Reine De Saba ~ Chocolate and Almond Cake
As I continue on my journey with Julia Child I embarked on a chocolate adventure. In the movie Julie & Julia, Julie comments on the comfort of knowing that amongst all the frustrations and uncertainty in a day, it is nice to come home and know that if you put chocolate, sugar and eggs together they will make magic (I’m paraphrasing here). Being a card carrying member of the chocolate fan club I thought this made perfect sense and that Julia Child could hold my hand through the challenges of baking chemistry.
My first attempt at a Julia Child dessert was with Mastering the Art of French Cooking’s Reine De Saba, or chocolate almond cake. The recipe introduction immediately states that “this extremely good chocolate cake is baked so that its center remains slightly underdone; overcooked, the cake loses its special creamy quality.” I thought that sounded delicious.
I decided to start with a basic chocolate that I could get at my local grocery store. One bar was enough for the cake and the second bar was for the icing.
One of the many things I like about this cookbook are the helpful tips. The first tip that came in handy with this recipe was how to properly melt chocolate. She says to place the chopped chocolate in a covered bowl and place the bowl in simmering water that has been removed from the heat. There is no stirring necessary, no heat monitoring, or worry….within 5-10 minutes there will be perfectly melted chocolate. She was right.
While the chocolate was melting I creamed the butter and sugar together until they formed a pale yellow, fluffy mixture. Then I beat in the egg yolks in one at a time.
The egg whites were beaten in a separate bowl until they formed stiff peaks and were then set aside.
With a rubber spatula I blended the chocolate into the butter & sugar mixture and then stirred in ‘pulverized’ almonds.
Once the flour and egg whites were fully incorporated it was time to fold the batter into a greased and floured pan, and then put it in the oven.
While the cake cooked it was time to clean up. Phew! What a Mess!
After 25 minutes the oven timer rang and I eagerly approached the oven door, opened it up and knew immediately that something was wrong.
I set the hot pan on a rack to cool and ten minutes later turned the cake out of the pan. ‘Where is the jiggley, underdone center?” ‘Why are there crumbs where there is supposed to be moisture?” Dread, disappointment and discouragement filled my mind but I pushed on.
After the caked cooled it was time for the icing.
The recipe suggested that Glacage Au Chocolat (chocolate-butter icing) be used on this cake. The icing is made with melted chocolate but this time it calls for a dash of rum or coffee. I didn’t have any coffee left over from the morning but I was able to dig up a bit of rum (hummmm???) and included that in the melting chocolate. Once the chocolate was melted the butter was beaten in and that was it! Chocolate, Rum & Butter. Simple.
So I proceeded to ice the cake, while all along harboring a sinking feeling that this wasn’t going to be an overall success. The chopped almonds were added to the top and voilà…it was done.
We had received a lovely bottle of raspberry sauce as a Christmas gift and decided that we would drizzle a bit on the plate (maybe that would add the moisture I feared was missing).
So here is the finished product. Isn’t it pretty! Unfortunately my fears were correct and it was dry and lacked the creamy quality I had expected. As disappointing as it was I did learn the hard way that all ovens do not heat equally and mine, apparently, is on the hotter side. I’ll keep this in mind for the future and adjust the temperature down a bit. Lesson learned..all was not lost.