Isn’t it lovely when you wake up on a Saturday morning to the scent of freshly brewing coffee and your hubby baking in his boxers? Believe me, I count my lucky stars frequently. It has been a particularly busy past September (hence the long absence). At times, it seemed like no matter how many hours I put in, I could never keep up with pile that kept on building. But thanks to the occasional Saturdays with my hubby baking away, I made it through September with a smile. On this particular Saturday, hubby made me the Queen of Sheba.
Queen of Sheba is actually a French cake–Reine de Saba–made famous by Julia Child who said that it was the first French cake that she ever tasted. Our recipe was taken from another one of our picture cookbooks simply called French by Carole Clements and Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen. Below is the recipe taken verbatim from this delicious and classic cookbook.
What you’ll need:
2/3 cup whole blanched almonds, lightly toasted
2/3 cup of superfine sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
3 eggs, separated
2 tbsp almond liqueur (optional)
For the Chocolate Glaze
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp almond liqueur (optional)
chopped toasted almonds to decorate
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter an 8-9 inch spring form pan or deep loose-based cake pan. Line the base with nonstick baking paper and dust the pan lightly with flour.
2) In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the almonds and 2 tbsp of the sugar until very fine. Transfer to a bowl and sift over the flour. Stir to mix then set aside.
3) In a medium bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until creamy, then add half of the remaining sugar and beat for about 1-2 minutes until very light and creamy. Gradually beat in the melted chocolate until well blended, then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat in the liqueur, if using.
4) In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining sugar and beat until the whites are stiff and glossy, but not dry. Fold a quarter of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then alternately fold in the almond mixture and the remaining whites in three batches. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Tap the pan gently to release any air bubbles.
5) Bake for 30-35 minutes until the edge is puffed but the center is still soft and wobbly (a skewer inserted about 2 inches for the edge should come out clean). Transfer the cake in its pan to a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes, then remove the sides of the cake pan and let cool completely. Invert the cake onto an 8 inch cake board and remove the base of the pan and the paper.
6) To make the chocolate glaze, bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir gently until the chocolate has melted and is smooth, then beat in the butter and liqueur, if using. Cool for about 20-30 minutes until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
7) Place the cake on a wire rack over a baking sheet and pour over the warm chocolate glaze to cover the top completely. Using a spatula, smooth the glaze around the sides of the cake. Spoon a little of the glaze into a pastry bag fitted with a writing nozzle and use to write whatever you like. Let stand for 5 minutes to set slightly, then carefully press the nuts onto the sides of the cake. Using two long spatulas, transfer the cake to a serving plate and chill until ready to serve.