Santiago Cake from Two Steps Forward

April 3, 2018
Santiago cake

Santiago Cake is a traditional cake from Spain which I found in the book Two Steps Forward. This is a story set on the centuries-old Camino pilgrimage from France to Spain. It is a story of taking chances and learning to love again.  Read on to get the recipe and find about about the book.

These days novels about long distance walks seem to be becoming popular. Many of them are also films. I recently enjoyed the movies of Wild and Tracks. These are both compelling viewing.
Wild is about Cheryl Strayed’s walk on the  Pacific Crest Trail in America and her journey to find herself. Tracks follows Robyn Davidson’s journey of 1,700 miles. She travels across the Western Australian deserts with camels and her dog. While both are different walks they both face challenges which need to be overcome on the way.
Two Steps Forward is a novel by Australian husband and wife Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist. It is set on the centuries old, El Camino de Santiago or the Way of Saint James. This walk has been a traditional pilgrimage since the middle ages.
The Camino is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes that stretch across Europe. They all lead to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north western Spain. The cathedral contains the tomb of Saint James.
Two steps forward

Two Steps Forward

The novel follows the journey of two main characters, Martin and Zoe, as they walk the Camino. For both of them the walk is almost accidental.  Zoe has gone from California to France to stay with a friend but finds a scallop shell charm in a jewellery shop. The scallop shell is one of the most iconic symbols of the Camino and guides pilgrims along it’s way. Taking this as a sign she decides to walk a short way along the Camino.  Martin, an English engineer wants to test a cart he has developed to help walkers who can’t carry a pack. They both start the walk from Cluny in France.

The story interleaves between both of their stories. The chapters alternate between each of them and their walking days. At first they are like ships that pass in the night. With the miles the Camino pushes them together and pulls them apart. The Camino demands they face their emotional baggage. For Martin the end of his marriage has been difficult. Zoe needs to learn to deal with the death of her husband.

One of the sayings common among those who walk the Camino is:

Use the waymarkers to lead you to Santiago, but use the lessons learned to find your way.

This is true for Martin and Zoe. As they walk the miles they come to terms with themselves and make new friendships along the way.

The book has lovely descriptions of the walk and the characters they meet along the way. The book is both a travelogue and an emotional diary. You feel that you are walking alongside the characters and and seeing the walk though their eyes. It is a fascinating read and makes you want to take on the walk yourself.

I really enjoyed the book and found it difficult to put down. Each chapter bought a new twist to the tale and left me wondering what was going to happen next. The authors have walked the Camino themselves. The details given in the book brought the journey to life.

Food references in the book

Two steps forward has many references to food. This is not surprising, as walking many kilometres every day will make you hungry. With each of the food references different aspects of the journey are highlighted.

Spending the night in a solitary abbey that takes in travellers, a few chilli peppers make a plain pasta more interesting. A night in a hostel means sharing a communal chilli. The challenge is on to see who can eat it hot. The travellers share a moment of togetherness along the journey.

However when making a recipe from the book I chose to make Santiago cake. It is found in the book in the following quote:

Renata was at an outside cafe in Castroverde when I walked in after making an early start. An empty plate was all that remained of her tortilla and she was digging into a slice of Santiago cake, a Galiacian speciality, moist, lightly citrus flavoured and probably flourless.

Santiago cake

Read more: Moroccan Chicken from The Island Escape

Santiago Cake or Tarta de Santiago

Tarta de Santiago is a traditional almond cake from the  Galicia region in Northern Spain. The first reference to it can be found in 1577 under the name Torta Real.The cake is enjoyed by locals and pilgrims walking the  Camino or Saint James’ Way. On top of the cake is the silhouette of Saint James’ cross.

The cake is perfect for serving with a Spanish café con leche (coffee with milk) or as part of an afternoon tea. It also makes a lovely dessert and is often accompanied with a glass of sweet dessert wine. It also goes well with a cup of tea.

Santiago cake

Read more: Chocolate Brownies from a Prayer for the Dead

Santiago Cake Recipe

Santiago cake

Santiago Cake

This is a traditional cake from the Galacia region of Spain which is eaten by pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Servings 8 people


  • 225 g ground almonds
  • 6 large eggs
  • 160 g caster sugar
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 drops almond extract
  • Icing sugar for dusting


  • Preheat the oven to 18OC, Gas Mark 4
  • Grease and line a spring form cake tin with baking parchment
  • Grate the orange and lemon to get the zest and set aside.
  • Separate the egg yolks and whites
  • Add the egg yolks and sugar into a bowl and mix until smooth and creamy
  • Mix in the orange and lemon zest and the almond extract
  • Add the ground almonds and mix well
  • In a separate bowl with clean mixers beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form
  • Fold the egg mixture into the almond mixture. It is quite stiff so mix well
  • Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for forty minutes until firm to the touch.
  • Let the cake cool completely before turning out.
  • Cut a Saint James Cross out of paper and place on top of the cake
  • Dust the cake with icing sugar and then remove the cross. An outline of the cross should be on the cake

 Why not pin the recipe for later?

Santigo cake. This is a delicious moist citrus flavoured cake which is a traditional spanish recipe. Click to get the recipe

Have you ever tried this cake or walked the Camino? Let me know below.

Linking up with Read Cook Eat over on Chez Maximka


Read more:

6 responses to “Santiago Cake from Two Steps Forward”

  1. Both the cake and the book sound just my sort of thing 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    What a beautiful cake! I don’t think I’ve ever tried it, but it sounds delicious. I love anything with almonds. Haven’t read either of these two books, though I’ve just finished a ghost story set in the Himalayas, and it’s also about the arduous journey in the mountains.

  3. 5 stars
    This sounds delicious. Almond is one of my favourite flavours. Haven’t done any walks of this length but used to enjoy walking holidays before the kids were born

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: