Queen of the Chocolate Cakes: Reine de Saba

Hel-lo!  It’s been a few days since I first posted and now I’m a little behind on my posts.  I’m a slight (read: HUGE) procrastinator and I told myself that I would blog every time I bake.  But that hasn’t happened.  It’s something I’m working on.  I have to admit that I’m slightly anxious about these posts- there are so many AWESOME baking blogs out there.  It’s really intimidating when I expect the same awesomeness to be coming out of my blog and I’ve only just started blogging.  I have to keep reminding myself that this (my baking, my blogging…ME) is a work in progress and it will get better with time.  Ok, here we go.

Reine de Saba.  Mmmmm…just looking at that buttery chocolate frosting makes me wants a slice.  But let me tell you, if someone had mentioned “Reine de Saba” a few weeks ago, I would’ve said, “Excuse me? What did you just call me?”  Mention it now, and those words conjure up thoughts of almonds, chocolate and melt-in-your-mouth cake.

About a month ago, I caught the adorable movie “Julie and Julia” on TV.  I’d seen it before but, like my father, I will watch a movie a million times over if it’s entertaining.  So I watched it.  And I’m so glad I did.

There’s a great scene in the movie when Julie (the main character) finds out that Julia Child (her idol) will not be coming to dinner after much anticipation.  Of course, Julie is devastated.  Really upset.  She cries, the audience feels bad for her, blah, blah, blah.  The dramatics lead up to the best part: the comic relief of her husband stuffing his face with the cake she made for dessert.  He kind of does it with a “screw Julia Child” attitude, smearing it over his face and moaning in the tastiness of the cake.  This is when I start thinking, “hmmmm that looks like a really yummy cake.  I wonder if I can find the recipe.  Will it make me moan with delight too??”  So I start my usual sleuthing on the internet.  Search: Julie and Julia chocolate cake.  Result: Reine de Saba cake.

Translated, Reine de Saba means Queen of Sheeba.  I haven’t really looked up why the cake is called that so if anyone knows, leave me a comment.  The recipe seemed intimidating at first.  It comes from Julia Child’s legendary cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Anytime I hear the words “French” and “cooking” together, I get scared.  I worry that it’s going to be complicated, take a lot of technique, be completely over my head….BUT this cake was totally worth it.  There were a lot of steps and I was nervous about folding the egg whites into the batter without deflating them but everything worked out fine.

One note: do NOT over bake the cake.  I’ve overbaked a cake or two (another thing I am working on), but the beauty of this cake is that it’s underdone in the middle.  The result is a melt-in-your-mouth, delectable texture.  Trust me- you’ll fall in love.

Reine de Saba avec Glaçage au Chocolat
(Chocolate and Almond Cake with Chocolate Icing)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck & Louisette Bertholle. 

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.

Yield: For an 8-inch cake serving 6 to 8 people


For the Cake:

4 ounces or squares semisweet chocolate melted with 2 Tb rum or coffee
1/4 lb. or 1 stick softened butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 Tb granulated sugar
2/3 cup pulverized almonds
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup cake flour (scooped and leveled) turned into a sifter

For the Icing:

2 ounces (2 squares) semisweet baking chocolate
2 Tb rum or coffee
5 to 6 Tb unsalted butter


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
A small covered pan
A larger pan of almost simmering water
A wooden spoon
A bowl with a tray of ice cubes and water to cover them
A small flexible-blade metal spatula or a table knife


For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Butter and flour the cake pan. 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. Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture.

Beat in the egg yolks until well blended.

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.

With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in almonds, and almond extract. Immediately stir 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.

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.

Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run 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:

Place the chocolate and rum or coffee in the small pan, cover, and set in the larger pan of almost simmering water. 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. Then beat over the ice and water until chocolate mixture has cooled to spreading consistency. At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife, and press a design of almonds over the icing.




One response to “Queen of the Chocolate Cakes: Reine de Saba

  1. This cake was a pure delight to eat! I have never had anything like it! (the homemade ice cream that was served with it was beyond also)!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s