated oven for 40–45 minutes or until
a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Set the
tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the
cake from the tin.
Serve the cake warm and dusted with icing sugar,
with the poached clementine segments, warm syrup,
chopped almonds and some Greek yoghurt.
TIP: Beyond clementines, you could also tweak the
recipe by using lemon, lime or orange zest. Or triple
the quantity of cinnamon and add some ground
ginger and allspice for a Christmassy twist.
Photography by Chris Chen