Reine de Saba

Bon Appétit | August 2009

by Julia Child

Reine de Saba
(photo by: Gail Albert Halaban)

Slightly underbaking this chocolate and almond cake ensures its creamy texture.

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons rum or brewed coffee

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 large eggs, separated
Large pinch of salt
1/3 cup finely ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)

Chocolate butter icing:
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon rum or brewed coffee

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
For cake:

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour 8-inchdiameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Combine chopped chocolate and rum in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over medium saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Cool melted chocolate, stirring occasionally.

Using electric mixer, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl until fluffy and pale. Add egg yolks and beat until blended.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and pinch of salt in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff but not dry.

Fold chocolate mixture, then almonds and almond extract into yolk mixture. Fold in 1/4 of whites to lighten batter. Fold in 1/3 of remaining whites. Sift 1/3 of flour over and fold in. Fold in remaining whites alternately with flour in 2 more additions each. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Push some batter 3/4 inch up sides of pan with rubber spatula (batter will slip down).

Bake cake until puffed and gently set in center and tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Cut around pan sides and carefully turn cake out onto rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours.

For chocolate butter icing:

Combine chocolate and rum in small metal bowl. Set bowl over small saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Using wooden spoon, beat in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until icing is smooth. Place bowl over medium bowl filled with ice water. Continue to beat until icing is cool and thickened to spreading consistency.

Place cake on platter. Scrape icing onto top center. Using small offset spatula, spread icing evenly and thinly over top and sides of cake. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and store at room temperature.

What to Drink:

A Port-style wine from the south of France would be delicious with the cake. Try the Cornet & Cie 2006 Banyuls Rimage ($16 for 500 ml), which has hints of chocolate and cherry.

Test-Kitchen Tip:
Slightly pushing the cake batter up the sides of the pan before baking (even though the batter will slip down again) can help ensure that the cake will stay level and bake more evenly.