San Marcos cake, a dessert with almost a thousand years of history

Tarta San Marcos or the San Marcos cake is, without doubt, one of the most traditional cakes in Spain. Its history dates back to the 12th century when the Infanta Sancha Raimúndez of León visited the convent of San Marcos, one of the architectural gems of the city of León due to its striking use of the Plateresque style. This cake was created as a tribute to the Infanta for her contributions that helped to build this temple, which was originally dedicated to the “poor of Christ”, all those pilgrims who made the French Way to Santiago and decided to rest in León.

As far as the recipe is concerned, its antiquity means that there can be no doubt about its unique taste and characteristics. It is, after all, a recipe in which the egg yolk, cream, truffle and syrup are perfectly blended on a simple Genoese sponge base. Below are all the steps so that anyone can enjoy the traditional San Marcos Cake.

Ingredients for the Tarta de San Marcos Recipe:

Ingredients for the Genoese sponge cake:

  • 5 large eggs
  • 250 g of sugar
  • 250 g of sifted flour

Truffle ingredients:

  • 350 ml of whipping cream
  • 60 g of icing sugar
  • 15 g of raw cocoa powder without sugar

Ingredients for whipped cream:

  • 650 ml whipping cream
  • 80 g of icing sugar

Ingredients for the syrup:

  • 200 ml water
  • 150 g of sugar
  • 50 ml rum (optional)

Ingredients for the egg yolk cream:

  • 125 ml water
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 375 g sugar
  • Vanilla essence
  • Juice of half a lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 25 g cornstarch
  • 70 g of raw flaked almonds

How to make it:

This cake consists of numerous steps for its elaboration, however, all of them are simple and do not involve any difficulty. All you have to do is follow the steps described below to make your San Marcos Cake perfect.

It should also be noted that the sponge cake that forms the base of the whole cake must be prepared one day beforehand so that it does not break when the slices are cut to assemble the cake.

Egg yolk cream:

  1. For this simple cream, just put the sugar and water in a saucepan together with the vanilla and lemon juice. The mixture should be put on a medium heat until it starts to boil. Once this is done, let it cook for 1 minute and then remove it from the heat; leaving it to warm for a couple of minutes. In the meantime, beat the yolks with the cornstarch and integrate well, avoiding the lumps.
  2. The next step is to add the syrup that is in the saucepan to the yolks gradually and in the form of a wire, thus preventing the yolks from setting. Now you only have to return the mixture to the saucepan to cook it over medium heat without stopping stirring until it boils and thickens. Once the egg yolk cream has thickened, move it to another container and cover it with cling film to prevent it from crusting. Let it cool down to room temperature.

Syrup to wet the cake:

  1. To make the syrup just add the sugar, water and rum in a saucepan and take it to the heat to boil and thicken slightly, a couple of minutes boiling will be more than enough. Let it cool down before using it on the cake.

Prepare the almonds for decoration:

  1. So that the almonds can extract all their flavour for the exterior decoration of the San Marcos Cake, they must be lightly toasted in the oven, without ever becoming too brown.
  2. To do this, spread out all the sliced almonds on a baking tray and bake at 180°C for 5 minutes or less. Leave to cool and set aside.

Truffle cream:

  1. The truffle cream is part, together with the whipped cream, of the filling of the San Marcos Cake. To prepare it, you only have to put the 350 ml of cream very cold and whip it for a few seconds so that it is semi-creamy. Finally, add the icing sugar and the cocoa powder slowly while continuing to beat the mixture. You should always beat the mixture not too hard! Once everything is well mixed, beat a little faster until it is firm and the truffle cream is ready.

Whipped cream:

  1. Put the cold cream in a bowl and start beating at low speed. Add the icing sugar gradually and when it is incorporated beat it quickly until it is firm. Keep it in the fridge until the last moment.

Putting the cake together:

  1. The last step is to assemble the San Marcos Cake in order to enjoy this delicious traditional dessert. First prepare the dish where you are going to serve the cake, any fairly flat dish will do.
  2. Take the sponge cake and cut it into three sheets of the same thickness. In this way you can fill the two resulting layers with the truffle cream and the whipped cream. Stuff in the order you prefer, in this case the order of the factors does not alter the product. However, before filling, each layer of cake must be wetted with the syrup. In this way you will get a juicy and flavourful cake. You should also bear in mind that you have to keep a little less than half of the whipped cream for decoration.
  3. Once the two layers of the cake have been filled, place the last layer of cake on top; which should also be dipped in the syrup. Finally, spread the egg yolk cream over this last layer; smoothing it out as much as possible so that it is neat.
  4. Once you have spread the cream well, sprinkle it with sugar and finally burn it with a blowtorch if possible, otherwise this is an unnecessary step. Let your San Marcos Cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes so that it settles correctly.
  5. Once the cake has rested, all that remains is to decorate it with the whipped cream that you had reserved. In the image you can see what the traditional decoration looks like, with cream on the sides as well as rosettes on the upper edge of the entire perimeter.
  6. For the last step, put all the almonds around the edge of the whole cake so that it is well covered and decorated. The best thing for this San Marcos cake recipe is that it rests from one day to the next, as is usual for this type of dessert.

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