Sunday, February 14, 2010

Reine De Saba (Chocolate and Almond Cake)

Another day, another Julia Child recipe. I've wanted to make this particular cake since I saw it on Julie & Julia.  In the movie, Julie Powell makes it for her husband and it's so good that he just eats it by the handful, rubbing it all over his face in ecstasy -- that's gotta be one good cake!

For both the cake itself and the frosting, the recipe called for chocolate to be melted with your choice of rum or coffee.  I didn't have either, but I did have Kahlua.  I figured since Kahlua = coffee flavored liquor, I was actually covering both bases.  Unfortunately, this didn't turn out quite as well as I hoped -- the chocolate got clumpy once taken off the stove, and refused to stay liquid enough for mixing into the batter/frosting. I remedied this by stirring in about a tablespoon of heavy cream, and setting the pot back on low heat.

Holy blurry picture! Sorry about the picture quality, but that's the only action shot I have of Dan helping me make the frosting.  It was a little more complicated than I expected -- we had to melt the chocolate, mix in butter tbsp by tbsp, then slowly stir the mixture in an ice bath until it reached a spreadable consistency.  I can't say I've ever made frosting this way, but I'll be damned if the ice water didn't actually turn the liquid chocolate into rich, thick frosting.  Food science is a wonderful thing.

Technically the almonds are supposed to be brushed along the sides of the cake, but my cake turned out a little stumpy-er than Julia's, and I just didn't think that the nuts would reach their decorative potential that way.  I thought the cake was pretty like this too.

Overall, the cake was delicious (moist, light yet rich, and not too sweet), but I won't be making it often.  It was far too work-intensive -- the actual baking time was very short (25 minutes), but the whole process leading up to that point wore me out.  You can't just throw some ingredients in a bowl and stir, you have to carefully prepare the dry and wet ingredients in different bowls, then deal with the egg yolks and whites separately.  Julia Child makes it sound so simple, but egg whites are ridiculously hard to beat by hand, and it takes forever to whisk the whole thing into stiff peaks.  Also, while the rich chocolate-butter frosting was worth the effort, I can't see myself using an ice-bath to make icing on a regular basis.  This is definitely a "special occasion" kind of cake!

Julia's recipe can be found at

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