The weather is getting chillier and it is time to return to one of most beloved comfort foods ever invented, Chocolate Cake! And when it comes to this, the Queen of Sheba Chocolate Cake is the French holy grail.
Iconic, timeless and oh so decadent.
If you are learning French baking and want staples up your sleeves, the Queen of Sheba Chocolate Cake is a must. Personally, if I had to bake one chocolate cake for the rest of my life, this might just be the one.
The Queen of Sheba Chocolate Cake was the first French cake Julia Child ever ate. She loved it so much she featured it in her first recipe book,“Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, giving it the lavish moniker of a “dark beauty made of chocolate”.
And because it is simply perfect as is, here is the original recipe.
“The queen of Sheba is a dark beauty made of chocolate, and almonds, and rum and butter. Let’s go into the kitchen and make the best chocolate cake you’ve ever put in your mouth.”
In keeping with French pastry tradition, the Queen of Sheba Chocolate Cake contains no chemical leavening (no baking soda or baking powder). It is a dense, creamy cake that relies on a subtle leavening from whipped egg whites.
The making of the original Queen of Sheba Chocolate Cake has been used for decades as a teaching reference for egg-separated cakes (when you separate the egg yolks from the whites and beat the whites separately). On her TV show “The French Chef” , Julia Child made the Queen of Sheba Chocolate Cake e to teach viewers the technique of delicately folding the egg whites into the batter with a rubber spatula to obtain a natural, subtle cake leavening.
This extremely decadent chocolate cake is meant to be slightly under baked, so that its center remains underdone. If you bake it just a few minutes too long, it will lose its creaminess that makes this cake so special. The cake then gets covered with a velvety chocolate buttercream and decorated with almond shavings.
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment or share a photo using #pardonyourfrench on Instagram.
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For the cake:
4 ounces or squares semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons of rum
4 ounces softened butter
⅔ cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
⅔ cup pulverized almonds or 1 cup of almonds to pulverize
¼ tsp almond extract
½ cup cake flour (scooped and leveled) turned into a sifter
For the icing:
2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
2 tablespoons of rum
5 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pre-heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour the cake pan.
Set the chocolate and rum in a small pan with a tight 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.
Pulverize your almonds in your food processor, about a cup. Add a tablespoon of sugar to avoid the almond oils to lump up.
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.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt 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 2½ 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 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 with the help of a rubber spatula. If the mixture starts to cool off too fast, place the chocolate pan again in hot water and beat in the butter until it fully incorporates.
Then beat over the ice and water until chocolate mixture has cooled to spreading consistency. This will take about 3 minutes.
At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife, and press a design of almonds over the icing.