Saint Mark Cake (12th Century Recipe)




About: I'm currently studying Coastal Engineering, I'm crazy for miniatures and dioramas, and I see a opportunity of improvement in every broken thing.

Saint Mark cake is one of the most popular traditional cakes from Spain. It was first made in the 12th century in the convent of Saint Mark in León (Spain). The convent was founded by the queen Sancha to host pilgrims of the Way of Saint James on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The cake was traditionally made for Saint Mark's day (April 25th), but as the centuries passed by it became a cake for any other occasion.

The recipe is a little labourious, having to prepare four components, but the final taste is unforgettable.

Step 1: Ingredients


140g Sugar

160g Self raising flour

4 Large eggs

40g (3 tbsp) Butter


200ml Water

200g Sugar

100-150ml Liquor


180g Sugar

60ml Water

4 Egg yolks

7g Cornstarch

1/2 tsp Vanilla extract (not really needed; be careful when adding extracts because you can accidentally put too much)

600g Whipping cream

160g Sugar

2 tbsp Cocoa powder

Step 2: Sponge Cake (classic Genoise Sponge Cake)

The base for the cake will be a classic Genoese sponge cake. It's the easiest and most effective recipe for a sponge cake that I know. I like it because it always rises a lot, has a very spongey texture and does not have a strong taste, so it's good for soaking and adding other flavours on its surface.

- Separate the egg yolks from the whites.

- Mix the egg yolks with the sugar until you get a smooth mix.

- Melt the butter and add it to the mix.

- Add the self-raising flour and mix.

- In another bowl, whisk the egg whites and add them to the other ingredients making gentle circular moves (we want to keep the foamy texture of the whites).

- Put the mix in a mold (20cm / 8 inches) for about 30 minutes at 180ºC (355ºF).

- Take it out of the oven and once it has cooled down cut it into 3 layers.

Step 3: Soaking Syrup

- Put the sugar, water nd liquor in a pot and bring the mix to boil.

- Once all the sugar has dissolved, turn off the stove and let it cool.

Step 4: Toasted Yolk Topping

- Bring to boil the water and sugar in a pot. Cook it for about 5 minutes.

- Remove to pot form the stove and let it cool down a bit.

- Beat the egg yolks along with the cornstarch.

- Incorporate the yolks to the pot and stir rapidly so that they don't get cooked before you have mixed them in.

- Cook this mix at very low temperature until it thickens, stirring often so that the bottom does not get burnt.

- Let it cool down to room temperature.

Step 5: Sweetened Whipped Cream Filling

- Whip the cream and add the sugar at the end.

- Divide the whipped cream into two bowls: 2/3 for one layer of the filling and the coating; 1/3 for the chocolate layer of the filling.

- Add the powdered cocoa to the 1/3 of the whipped cream.

- Keep both bowls in the fridge until you assemble the cake.

Step 6: Assembling the Cake

In order to get a perfect flat top, I flip the sponge cake upside down to change the order of the layers. Like this, the uneven top surface is now touching the dish and the flat bottom surface of the sponge cake is the one on top.

I like to put the sides of the springform mould I baked the cake in around the cake while assembling it. Like this the layers will remain aligned and no cream will fall down the sides, but the main reason why I do it is because you can gently push the cake layer to distribute and level the cream beneath it, making sure that it has the same thickness and has no air gaps.

- Put the first layer of the sponge cake on the dish and soak it with the syrup.

- Put all the chocolate cream on top.

- Put the middle layer of the sponge cake. Push it downwards to level the previous cream layer. Soak it with the syrup.

- Put half of the white cream on top.

- Put the last layer of sponge cake. Push it downwards to level the previous cream layer. Soak it with the syrup.

- Cover the top with the toasted yolk.

- Remove the mould and cover the sides with the rest of the whipped cream. You can also put sliced or chopped almonds on the sides to add a crunchy texture to the cake.

- Dust some caster sugar on top. If you want, you can also toast this sugar with a kitchen blowtorch or spray a little vodka on top and flambe it.

Step 7: Enjoy

I know that it may seem like a lot of work for such a simple cake, but once you try it you will love it.

I give you a 100% guarantee that your favourite part will be the yolk topping!

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    24 Discussions


    19 days ago

    This is on my to - bake lists!


    23 days ago on Step 7

    This look soooo good, thank you! Going to make it for Easter and use either Kahlua or Bailey's Irish Cream........yum! If I make it with Kahlua I think I'll add some instant coffee with the chocolate. Dang I want some right now!

    2 replies

    Reply 23 days ago

    Wow, that's such a great idea (っ˘ڡ˘ς)

    Everyone in my family loves to put a little bit of Bailey's cream in their after-lunch coffee, so I think I'm going to try it too!


    Reply 23 days ago

    Sounds like my kind of lunch. But then there is breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner ;-}. A bed time snack sounds yummy too but then there's the caffeine, darn!


    23 days ago

    What is cornstarch please, is it the same as corn flour? Also what type of liquor, or do you mean the highly flavoured liqueur which would make more sense and add some flavouring to a cake which, and I really like Genoese sponge and often make it, otherwise fsiurly tasteless. Certainly monasteries were making a form of liqueurs at this time for medicinal purposes using sundry herbs from the gardens. A lavender or rose flavoured liqueur would be lovely in this recipe (and lose the chocolate which would spoil it completely).

    1 reply

    24 days ago

    The title says 12th Century Recipie. Unfortunately they didn’t have self-rising flour in the 12th century, as it wasn’t invented until 1845. I wonder how the cake would have been made using ingredients readily available in the 12th century?

    6 replies

    Reply 24 days ago

    No, but they had yeast and time. Rising was a matter of hours and days. They could make cakes, but surely not as fast as we can make them nowadays, not at home, not easy, but still could make them.


    Reply 24 days ago

    the rising isn't the only issue with this XIIth century recipe, the rising process could be as the Genoise' one, arrived in Spain around 1747, but more interesting question is about sugar, not really available at that time, and chocolate not yet discovered...... for the brandy, not sure too !


    Reply 24 days ago

    When someone wanted to add sweetness to any cooking, honey was the main (and probably only) option in Europe back at those times. Beekeeping was a common practice in many abbeys and convents, so they could have used honey instead of sugar.

    The cane sugar plantations could be found mainly in India and some other Arab countries. The product that was extracted from the plant was a liquid that had the same texture as honey. In order to make transport easier and cheaper, Indians found a way to crystalize it back in the 5th century.

    The introduction of cane sugar in Spain may have happened due to:
    - the presence of Arabs in the Iberian peninsula from the 8th to the 15th century in what was called Al-Andalus. The Arab word for sugar was "sukkar", which is the origin of the Spanish "azúcar".
    - the crusades in Palestina during the 12th century. They started to bring this product in larger quantities, however, it was very expensive and reserved for the high class. Considering that it all started as a cake they cooked only on Saint Marks day and that the convent was at the service of a queen, sounds a bit more affordable.

    Brandy has its origin in finding a way to transport wine more efficiently. They would distil wine to get a higher alcohol content per barrel, transport it, sell each barrel for a higher price and then it was served in taberns diluted with water. They soon found out that the taste of this distiled wine improved as it spent more time in the barrel. Distilling wine was a process that was already done by the ancient Greeks,but it's not really clear how Brandy was created.

    It's clear that the cocoa layer is a later addition. I actually know a few people that make the cake with two white cream layers. Many recipes change in time; for example, these "Rice pies" traditionally made with rice flour, but with no trace of rice in them anymore.


    Reply 23 days ago

    Hi yes, whilst sugar did exists in Europe in the 12th century the price of it made it only accessible by the noble classes. It should also be noted that crumbling cakes do not appear until much later in history. At best you get sweetened breads but this recipe straight up does not fit into the culture that we know of in the 12th century.


    Reply 24 days ago

    Agreed. I guess I misinterpreted your use of the title. Obviously this is a modern recepie which attempts to reproduce the original, rather than baking using an original 12th century recepie. Somehow I things the latter would have been much more interesting. Otherwise it’s just another recepie.


    Reply 24 days ago

    The main purpose of beating the egg whites until they are stiff and adding them slowly into the mixture is to give the cake the sponge-like structure.

    When making the cake, you can observe how the batter goes from dense to foamy after adding the whisked whites and the volume increases up to double. This should be enough to get a sponge cake. I add some baking powder too because I want to cut the cake into three layers and I want to make sure it rises as much as possible.


    23 days ago

    very intresting recipe - I will try it soon!
    For the remaining egg whites I suggest a sweet journey to Sweden with the "Killevipp" recipe:
    oh we could cover europe by that way - from Spain to Sweden - what country is next in line? suggestions anybody?


    Question 24 days ago on Introduction

    I would like to make this for my son when he next visits because we did part of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela together, but the download for the pdf is not working. It looks lovely, would you be able to fix it?

    2 answers

    Answer 24 days ago

    I get the same error when trying to download the pdf of any other instructable on the website, so I guess it's and internal technical problem and the only thing we can do is wait till they fix it :(


    Reply 24 days ago

    I think in order to be able to download pdf's from Instrucatbles you have to have a premium subscription, which has a cost attached...


    24 days ago

    That looks really delicious. Thanks for posting this.


    26 days ago

    Sounds easy enough to make and very delicious. What kind of liquor would you suggest for the soaking syrup? Any particular flavor or just a regular rum or cognac? Cant wait to try it! :-)

    1 answer

    Answer 24 days ago

    Brandy is commonly used in bakery.... anyway you can use anything you like.