This cake is a specialty of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The area is famous for the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Santiago translates to English as James and the story is that St. James’s remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where he was buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. There are several routes you can take to Compostela and they were heavily traveled in the Middle Ages. Today people travel from all over the world to walk the route and it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sword of St James
This is a flourless almond cake named after St James. It is usually topped with the symbol of the sword of St James. Although crosses are also appropriate.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
1 cup sugar
1 ¼ cups finely ground almonds
Separate 4 eggs into 2 large bowls.
Beat yolks, gradually incorporating ¾ cup sugar.
Fold in 2 ¼ cups finely ground almonds.
Whisk egg whites until foamy
Gradually beat in ¼ cup sugar and continue to beat until stiff
Stir 1/3 of egg whites into almond mixture, then carfully fold in remaining egg whites in 2 batches.
Pour batter into buttered 9-inch cake pan and bake until done – about 30-35 minutes
I have been reading Dancing in the Fountain by Karen McCann. She and her husband moved to Seville from Ohio and never looked back. Reading her story reminds me of a trip I took to Andalusia years ago. I found the diary I kept of that trip and will share it with you here along with some of the photos I took.
We arrived in Sevilla yesterday. We took a taxi to the hotel and the driver was very nice, showed us some sights on the way, gave us a few tips. My room is small and the window opens onto a terrace bar where live music seems to go on until all hours. Last night we met one of the guitar players who is from Honduras. He left six years ago for political reasons and can’t go back. Not yet, anyway. He is very discouraged with the situation there.
We went through the Cathedral. It is the third largest in the world (first is St Peter’s in Rome, second is someplace in Brazil). It really is a monster! We also walked through the Barrio Santa Cruz and a park outside the Alcazar (Royal Palace – was originally a Moorish Fort). At about 10 pm we took a taxi to a restaurant that was recommended by the barman downstairs. We were the first ones to arrive and had a delicious dinner for almost no money. Everything is inexpensive, at least in dollars.
Today we climbed to the top of the Giralda (the Cathedral’s bell tower) first thing in the morning. It is quite a climb but there is a fantastic view of the city from the top. And while we were up there the bells rang. Very loud.
We did a lot of walking around town, had a simple dinner, and stopped in for an after dinner drink at the bar downstairs. The barman insisted we have a drink on him. He is a little middle-aged man with coke bottle glasses who loves to talk and is very “cute”. He has invented sixty-two different drinks and has won both national and local awards for them. He has seven children and two grandchildren. His oldest child is 24 and his youngest is 12. In his life his wife comes first.
He fixed us a drink with crème de menthe, orange juice with gas, and one other liquer that he could not divulge to us. It was delicious.
I LOVE SPAIN!!
I bought some postcards and a wineskin from a man in a tourist shop this afternoon. Tonight when we were looking at the menu outside a restaurant, a man come up to me and said “Hello, how are you? Do you remember me? You bought some things from me this afternoon.” I was so surprised at first I thought he must be somebody I knew and then I figured out who he was. The people here have that je ne sais quoi that makes you tingle.
Since the friend I am traveling with is Mexican, it was interesting to go see the Archivo de Indios where we saw plans for different cities in Latin America. We saw the plans for the Zocalo in Mexico City and the Castle. Afterwards we walked through a beautiful park and saw the Plaza de Espana. It was built for a World’s Fair in 1929 but because of the stock market crash, it never happened.
We arrived in Cordoba by train. They are having a fair here now and I think everybody in Spain has come to be in Cordoba. After having a beer and relaxing for a while we headed to the Mesquita. That place is incredible. You just have to laugh at the stupidity of the human race. Imagine ruining something so beautiful to put in a catholic church that really is nothing to look at. The arches of the Moors and what is left of the mosaics are so beautiful that it really is a shame it wasn’t left alone. But it is interesting. The contrasts are very strong.
Our last evening in Cordoba, I waved goodbye to my friend who had to return to The Hague. I left the next morning on my own for Grenada on the bus.
The bus stopped just about everywhere along the way to Granada. We came through Baen and Priego. I swear the only way to see a country is by bus. The countryside was beautiful. Millions of olive trees, millions of red poppies, winding mountain roads, hills dotted with castles, white-washed farm houses. Priego is a small city up in the mountains that has a beautiful view and a little river that cuts its way through a gulch.
In Granada I got in a taxi with a driver who was a real sourpuss and he just dropped me at the bottom of the hill so I had to climb up to the hotel. I have a very nice room with a large bathroom and window that looks out onto a small patio. I like it.
Granada is surrounded by mountains. I am staying right below the entrance to the Alhambra, the Cathedral is about 2 blocks away and the Albacin is right across the street. I can’t believe how perfect it is. Granted I probably won’t see everything Granada has to offer but I will see what is important to me. The Alhambra awaits me.
Something I can’t believe is these Spaniards reek of garlic. At 10 in the morning. I can’t imagine what they have for breakfast. Or, maybe they just eat so much of it, it comes out of their pores.
First thing this morning I trekked up the mountain to the Generalife. It has some beautiful manicured gardens and a nice view of the Alhambra. Then I walked over to the Alhambra itself. Its gardens are also beautiful and the view from there is something else. The Casa Real has some nice carved archways and ceilings and the baths have colorful tiles. I saw the room where Washington Irving wrote “Tales of the Alhambra”. But really what I liked the most were the gardens and pools and fountains.
That afternoon I went to the Cathedral where Ferdinand and Isabel are buried in the Capilla Real. There were a bunch of kids being guided around by their teacher. When they came to the big statue of Ferdinand and Isabel lying on their deathbeds, she told them to notice that Isabel’s head had sunk deeper into the pillow than Ferdinand’s. That was because she was smarter than he was and so her head weighed more. Made me laugh!
I got on the train back to Sevilla and I couldn’t figure out the seating. It looked like I was in the right place but the seats didn’t match up and I couldn’t understand if they were assigned or not. There was another guy in the car who seemed to be having the same problem. We communicated in Spanish the whole time we were trying to figure out where to sit. When we finally decided on a place to sit, turns out he was from Washington State. A gringo! He spent time in the Peace Corps in Colombia and traveled around Latin America but this was his first trip to Europe. We compared notes and agreed on how similar Spain is to Mexico and Latin America in general. “The children are like their parents”. He was gong to Ronda and then on the Gibralter so we parted ways about halfway through the trip.
The next morning I was flying out of Seville into Amsterdam. My Mexican friend called me early in the morning to tell me Schipol Airport was on strike. Instead of flying to Amsterdam, I had to go to Madrid and try to get to someplace close from there.
I got a taxi to the airport and the driver went on and on about how I should really spend two months in Sevilla to really appreciate it and all about the festivals and how wonderful it really is. Sevilla is really geared for tourism. At the airport I told them to just check my bag to Madrid because of the strike and they hadn’t even heard about it so it was lucky my friend had called.
In Madrid I managed to get on a flight to Brussels so I went to telephone my friend to let her know. It took me a while to figure out the phone. Finally I asked a very nice man what I was doing wrong and he told me I was using the wrong coins so I had to get change and go back and start over. I finally reached my friend and she said fine, Case would meet me. I had no idea who that was but, OK!
My flight was delayed for 4 hours so I went back and called my friend again. This time she told me Case was very tall and very Oriental. Finally I arrived in Brussels and fought my way out of a packed luggage area and walked through a crowd of people looking for a very tall Chinese guy. I got to the door and was just standing there wondering what I should do because I hadn’t seen anybody fitting that description and all of a sudden there appeared before me an Indonesian man of average height asking me if I was looking for Case. I was so relieved! And so was he!