Reine De Saba (Chocolate Almond Cake)

This extremely good chocolate cake is baked so that its center remains slightly underdone; overcooked, the cake loses its special creamy quality. It is covered with a chocolate-butter icing, and decorated with almonds. Because of its creamy center it needs no filling. It can be made by starting out with a beating of egg yolks and sugar, then proceeding with the rest of the ingredients. But because the chocolate and the almonds make a batter so stiff it is difficult to fold in the egg whites, we have chosen another method, that of creaming together the butter and sugar, and then incorporating the remaining items.

The chocolate icing is butter beaten into melted chocolate, and forms a tender coating over the chocolate cake.

Recommended Equipment:

A round cake pan 8 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches deep.

A 3 quart mixing bowl.

A wooden spoon or an electric beater.

A rubber spatula.

A cake rack.

Ingredients:  

For the cake:

4 ounces or squares semi-sweet chocolate melted with 2 tbsp rum or coffee

1/4 pound or 1 stick softened butter

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3 egg yolks

3 egg whites

Pinch of salt

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1/3 cup pulverized almonds

1/4 tspn almond extract

1/2 cup cake flour (scooped and leveled) turned into a sifter

For the icing:

2 ounces or squares semi-sweet baking chocolate

2 tbsp rum or coffee

5 to 6 tbsp unsalted butter

Preparation:

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Butter and flour the cake pan.
  3. Set the chocolate and rum or coffee in a small pan, cover, and place (off heat) in a larger pan of almost simmering water; let melt while you proceed with the recipe.  Measure out the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture.
  5. Beat in the egg yolks until well blended.
  6. Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.
  7. With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in the almonds, and almond extract.  Immediately stir in one fourth of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter.  Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift on one third of the flour and continue folding.  Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated.
  8. Turn the batter into the cake pan, pushing the batter up to its rim with a rubber spatula.  Bake in middle level of preheated oven for about 25 minutes.  Cake is done when it has puffed, and 2 1/2 to 3 inches around the circumference are set so that a needle plunged into that area comes out clean; the center should move slightly if the pan is shaken, and a needle comes out oily.
  9. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse cake on the rack.  Allow it to cool for an hour or two; it must be thoroughly cold if it is to be iced.

For the icing:

  1. Place the chocolate and rum or coffee in a small pan, cover, and set in a larger pan of almost simmering water.
  2. Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt for 5 minutes or so, until perfectly smooth.  Lift chocolate pan out of the hot water, and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time.  
  3. Then beat over a bowl with a tray of ice cubes and water until chocolate mixture has cooled to spreading consistency.  At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife.

To serve, use the butter icing and press a design of almonds over the icing.

Recipe courtesy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

Copyright 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf.  Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.