Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba Cake, Chocolate and Almond Spongecake)

I think what I like most about making recipes out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking is that it’s always a surprise. I never know how it’s going to turn out. I don’t know what it’s supposed to look or taste like. In this case, if it looks like a cake and taste good, I think I did it correctly.

From what I’ve read, the Queen of Sheba was queen of Ethiopia or Yemen or both. She visited wise King Solomon to find out if his reputation had any merit and tested him with riddles and such. When he answered to her satisfaction, he taught her about God and she converted. As an unmarried queen, she told King Solomon he couldn’t sleep with her. He agreed but said she couldn’t have anything of his if he couldn’t have her. In the middle of the night she got thirsty and all bets were off. She raises her son, Menelik, as a single mom. Menelik gets curious about his dad and visits King Solomon who gives him the Ark of the Covenant, where it still is today. I like the idea of the Ark of the Covenant being in Ethiopia, much better than in some government warehouse! It just confirms my belief that mystical, magical things can exist on this earth.

The second of Julia Child’s Cinq Gateaux that I attempted, Reine de Saba or Queen of Sheba Cake is a chocolate almond cake with a few more steps than Le Marquis.

Though I read something once where Julia said Reine de Saba was easy, I found it to be somewhat complex but easier the more times I baked it. The other thing about this recipe is that Julia Child refers to a bunch of different other sections in her cookbook. So I’m going to take this slowly, one step at a time (including the different section of the cookbook). On the bright side, the first time I made this Tom said that it was the best dessert he ever had, even in a restaurant.

Special Equipment – 8″ round cake pan 1 1/2 inches deep; scale, electric hand mixer or wire whip; 2 mixing bowls; rubber spatula.

1) 4 ounces of chocolate
2) 2 tablespoons coffee or rum
3) 1 stick of butter
4) 2/3 cup granulated sugar +
2 tablespoon granulated sugar (to pulverize the almonds) +
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (to blend in with the egg whites)
5) 3 egg yolks
6) 3 egg whites
7) pinch of salt
8) 1/3 cup pulverized almonds
9) 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
10) 1/2 cup cake flour

Preparation and Baking #1 – Turn on the oven and make the coffee.
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2) Brew the coffee (if you’re using coffee). I prefer making the coffee in a moka pot because it only makes cup and it’s strong.

54/365 Moka Pot Deconstructed

Preparation #2 – Pulverize the almonds.
1) Take out the food processor or a blender.
2) Add 1/3 cup almonds. I use slivered almonds because they’re already in pieces.
3) Add a few tablespoons of sugar. Julia says that the sugar prevents the almonds from becoming oily and lumpy which would make it impossible to combine with other dry ingredients.

Pulverizing Almonds in a Food Processor

4) Turn on the food processor or blender until pulverized. Set aside.

Preparation #3 – Butter and flour the cake pan.
1) Take the cake pan and butter the bottom and the sides.
2) Make sure the sides are buttered. Because if you don’t, this is what might happen:

What happens when you don't butter the sides of a cake pan

If this happens, you can fix this with icing, but it can be prevented!

Preparation #4 – Prepare to soften the chocolate.
1) Make a double boiler to melt the chocolate. Put one pan on the burner and fill about 1/2 – 2/3 full of water. Then use a smaller pan and put it on top of that.
2) Weigh the chocolate on a scale.
3) Add the chocolate and coffee to the smaller pan.
4) Don’t start heating it up or just put it on super low. Using my range, the chocolate gradually melts on its own on no heat with the oven on. When I need to use the chocolate, I just have to finish it up which doesn’t take long.

Preparation #5 – Cream the butter and sugar.
1) Julia says to “Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture.” Then she refers to another page in her book which I will summarize here.

For a hand mixer
1) Julia recommends the pastry-blender attachment if you have one. You can use the regular beater attachments but they will become clogged. I used my dough attachments and it worked fine.
2) Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces.
3) Warm the bowl in hot water than dry it. If your butter is softened by leaving it out for a little bit, then this step isn’t necessary.

Hand Beating
1) If the butter is soft, then you just have to beat in the butter.
2) If the butter is cold, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, add the sugar into the mixing bowl and set it over barely simmering water.

Preparation #6 – Separate the yolks and egg whites.
1) Take a medium mixing bowl and crack an egg.
2) Carefully only allow the egg white into the bowl.
3) Add the egg yolk to the butter and sugar mix.
4) Repeat steps 1-3 for the other two eggs.

Preparation #7 – Beat the egg yolks.
Beat the egg yolks into the sugar and butter mixture until well blended.

Preparation #8 – Prepare the egg whites.
1) Add a pinch of salt to the bowl where you placed the egg whites.
2) Turn the hand blender to at least the medium or the high.
3) The mixture will turn foamy and then it will form soft peaks.

Soft Peaks

4) Add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the egg whites.
5) Beat the mixture until the whites form stiff peaks.

Stiff Peaks

Preparation #9 – Finish melting the chocolate.
1) Check the chocolate you had in the double boiler.
2) Depending on how much time the previous steps took, the chocolate could be thoroughly melted.
3) If not, turn the heat on, or turn it on higher and beat the chocolate and coffee mixture with a wooden spoon until it melts thoroughly.

Preparation #10 – Combine everything altogether and bake.
Please note – there is no rising agent in this recipe, such as baking powder or baking soda. The rising comes from the egg whites so be careful beating the egg white mixture into the cake. If it’s too thoroughly mixed, the cake won’t rise.

1) Add the melted chocolate to the butter/sugar/egg yolk mixture with a rubber spatula. The spatula can act like a squeegee getting almost all of the chocolate out of the pan.
2) Add the pulverized almonds, mix well.
3) Add 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract, mix well. This is pretty strong stuff, your kitchen will smell like almond extract now.
4) Immediately stir in 1/4 of the egg white mixture. Julia says this will lighten the batter.
5) Now stir in 1/3 of the remaining egg whites, but only partially.
6) Add 1/3 of the 1/2 cup of cake flour and continue folding with your rubber spatula.
7) Continue alternating between adding the cake flour and the egg white mixture. I always make it so the egg white mixture comes last, just in case I combined everything else too well.
8) Pour the batter into the cake pan.
9) Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Preparation #11 – Let the cake cool, then ice the cake.
1) Place the cake pan on a cake rack and cool for ten minutes.
2) If you’re using a metal pan, run a knife around the edge of the pan and reverse the cake onto the rack. If you’re using a nonstick pan, use a clean rubber spatula. I put mine on a plate but I guess that was the wrong thing to do. I was just so excited because it was the first time the cake actually came out clean!

Flipping the Cake Over

3) Wait until the cake completely cools to add the frosting. Julia says to use the Glaçage Au Chocolat (Chocolate-butter Icing), then press a design over the icing with almonds.

Reine de Saba - First Try

Reine de Saba third try #2

Reine de Saba third try

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Recipe Name
Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba Cake)
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One Comment

  • There are some AMAZING food pictures on here. I can almost taste everyone of them by looking at them. I can’t help to imagine a nice wine pairing with each one. A black cherry dessert wine would be awesome with this chocolate and almond sponge cake. YUM!

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