Reine de Saba (chocolate almond cake)

Aug 20, 2010

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Earlier this week, my sweet tooth had a hankering (in the middle of the day) for some homemade something. I’ve been anxious to try this particular recipe ever since I watched Amy Adams and her character’s husband devour it without plates in Julie & Julia and since I had all of the ingredients, I took advantage of the situation.

What I found, after taking my first bite followed by a drink of cold milk was chocolate heaven.  Truly, the photos of the cake make it appear to be an ordinary chocolate cake (and while it really is simple to make, just quite a few steps), the complex, depth of flavor will leave your sweet tooth more than satisfied after you’ve tasted this concoction. Surprisingly enough, only 1/2 cup of flour is used, helping to lower the calorie count for each serving to 390. Enjoy!  And if you do try it, I’d love to hear what you think.

Key Things to Keep in Mind:

*The most important part is to know that the center will be undercooked.  This is what you want. If you cook it until it is entirely cooked through the beauty, the taste, the deliciousness that makes this cake what it is, is eliminated.  The reason why you don’t need to make filling or add another layer of cake is because of the moist center.  It is amazing.

*While not the most attractive cake, the taste will knock the socks off of your guests.

*Make sure to prep your cake pan – rub with butter and then cover in flour, shaking the excess flour out.  When the cake comes out of the oven, let it sit for 10 minutes and then using a knife, scrap around the sides of the cake so that nothing is sticking. Finally, place a plate on the top, flip and it should come out without any problem.

*Before putting the frosting on the cake, let the cake sit for a good hour or two.  It really will make the application of the frosting so much simpler.

*Lastly, it will appear as though you don’t have nearly enough frosting for the entire cake, but trust me you do.  I stuck to the recipe completely and the results you can see in the photo.

Julia Child’s Reine de Saba                 (Chocolate & Almond Cake)

Servings: Serves 6–8

Kitchen Supplies:

  • Round cake pan , 8 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches deep
  • 3-quart mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon or Electric beater or KitchenAid mixer
  • Rubber spatula
  • Cake rack


  • 4 ounces or squares semisweet chocolate , melted (I used Scharffen Berger gourmet dark chocolate semisweet bars)
  • 2 Tbsp. rum or coffee (I’ve used both on separate occasions and both are delicious)
  • 1/4 pound or 1 stick softened butter
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar to mix with butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar to beat with egg whites
  • 1/3 cup pulverized almonds
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/2 cup cake flour , scooped and leveled, turned into a sifter
  • Chocolate-Butter Icing (recipe below) Very simple


To make cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Butter and flour the cake pan. Set the chocolate and rum or coffee in a small pan, cover, and place (off heat) in a larger pan of almost simmering water; let melt while you proceed with the recipe. Measure out the rest of the ingredients.

3. Cream the butter and 2/3 cup of sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture. Beat in the egg yolks until well blended.

4. Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle 1 Tbsp. sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.

5. With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in the almonds, and almond extract. Immediately stir in one fourth of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift on one third of the flour and continue folding. Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated.

6. Turn the batter into the cake pan, pushing the batter up to its rim with a rubber spatula. Bake in middle level of preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed, and 2 1/2 to 3 inches around the circumference are set so that a needle plunged into that area comes out clean; the center should move slightly if the pan is shaken, and a needle comes out oily.

7. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse cake on the rack. Allow it to cool for an hour or two; it must be thoroughly cold if it is to be iced.

Butter-Cream Frosting

Servings: Make an 8-inch cake

Kitchen Supplies:

  • Small covered pan
  • Larger pan of almost simmering water
  • Wooden spoon
  • Bowl with tray of ice cubes and water to cover them
  • Small flexible-blade metal spatula or table knife


  • 2 ounces (2 squares) semisweet baking chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp. rum or coffee
  • 5 to 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Place the chocolate and rum or coffee in the small pan, cover and set in the larger pan of almost simmering water. Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt for 5 minutes or so, until perfectly smooth. Lift chocolate pan out of the hot water, and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time. Then beat over the ice and water until chocolate mixture has cooled to spreading consistency. At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife.

To serve: Use the Chocolate-Butter Icing, and press a design of almonds over the icing.(You’ll notice I did not press the almonds over the top of the icing, however, what I did do was sprinkle a few slivers of almonds on each slice as they were served.  It add just the perfect crunch.

5 thoughts on “Reine de Saba (chocolate almond cake)

  1. Looks and sounds amazing! Thank you for sharing the recipe – I will become an instant heroine in our chocolate worshiping family once I have made this!! 🙂

    Have a gorgeous weekend.

    xx Charlotta

  2. I’ll have to try this as my husband is constantly encouraging me to make more of Julia Child’s recipes!

    One tip though; if you find yourself turned off by the white flour sometimes leftover on your cake from buttering and flouring the pan, you can do the same with cocoa powder!

    I love the cake stand as well, it really suits the cake!

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