I ate it first for my birthday at Barlata, where I knew that if the year brought the Camino, it would also bring this cake. I ate it on a stormy night in Navarette, sharing a table with a boisterous German man named Tony who ordered extra garlic for both his soup and mine and told me stories I was tempted to disbelieve. I ate it on checker-clothed tables in humble albergues and while sitting at a picnic table in a tiny village a day’s walk toward the coast, the clothes hanging on the line behind me. I ate it on the last night of my Camino in Finisterre at the end of a meal that offered no seafood, though the ocean was roaring just past our shoulders. And finally, rushing in the rain toward the Santiago cathedral for a pilgrim’s mass in which the giant incense burner would sail in the air, I stopped for a quick coffee. The barista placed a tiny wedge of cake on the saucer beside my espresso cup. Back home, months later, I took advantage of a quiet Sunday afternoon and baked my own tarta de Santiago. The cross of St. James was designed by Chris and cut out of an index card. He used a butter knife to lift it from the sugar-dusted cake.
February 1, 2015