Ingredients

For the Cake:
4 ounces or squares semisweet chocolate melted with 2 tablespoons 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 tablespoon granulated sugar 
2/3 cup pulverized almonds 
1/4 teaspoon almond extract 
1/2 cup cake flour (scooped and leveled) turned into a sifter

For the Chocolate-Butter Icing:
2 ounces (2 squares) semisweet baking chocolate 
2 tablespoons rum or coffee 
5 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

For the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Butter and flour the cake pan.
2. Cream the butter and 2/3 cup of sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture. Beat in the egg yolks until well blended.
3. Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.
4. 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.
5. Turn the batter into the cake pan, pushing the batter up to its rim with a rubber spatula.
6. 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.
7. Allow 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 before it is iced.

For the Chocolate-Butter Icing:
1. Place the chocolate and rum or coffee in the small pan, cover, and set in the larger pan of almost simmering water.
2. Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt for 5 minutes or so, until perfectly smooth.
3. 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.
4. At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife, and press a design of almonds over the icing.

Recipe courtesy of Dr. Merry “Corky” White as adapted from “Mastering The Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, 2011.
 

The actual name for this cake is Reine de Saba, “Queen of Sheba.” This cake is from Julia Child’s first book, Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and Simone Beck. Dr. Merry “Corky” White knew Julia Child from her days in Graduate School, and also knows that this is a cake that Julia Child made often. It seems that Corky lived in Julia Child’s neighborhood and while earning her way through school by catering, she would often ask and receive help and suggestions from Julia. As she explains to Food Columnist Heather Atwood in this video, the cake holds special appeal to her and she has often made the cake from her well-worn copy of Julia’s first cookbook.

Gooey and chocolaty on the inside and covered with thick chocolate icing on the outside, Corky describes it as a French brownie, covered with slivered almonds. This cake’s popularity was at its’ peak in the seventies but you can see why it is making something of a comeback today.

I'm with Corky White. Corky is a food anthropologist and a person who's very passionate about food. And what are you going make for us Corky?

I'm going to make Julia Child's chocolate almond butter cake, which is one of my favorite cakes to make. It's easy. It's a crowd pleaser. Small crowd, everybody wants a big piece. And it just speaks to me of Julia Child's desire to have everything rich and fabulous.

And she was your teacher, right?

She was, back in the day. I tried to earn money for graduate school by becoming a caterer. She saved me any number of times from dreadful mistakes. She lived in my neighborhood. She was very accessible. So this cake's for Julia.

Good. All right, let's start.

First thing we're going to do with my trusted KitchenAid, we're going to beat up a stick of butter.

OK.

And gradually--

Julia would like that, wouldn't she?

She would like that.

The butter jokes fly, right?

Butterflies. So we're going to gradually add some sugar until it cools right in.

Um-huh.

Now, the real name of this cake besides chocolate butter almond cake was Queen of Sheba. It's the Reine de Saba.

Reine de Saba. And was this her favorite cake or something.

No. It's one that she made a lot too. And it has that kind of molten core of chocolate in the center and the graininess of the almonds. It's a fabulous cake to make and it's a even better cake to eat.

I'm going to turn this off for a second because what you want to do is make sure everything is amalgamated. So you want to blend in all the bits of butter that are clinging to the sides and stir it over a little bit, while you're adding three egg yolks.

OK. One at a time?

One at a time. Now, we're going to stop it again. And this time we're going to make sure that all of the egg yolk is incorporated because this is your base. This is your faux, as Julia would say.

So Corky, the bowl is dry and clean.

Indeed. We are ready to whip up the egg whites. We need a clean bowl for egg whites because there should no fat at all or they won't mount. Here we go. We've got the three egg eggs. The whites of those three yokes, we already put into the butter mixture. And we're going to start then beating.

What we going to do is we're going to add a pinch of salt.

Um-huh, a pinch.

And when they've gotten to a soft peak level, we add a tablespoon of sugar. Now, we can add the sugar. Love this. Fancy.

And then another minute or two, they will be at hard peaks. Now, what we want to do is fold the pulverized almonds. This is one of the features of this cake because it gives it a little texture, a little crunch. And we do that.

And these are raw almonds, toasted almonds?

These are ordinary supermarket, slivered almonds. What we've got here now is chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate melted with a couple of tablespoons of really beautifully dark coffee.

So we've got the chocolate, really melted and cooled down some. Because if we add this right to the butter cream mixture hot, it's going to melt the butter and create-- it won't mold properly. So here we go.

Now, is this a technique, this cake? You know some cakes start with a big--

The dries and the wets separated?

Right. Right.

Yeah. This is a very French technique, to make your butter cream, to whip the yolk. Because as you know, French cakes don't usually have baking powder or baking soda in them.

So I've got the butter cream with the slightly cooled chocolate and we're going to fold it. At the same time that we're folding it, before it becomes universally colored, we're going to add--

All right, it's still not totally mixed in.

That's right. And we add a little bit of the flour.

And why is that? What's the point there?

Because we don't want to over mix.

OK.

And what we do is keep adding alternatively the flour and the egg whites. We're ready for those.

So if you had stirred that into being completely one color, it would stirred too much.

It would be stirred too much. And especially when you start folding your egg whites in, you do not want to deflate them. Because they are the thing that's going to make the cake as fluffy as it gets.

So we're going to add a little bit of egg white and alternate that with bits of the flour. And basically at the end, you will not see any white.

So would you-- thirds, we do this?

Yeah, thirds basically. Good. Then we'll have one more round then.

OK.

In the meantime, you have preheated your oven to 350. And you have buttered and floured an eight inch cake pan.

Now, we're ready for this to go into the buttered and floured cake pan.

Here you go.

My favorite moment, it's all hope from now on. And you spread it out a little bit. And then what you want to do when you've got egg whites is drop the pan once.

While the cake in the oven, which is about 20, 25 minutes, depending on everything, you make your glacage au chocolat, your chocolate frosting, the simplest possible thing. Again, your take your semi-sweet chocolate bits, you melt them over heat, but not directly over heat, in a double boiler, until they're reasonably smooth. You don't want to mix things into them while they're super hot.

So you kind of let them sit for a bit. So here we are with the melted chocolate, nothing in it. We add a little bit of rum. Remember that we have put coffee in with the chocolate for the cake itself, so we'll indulge ourselves with a little rum. Julia would have liked that. Two tablespoons or so.

And that's not hot. It's a cooled a little bit, but it's still warm.

That's right.

So you're not worried about adding the cooler--

That's right.

At this point, the rum is going to amalgamate that, but not make it seize. If you added a truly cold thing to a truly hot chocolate, yeah, and would be not so good. And at the same time, you're adding a tablespoon at a time, roughly speaking.

I'm going to remove this, so you can see it better. You add a bit of butter. And you want to keep it in a state of suspension and you don't want it to separate and get too liquid. So a little stirring is going to do it for you.

So how do you know how much butter to add? You're saying roughly. Is it going to look a certain way?

Yeah. It's going to look kind of like a sheen. And it's going to start looking spreadable. And of course, if it is too liquid to spread right away, and you feel like you've incorporated your three tablespoons of butter, and then what you're going do, and I'll show that too, after you can no longer see any butter--

So you're putting it in there to warm them up just a little bit.

Just a little bit. So it's a feel thing.

Yeah. Yeah.

I can't give you temperatures. I can't give you anything more concrete than that. But if you've done it once or twice, you get a feel for it. This is a little liquid for spreading.

You add warm water to warm it up and now you're going to cool it down.

That's right. And now you do have to stir it because the butter in it, at the bottom especially, is going to start chilling and making it hard. We don't want that. So we have to keep stirring at this point.

This is amazing.

I think you'll find that this is actually spreadable for this cake at this stage.

So Corky, that cake looks beautiful.

This is the moment of truth. Is it going to leave the pan gracefully?

So you have that problem too?

Always.

Me too.

This is the little dramas of everyday life.

You never know.

You never know. Are you ready?

I'm ready.

And my fingers are crossed. I'm really scared.

All right.

Dare I?

What do you think? Did it feel like it came out?

Oh, oh, tinny sound.

Oh, yeah. Good. Oh, that's beautiful. And look, it's all gooey.

Yeah. It's meant to be gooey on the inside. And it's as though--

There we have it. That's perfect.

We have it. A little centering wouldn't hurt. Again, we're going to do this for Julia.

All right. So frosting?

That's beautiful.

Look at how beautiful that is.

It's gorgeous. And the butter has gotten to the right consistency. And we've chilled it and we've heated it, and chilled it and heated it, and mushed it up. And all it is really butter and chocolate.

So we're going to do is we're going to empty all of it onto the cake. And we're going to do this very quickly. And swirl it or whatever pleases you.

It's a very shallow cake. But it's incredibly rich. This would probably serve 12 to 16 people, believe it or not.

Oh yeah, I'm sure.

Because you just want a wedge.

Right. Right.

And it's like a French brownie. The other thing to do with this, because there are almonds inside, is that we want almonds outside too, just as--

Oh.

--a flicker, a flicker of almonds.

Those are toasted almonds.

These are toasted almonds. The other ones that were in the cake were untoasted, raw almonds.

Raw almonds.

But it doesn't much matter, as Julia would say.

Yes.

So there you have it. Oh, that's my Reine de Saba. So Heather, how about a taste of the Queen of Sheba?

I would love a taste of the Queen of Sheba.

I will hold my breath.

Well, it came out of the pan. That's the first test, right? Now, it's how it tastes, right?

Um.

Um, OK.

It's my turn. Um.

OK, this should be on everybody's menu now. This is incredible.

You see, what goes around, comes around.

Yeah.

It was big in the '70s. It's going to be big in the aughts.

It's got to come back.

Um-huh.

That is unctuous.

Thank you so much, Corky.

And you're so welcome.

We should thank Julia, shouldn't we?

Thank you, Julia.

And we should say, bon appetit.

Bon appetit.

Thank you.

Chocolate Almond Cake
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