Queen of Sheba Cake


Reine de Saba is the last cake in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Vol. 1). It’s a chocolate and almond cake, but the name of the cake actually means Queen of Sheba. It’s a cake fit for a queen! And actually, it is quite darn delicious and I enjoyed puttering around making it.

I skip around in the book, playing with a recipe here and there when I have a good day with lots of laidback time to make a recipe with 50 steps that dirty all the dishes in the house. (I’m just kidding. Sort of.) This is actually quite a small cake. It makes one 8-inch layer. If you wanted to, it could easily be doubled to make a two-layer cake. I baked the single-layer version in two 6-inch cake pans then stacked them for icing, which worked out just fine and made a pretty two-layer small cake. I’m planning to make this cake again for Easter, and with all the kids here, I’ll be doubling the recipe.

Julia says: “This extremely good chocolate cake is baked so that its center remains slightly underdone; overcooked, the cake loses its special creamy quality.” So don’t overbake it! Julia has SPOKEN.

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How to make Queen of Sheba Cake:

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons rum or coffee
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup pulverized almonds
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup cake flour

Note: This is the one-layer quantity. Double for a two-layer cake.

Butter and flour cake pan. I used two 6-inch cake pans and I like to cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottoms. Makes cakes come out so nicely. I also prefer to dust the pans with cocoa powder instead of white flour when baking a chocolate cake. No white flour dust on the cake.

Set the chocolate and rum or coffee (I used Bacardi Gold) in a small pan, cover, and place (off heat) in a large pan of almost simmering water; let melt while you proceed with the recipe. (Honestly, I just put the chocolate straight in a pot and melt on low.) Measure out the rest of the ingredients.

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.

Fresh farm egg yolks are so perky.

Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks form; sprinkle on the one tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.

Blend the melted chocolate mixture into the butter mixture then stir in the pulverized almonds and almond extract. (Pulverize the almonds in a blender or food processor.) Immediately stir in one-fourth of the beaten egg whites. Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift on one-third of the cake flour and continue folding. Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more cake flour until all the whites and flour are incorporated.

Transfer batter to pan (or pans) and bake at 350-degrees for about 25 minutes. (For two 6-inch pans, I baked for 15 minutes.) Cake is done when puffed. (Do the toothpick test.)

Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes then remove and cool on a wire rack. Ice with Glacage au Chocolat (Chocolate-Butter Icing).

Glacage au Chocolat:
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons rum or coffee
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Melt chocolate with rum or coffee until smooth. Beat in butter a tablespoon at a time. Cool (or chill) until of spreading consistency.

Note: Julia recommends that this quantity of icing was sufficient for the one-layer quantity of Reine de Saba, just to spread across the top. I like icing, and I made two 6-inch layers, so I doubled this recipe. If I doubled the cake recipe for two 8-inch layers, I would quadruple this icing recipe for a two-layer cake of that size. Just sayin’. I like icing!

This cake is magnificent. If you’re looking for a special cake for your holiday meal this weekend, give it a try. It’s actually one of the simpler recipes in the book. Be not afraid!

See this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.

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  1. whaledancer says:

    May I ask a food question here that’s off the topic of this post? About a year ago you made some romano cheese that needed to age for year. I’m wondering, how was it? And have you sampled any other of your aged cheeses?

    Nice pics in this post, BTW. Your eggs are amazing.

  2. justdeborah2002 says:

    This pretty little cake reminds me of the chocolate mousse I made of Julia’s. Absolutely delicious, traditional (no cream, only egg yolks and whipped whites), and yes, it took 6, count ’em, 6 bowls to make the mousse.
    Worth it?
    Yes, but only for special occasions.

  3. AnitanTony says:

    Thank you for the idea! Cocoa powder as dusting for pan bottoms. Terrific! We eat very little cake in my family. Imagine that! Although, occasionally a cake baking does occur. I made a wonderful sopapilla cheesecake pie recently for a co-workers birthday. I must say, it was more of a breakfast bread. But It was Delicious!

  4. Joell says:

    Suzanne, that cake looks fabulous, may I ask where you purchased the cake pans? That is a perfect size for us.
    Thank you,
    Jo :happybutterfly:

  5. utroukx says:

    oh my gosh! that cake looks like fudge topped with more fudge! :hungry:

  6. Joell says:

    Thank you Suzanne, I would have never thought to look there.

  7. holstein woman says:

    Well that looks like the perfect 2 person cake. I like to make them small for us.

    Wonderful, I can just taste that cake now.

  8. grammyscraps says:

    Looks yummylicious..so, there is no sugar in the icing?? Sounds interesting.
    Always look forward to your times in the kitchen..

  9. rhubarbrose says:

    I too always love your posts from your kitchen. Love that you are recreating some of Julia’s recipes!! Thanks for this one – it looks like a chocolate lover’s dream cake.

  10. Joell says:

    Suzanne–had a friend purchase the cake pans for me, have printed the recipe and am going to bake the bake for Sunday dinner this week end.
    Thanks again

  11. whaledancer says:

    I forgot to say that I love the tip of dusting the pan with cocoa; I never liked that bit of white flour on the bottom.

    justdeborah2002, my husband made me that mousse a couple of times as a very special treat. It is simply the best! But you’re right about the number of pans. I read that Julia’s husband Paul did the dishes in their house, and I think it affected her recipes.

  12. princessvanessa says:

    I have to laugh at myself, I quickly read todays “daily farm” (and comments) about Patriot’s introduction to the farm….but in the back of my mind I couldn’t wait to read the “Queen of Sheba cake” blog. I’m salivating just reading about the cake! I’m not really supposed to eat much cake (being type II diabetic) but I am definately going to allow myself to make, and share, this cake…perhaps for my birthday or another very special occassion. Thanks for posting Jullia Child’s recipe for us.

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