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Julia Child's Reine de Saba



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The Queen of Sheba: Reine de Saba

A chocolate almond cake

The Way to Cook

by Julia Child, 1994, Alfred A. Knopf

“A very special cake of almonds, butter, and chocolate that is somewhat moist
in the center – it literally melts in the mouth. This was the first French cake
I ever ate, prepared by my French colleague, Simca, and I have never for-
gotten it. Like most French cakes, it is only an inch and a half high, which
makes it easy to serve.”

Note: This is the spongecake type – separated eggs – where beaten egg whites
are folded into the batter. You want to be sure here that the melted chocolate
is still warm and smooth so that the egg whites can be folded in easily.

For a 4-cup pan, such as a round one 8 by 1 1/2 inches, serving 6 to 8

3 ounces sweet baking chocolate
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons dark rum or strong coffee
4 ounces (1 stick) softened unsalted butter,
at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks

The egg whites
3 egg whites (a scant 1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup blanched almonds pulverized with
2 tablespoons sugar (see Special Note below)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup plain bleached cake flour (scooped and leveled…),
in a sifter set on wax paper

Special equipment suggested:  An 8- by 1 1/2-inch round cake pan,
buttered and floured; a 6-cup saucepan with a tight-fitting cover, and
a larger pan of simmering water, for melting chocolate; a 3-quart mix-
ing bowl for the batter; a hand-held electric mixer is useful; egg-white
beating equipment

Preliminaries: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and set the rack in the lower middle level. Set out all the ingredients and equipment listed [mise en place – get your mess in place!] and melt the chocolate in the rum or coffee: Break up the chocolate into the saucepan and add the rum or coffee. Pour 2 to 3 inches of water into the larger pan and bring to the simmer. Remove
from heat, let cool 15 seconds, cover the chocolate pan tightly, and set it in
the hot water. In 5 minutes, the chocolate should be smoothly melted – if
not, reheat the water in the larger pan to below the simmer, remove from
heat, return the chocolate pan to it, and stir until the chocolate is smooth
and glistening.
Butter, sugar, and egg yolks.
Cut the butter into pieces and cream it in
the mixing bowl – the portable mixer is useful here. When soft and fluffy,
add the sugar and beat 1 minute, then beat in the egg yolks.

Egg whites. [A typical Julia lesson – everything you ever wanted to know about beating egg whites…Thank you Julia!] Stiffly beaten egg whites have multiple uses, from spongecakes to floating island to soufflés. Again the
bowl and beater are of great importance. They must be clean, with no
trace of oil or grease, and not even a speck of egg yolk should be among
the whites since oil, grease, and yolk prevent the whites from mounting
into a mass of tiny bubbles.
Whether or not you are using a copper bowl, it’s a good idea to pour a tablespoon of vinegar into the bowl and a teaspoon of salt. Rub the bowl
clean with paper towels, but do not wash it – the traces of vinegar and
salt help stabilize the egg whites.
Turn the egg whites into the bowl and if they are chilled, set the bowl in a larger bowl of warm water for a minute or two, until your impeccably clean finger feels them to be of room temperature. Chilled whites do not mount well, and tend to fleck.
Using a giant balloon whip, or a hand-held electric mixer, or a mixer on a stand, start beating the egg whites at moderately slow speed until they are foaming throughout – 2 minutes or so. Add a pinch of salt (unless you have rubbed the bowl with salt before you started in,) and add [the] cream of
tartar – a stabilizer. Gradually increase the speed to fast (moderately fast if
you have a heavy-duty mixer) and continue until soft peaks are formed. Gradually beat in the 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue until stiff shining peaks are formed.
Finishing the batter.
At once blend the warm, smoothly melted chocolate and the coffee into the yolk mixture, then the almonds and almond extract. Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten it. Scoop the
rest of the whites over the chocolate and, alternating with sprinkles of
flour, rapidly and delicately fold in the egg whites.
Baking – 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Immediately turn the batter into
the prepared pan, tilting it in all directions to run it up to the rim all around,
and set it in the preheated oven.
When is it done? The cake is done when it has puffed to the top of the
pan and a toothpick plunged into the cake 2 and 3 inches from the edges
of the pan comes out clean. The center, however, should move slightly
when the pan is gently shaken. (Chocolate cakes of the French type
should not be cooked dry.)
Cooling and unmolding. Remove the pan to the rack and let cool 15
minutes; unmold onto the rack. Let cool completely – 2 hours – before
serving or icing.

Ahead-of-time note: May be wrapped airtight and refrigerated for 2 to 3 days,
or may be frozen for several weeks. That limit is for the safe side. However, during the taping of our videocassettes in California we made quite a number. I took two home to Massachusetts and didn’t serve one of them until a year later – delicious.

Serving note: French chocolate cakes are at their best when served at near room temperature – chilled, the chocolate is partly congealed rather than being softly yielding.

Icing and decorating the cake. You may serve the cake simply with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, or with the soft chocolate icing described
here and a design of whole or shaved almonds on top. Or for the full treatment try decorating the iced cake with chocolate leaves.
[Instructions included in cookbook.]

Soft Chocolate Icing

For an 8-inch cake

2 ounces sweet chocolate
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 tablespoons rum or strong coffee
A pinch of salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted softened butter,
at room temperature

Special equipment suggested:  A 6-cup saucepan with tight-fitting
lid; a pan of almost simmering water to hold it, for melting chocolate

Melt the chocolates with the rum or coffee as instructed in “Prelimin-
aries” above. When smooth and glistening, beat n the salt, then the butter
a tablespoon at a time. Beat over cold water until firm enough to spread.
Turn the icing on to of the cake; spread it over the top and sides.

Special Note

To pulverize nuts. You can grate them fine, if you have such a specialized
machine. Otherwise pulverize not more than 1/2 cup at a time in a food pro-
cessor in a blender, for 3/4 cup at a time in a food processor with steel blade –
always adding 1 tablespoon or more of granulated sugar to prevent the nuts
from turning oily. Don’t overpulverize – they should be dry and powdery;
otherwise they will lump when you fold them into a batter or egg whites.

Featured Archive Recipes:
Another Queen of Sheba Cake
Crème Brûléed Chocolate Bundt
(Mary Bergin, Baking with Julia)

French Chocolate Cake,
Countess Toulouse-Lautrec's

La Pigna's Chocolate Almond Torte
New Orleans Chocolate Layer Cake

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