Last weekend, Wheaton students had the opportunity to embark on a digital Camino de Santiago, celebrating Easter and connecting with God while walking in nature. This weekend, thanks to Senior Lecturer of Spanish Sharenda Barlar, we have the added treat of experiencing one of the delicious “tastes” of the Camino — the Tarta de Santiago!
Profe Barlar said the tarta is “an almond cake, served warm or just room temperature. People often eat it in the middle of walking the Camino. They’ll take a break and have the tarta with café con leche.” The dish, made with almond flour and almond extract, is about two inches thick and shaped like a little pie.
“It’s very dense and crumbly,” Profe Barlar said. “I’ve never had anything like it before, and I think that’s why it’s always a hit. It’s just delicious.” What makes the almond cake extra special, Profe Barlar adds, is that the powdered sugar sprinkled on top forms the outline of the “Cruz de Santiago” (or “cross of Santiago”), which is a special marker for St. James.
If you are unfamiliar with the Camino de Santiago, it is a pilgrimage, most popularly traveled in July and August, to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Northwest Spain. According to legend, the remains of the Apostle Saint James are buried in the city. The journey attracts people from all over the world, and, though there are many routes and starting points, the most famous is the Camino Frances, a 500-mile-long route which takes about five weeks to walk.
Profe Barlar has been traveling with Wheaton students to Spain and the Camino de Santiago since 2000. Having spent her formative years in Uruguay as a missionary kid, Profe Barlar says that she enjoys Spanish culture because it feels “very much like home” for her. She explains that “Uruguay has a lot of Spanish expats because, during the Civil War in Spain, people fled to get away from Franco.”
Due to this, Spanish and Uruguayan culture are very interconnected. For example, many of the foods Profe Barlar grew up eating, like Spanish paella (a rice dish) and tortilla española (an omelet made with potatoes and eggs), are widely enjoyed in both countries. Additionally, the way people greet each other in Uruguay, using the “vosotros” verb form, is the same as in Spain.
Because Spanish culture is very reminiscent of the Uruguayan lifestyle so dear to Profe Barlar’s heart, she deeply enjoys taking students to Spain. She says that when she goes on these trips, “It’s almost like I’m introducing people to everything that I love. I’m always so excited when I have new students and I get to share all of these things with them. And, hopefully it will rub off on them, and they will end up loving it, too.” She adds that, because of these study abroad opportunities in Spain, “We’ve had so many students end up being missionaries in Spain or end up working overseas because they’ve just fallen in love with the culture and fallen in love with the language. So, that makes me feel like I’m doing my job.”
Although traveling to Spain is not possible this year, Profe Barlar is bringing a little bit of Spain to us. If you want to try out the yummy, traditional almond cake that is served on the Camino de Santiago — here is your chance to have it right in your own home. Below is the recipe that Profe Barlar’s daughter, Claire, often uses to make the delicious Tarta de Santiago for the Barlar family.
Tarta de Santiago Recipe:
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Zest of one lemon, finely grated
2 cups almond flour/meal
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup powdered sugar for decorating
Position rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch cake or springform pan with parchment paper and set aside. The smaller pan size will yield a slightly higher cake. It is best to use a light-colored baking pan as the darker pans will cause the bottom and sides of the cake to brown much faster than the top.
In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar with a whisk or with an electric mixer at medium speed. Continue beating until mixture is thick and pale yellow, about 5 min. by hand or 4 min. with a mixer. Beat in almond extract and lemon zest until smooth and uniform.
With wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir in almond flour and salt and mix gently just until the eggs are well incorporated. Do not beat. Pour batter into the prepared pan, spreading it gently.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry. Set pan over a wire rack and allow to cool before unmolding.
Unmold the cake onto a serving platter. Using a stencil of the cross of St. James and a small sieve, dust with powdered sugar. Be careful lifting the stencil to avoid the sugar on top of the stencil falling on to the cake.
*recipe taken from Tastes of the Camino by Yosmar Monique Martinez