22 May 2014

Reine de Saba - Chocolate Almond Cake

Reine de Saba - Chocolate Almond Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

Why Reine de Saba? Because I was just thinking about Julia Child, how it has been nearly ten years now since she died. I don't deliberately mark the occasion, but I just thought of it. I remember so well being on the telephone with her assistant the morning after. The part of the conversation that I recall most vividly is being asked if I'd be interested in taking Julia's cat should one of the relatives not want it. (One did.)

Julia's version of Reine de Saba, a chocolate almond cake, is something I haven't made in ages. It's not that it's difficult, it's just that it does take a bit of time, beating the egg whites separately and such, and makes for more cleanup than I'm interested in doing these days! I've come up with a completely different method and call my version Reine de Saba a la Femme Paresseuse, Lazy Woman's Chocolate Almond Cake.

Reine de Saba really is a wonderful cake, but so many people simply don't want to go to quite that much trouble. So, for those people, I give you my version. One that is greatly simplified and yet, I believe, retains fairly well the unique texture, that "special creamy quality" that made it a favorite of Julia's. You will be amazed at the texture of this cake!

No stand mixer, no hand mixer, no food processor. No multiple bowls. It is simply mixed by hand in the saucepan in which the chocolate is melted. Resist the temptation to use more almond extract, thinking 1/8 teaspoon couldn't possibly be enough. Almond extract is not like vanilla; it is really powerful and can definitely be overdone.

This is a small cake, 7 inches in diameter, perfect for afternoon tea. I do so hate big cakes at afternoon tea! The cake may be mine, but the delicious and perfectly simple icing is straight out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (though I toasted the almonds for extra flavor and used Kahlua instead of rum). Sometimes I skip the icing and just give the cake a dusting of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream.

Reine de Saba a la Femme Paresseuse - Lazy Woman's Chocolate Almond Cake

(Makes one 7-inch layer, 6 servings)

The Cake

3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons Kahlua or coffee
1/4 dip-and-sweep cup (1.25 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour*
1/4 cup (1.125 ounces) almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons milk
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

The Icing

1/2 cup (2.25 ounces) sliced almonds
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons Kahlua or coffee
5 tablespoons (2.5 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature

* If you are gluten-free, use 1 1/2 tablespoons sorghum flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch and 1 tablespoon tapioca flour in place of all-purpose flour.

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 7-inch round pan.

2 In 2-quart saucepan, melt chocolate with Kahlua or coffee over medium-low heat.

3 Onto a square of waxed paper, sift together flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt.

4 Stir butter into melted chocolate until butter is melted and chocolate has cooled a bit. Beat in sugar until well combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Beat mixture vigorously for a minute. Gently stir in half of flour mixture, then the milk and almond extract, then the remaining flour mixture.

5 Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overbake. Center (1- to 2-inch circle) should be a bit underdone; only the outer ring should test done with a toothpick.

6 While the cake is baking, toast the almonds in a small skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. It seems like nothing is happening for the longest time, but stay focused. They can go suddenly from raw to burned if you aren't paying attention.

7 Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out on rack to cool completely before icing.

8 In 1-quart saucepan, melt chocolate with Kahlua or coffee. Remove from heat. Beat in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Set the pan inside a larger pan or bowl of ice and water. Beat chocolate mixture until it has cooled to spreading consistency. If you over-chill, just let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes; it will smooth right out.

9 With offset spatula (OXO Good Grips calls theirs a bent icing knife), spread icing over top and sides of cake. Decorate by pressing sliced almonds to sides or top of cake however it suits you.


Cranberry Morning said...

Well, Jean, not knowing a lick of French, I'd say your title sounds very impressive, and not at all like a lazy woman's cake! Looks scrumptious. Who doesn't like the combination of chocolate and almond!

I'm still in shock over winning the giveaway!!!♥

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Judy! My French is very limited, practically nonexistent. By the time you get over the shock of winning, they'll arrive in the mail and there you go again!

Richard Sheppard said...

Jean, you never fail to come up with yet another recipe I must try! Though I am attempting to head more in "low carb" territory these days, I like the fact that this cake uses almond meal. I'll definitely give it a try.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Richard, I just had a little bite a few minutes ago. It is just as good the day after you make it! Don't worry about the carbs; it is the sort of dessert you cut into small pieces.

Jo@awholeplotoflove said...

It looks lovely, chocolate & almonds are one of my favourite combinations.

Angie's Recipes said...

Jean, this is my kind of cake...I am not the kind of gal who is crazy for pretty buttery frosting. I love my cakes with wholesome and real ingredients..just like this. Excellent!

Caroline Taylor said...

I love the sound of this, love that it's 'lazy' too!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Joanne. I like any kind of nuts with chocolate.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Me too, Angie! It's all about the 'real' ingredients for me.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Caroline, thank you. If I can find a way to 'lazy up' a recipe without resorting to fake ingredients, I'm all for it!

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Skip the frosting? Are you kidding? A dusting and a dollop? That’s like going up to home plate in Yankee Stadium with a wiffle bat. That’s like…that’s like – aaargh! Skip the cake, keep the frosting. You are the Mother Goddess of Cooking/Baking in my estimation, but you need lessons in EATING! That little cake is to me what a cupcake is to you. Anyway, 5 cleavers for Reine de Saba chocolate almond cake!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks ever so! And I must admit, Sully, though I usually scrape the frosting off, *this* frosting is wonderful!

Unknown said...

a beautiful cake and what looks like quite a simple recipe to me... I love how thick and unctuous this looks... very chic!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Dom! I love to simplify a recipe as much as possible, as long as it doesn't sacrifice flavor, texture or any other important aspect of it.

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

I've had this cake on my to-bake list for years but keep putting it off precisely because of the many steps. I absolutely love your lazy girl's version! Pinning now :)

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Bianca, thank you! I hope you'll try it soon and let me know how it turned out for you. The Pin is much appreciated, too!

Sippity Sup said...

You were offered Julia's cat? I once stole the carbons to her credit card. It was way back when I lived in Santa Barbara. She was a nearby table at a Montecito restaurant. By the time I mustered the courage to say something to her, she was walking out the door. I looked down at her table and took the carbons from her credit card bill as a consolation prize. Which proves just how old the crime to which I am confessing actually is. GREG

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Greg, I wouldn't have guessed you were ever such a vile criminal as that!

Charles said...

Gorgeous looking cake Jean - so moist and chocolatey. I've never heard of it, I must give it a try. Will it matter if I'm a "homme paresseux" instead? :D

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Merci, Charles. And, no worries, my recipe should work just as well for a homme paresseux!

April J Harris said...

How lovely to have had a connection with Julia Child - she was such a great cook and really made cooking so much more accessible to everyone! Your Reine de Saba is beautiful and I love that it is all made in one pan. It looks scrumptious. Thank you for sharing with us at the Hearth and Soul hop. Pinned and will tweet.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

April, thank YOU! I so appreciate what you do!