Friday, February 13, 2015

Cooking from the Heart

Valentine's Day is tomorrow and I'm sure most of you are going out to a lovely dinner in a fancy restaurant. But if you decide to forgo the madness of the day and stay home for a quiet, romantic dinner instead, consider making something that you love.  This is not a time to worry about calories or sugar and fat content, it's a time to make something you love to eat and love to make.  After all, isn't Valentine's Day all about love?

I love to eat and cook lots of different things, but one of the things that I love most are sweets.  I especially love a good, moist cake.  But often times cakes can be somewhat labor intensive and your end result can still be dry and not very satisfying.

But not the case with this wonderful, flourless almond cake.  I have fallen in love with this cake because of the delightful flavors of almond and citrus and because it's a breeze to make. It is known as a Tarta de Santiago and hails from that region of Spain.  It's such a simple cake to make and a guaranteed crowd pleaser.  It can be served with fresh berries or simply by itself with a nice cup of tea.
Tarta de Santiago-- Flourless Almond Cake
This is a recipe I found on Epicurious when I needed a gluten-free cake for a client.  The recipe was very good although I did tweak some things.  Here are the few ingredients for this cake:
6 eggs separated
8 oz Almond Meal
1 1/4 cups Sugar (divided)
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Almond Extract
Zest & Juice of 1 Orange and 1 Lemon
Equal part of Sugar for the juice of the orange and lemon for a syrup
Ingredients needed for Flourless Almond Cake
I preheat the oven to 350 degrees and the gather all the ingredients.   I prepare my pan which is a 9 or 10 inch spring-form pan: I spray it, line it with a parchment round and then spray the parchment.
Sprayed pan and parchment round

Spray the parchment round.  This method of spraying then lining with parchment and then spraying again is also known as S/P/S
I first beat the egg whites with 1/4 cup of sugar, salt & Cream of Tartar.  I "rain" the sugar in slowly and then beat until I have peaks that stand and the whites look glossy.
Beat egg whites on high with sugar, salt and Cream of Tartar

Beat egg whites until peaks stand and it looks glossy
I transfer the egg whites to a bowl and in the same mixing bowl (no need to rinse) I beat the yolks with the remaining sugar, again raining it in slowly until it becomes thick and light.  I scrape the sides and bottom of bowl half way through beating.
"Raining" in sugar to egg yolks

Notice how pale yellow the egg yolk and sugar mixture have become

Then I add in the zests, the vanilla and almond extracts and beat well.  Then in goes the almond meal. I get my almond meal at Trader Joe's and it's not blanched which gives the final cake a nutty brown look as opposed to a lighter, more yellow appearance had I used blanched almond meal.  The flavor is the same but the Trader Joe's unblanched almond meal is significantly cheaper than blanched almond meal.  Once I add in the almond meal the mixture becomes really thick like cookie dough.
Almond meal added to beaten egg yolks and sugar

Notice how thick the mixture becomes once combined
Orange and lemon zest.  Beat this in along with the extracts.

I add the egg whites in 3 parts.  I add the first third with the mixer on low to lighten the mixture.  The next third further lightens the batter.  I fold in the  the final third by hand to make sure I get all the almond mixture that's on the bottom of the bowl.  As always when I work with egg whites, I try not to deflate them too much as they are the leavening for the cake.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.
While the cake bakes I make the citrus syrup that I will later brush the cake with.  I juice the fruit and measure it.  I add the same amount of sugar, place it all in a pan and bring it to a boil and then set aside.
Juice the zested lemon and orange and then stain the juice

Measure juice and add equal amount of sugar

Place juice and sugar into saucepan

Bring juice and sugar to boil to dissolve sugar and remove from heat.
After 40 minutes I remove cake from oven even though the cake seems a little jiggly.  When I insert a toothpick it comes out clean.  Also it starts to pull away from the sides so I know it's done.

Cake just out of oven.  It will pull away from sides especially as it cools.

While the cake is still hot I carefully brush the top with he hot citrus syrup.  Brush on a fair amount but you will not use up all the syrup.  The cake will collapse a little as it cools.  

Brush cake carefully with hot citrus syrup.  This will add flavor and moistness to cake.  Brush on a fair amount even though you will not use it all up

Notice how much cake pulls away from edges.  Cool completely in pan

I cool it fully in the pan.  When I remove it I carefully peel off the parchment and place it on a serving plate.  Sometimes I leave the cake plain and serve berries on the side.  In this case I place blueberries on top of the cake and then carefully brushed the berries with the citrus syrup.  This cake is great served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Cake decorated with blueberries and then blazed with citrus syrup

Tarta de Santiago with Blueberries and Citrus Glaze
This Valentine's Day go ahead and make something you love and give it as a gift to someone you love (this person can be you by the way).  There is nothing better than a homemade gift from the heart.  Let me know if  you make truffles or heart shaped ravioli just remember to have a great time doing it.  Happy Cooking!


  1. Sounds wonderful Onil.Now if I can rouse myself out of the cushy couch...
    Thanks for posting these recipes.Made your pork shoulder in the crock pot.
    Reinventing it again as a soup with added broth and Vegies for tonight.

    1. Thanks so much. Please let me know how your pork shoulder turned out.

  2. I love the citrus glaze! I'll give it a try, thanks Onil.

    1. Yes, that citrus glaze is delicious and nice drizzled on lots of stuff. Please let me know if you make the cake and how it turns out.