Julia Child’s Reine de Saba avec Glaçage au Chocolat ~ Chocolate Almond Cake
Baking partners is a new virtual baking group. Every month, we will bake a recipe and post it in our blogs on the 15th of the month. For this month, the first bake of this new baking group is Julia Child’s Reine de Saba avec glacage au chocolat or Chocolate almond cake as a tribute to her. Today is Julia Child’s 100th birthday and what better way to celebrate her birthday than bake her delicious cake!
This cake uses little flour and hence it is firm at the edges and gooey in the middle. It was a little tricky for me to bake it right in the first attempt. I had to bake it twice to get it right. The recipe called for baking it for 20-25 minutes and to start checking it from 18 minutes into baking. In my first try I baked it for 20 minutes and when I did the tooth pick test; tooth pick inserted at the edges came out clean and the center of the cake was a little moist. I thought it was done and when I tried to move the cake from the pan after cooling it for ten minutes, it almost fell apart with chocolate/batter oozing out form the middle. I put it back in the oven and baked for few more minutes but the cake did not hold the shape. I did not feel like icing it and we ate the cake without any icing. It was good and we finished it off on the same day. I baked it again the second time for 25 minutes and decorated it with chocolate butter icing & almonds. Even in my second try, the cake was gooey in the middle but this time I let it cool completely before removing it from the pan.
Swathi, fellow baking partner shared this recipe and she was kind enough to give us the measurements to bake the cake in both 8a ” & a 9” pan. I have both 8” pans & a 9” spring-form pan. I decided to bake the 8” pan and was debating between a round and a square cake pan. Then I saw the pictures of the cake shared by fellow group members, I wanted to do a two layered cake but did not want to double the recipe. I also have 4 ½ “mini spring-form pans and decided to follow the 8” cake recipe and bake it in 2 mini pans. After my first disaster with the cake, I abandoned the 2 layer cake idea and decided to give one cake to a friend. The cake is delicious but loaded with calories and I wanted to share those calories with someone 😛 . I gave one cake to a friend and kept one for myself. I liked my second attempt cake lot better than my first cake. On the first day, we thought the cake was a little too sweet for our taste. But on the second day, with the icing, the cake was perfect, gooey and moist in the middle and a little crumbly at the edges. My friend and her family thought the icing was a little sweet but the cake itself was delicious.
The recipe is lengthy and looked tedious but once I started preparing it, it wasn’t that bad at all. The cake has too many steps; melting chocolate, creaming butter & sugar, beating egg whites to form stiff peaks and then folding in all the ingredients together to prepare the batter. First attempt was a little overwhelming with various steps but the second try was a breeze as I knew when to do what and did not seem tedious at all. Moreover, it was worth going thru the lengthy process as the resulting cake was lip smacking 😉 ! Thanks Swathi for picking this recipe!
Source: Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Copyright © 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Reference Video: Youtube video
Total Time: 55 – 70 minutes (excludes cake cooling time)
Preparation: 30 – 45 minutes (includes icing & decorating time. Decorating time can vary)
Baking Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 – 8 (this is subjective. We ate 1 mini cake in one serving 🙂 )
When baking, I usually prefer weighing measurement to cup measurements. I weighted my ingredients and listing the cup measures given in the recipe. I have not measured the ingredients using a cup.
- 4 ounce or 113.4 grams Semi-sweet Chocolate (I used Ghirardelli but any good chocolate will work)
- 2 tbsp. Rum or Coffee (I mixed ¼ tsp. instant coffee with 2 tbsp. of hot water)
- ¼ pound or 1 stick or 113 grams Butter softened (I left it on the counter-top for 2 hours to bring it to room temperature)
- 134 grams or 2/3 cup Granulated Sugar
- 3 Eggs, yolks & whites separated (left my eggs on the counter-top for 2 hours to bring them to room temperature)
- 1/8 tsp. or pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp. Granulated Sugar (will need this when beating egg whites)
- 65 grams or 1/3 cup pulverized (ground) Almonds (I toasted blanched almonds and processed them in food processor)
- ½ tsp. Almond Extract
- 57 grams or ½ cup Cake Flour (1 tbsp. Cornstarch + All Purpose Flour)
Chocolate Butter Icing
- 2 ounces or 56.7 grams Semisweet Chocolate
- 2 tbsp. Rum or Coffee (I mixed ¼ tsp. instant coffee with 2 tbsp. of hot water)
- 5 to 6 tbsp. Unsalted Butter (I used 5 tbsp.)
- Sliced almonds
- Toast almonds in a pan for couple of minutes and cool the almonds. When cool, grind to powder. I used a food processor and the powder was a little coarse. I unused untoasted almonds in my first attempt and I could taste the almonds in the cake. I liked toasted pulverized almonds to untoasted almonds.
- To melt the chocolate, fill a big pot with water and bring to boiling point. We will insert a smaller covered pot of chocolate & rum in this big pot to melt the chocolate. This is Julia Child’s method of melting chocolate and followed this method. Or one can follow the double boiler method to melt the chocolate; that is, but a bowl of chocolate & rum on a simmering pot of water to melt the chocolate. While the water is heating, continue with the rest of the prep work.
- Measure the ingredients and keep aside.
- Butter the pan or pans (if using mini pans) and dust it with flour.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Once the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat. In a smaller pot that has a lid, take 4 oz. of chocolate and rum/coffee and cover it. Put this pot in the hot water and leave it on the counter top for 5 minutes to let it melt.
- Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until it is fluffy & pale yellow. I used my hand held electric beater set to “beat” to cream the sugar & butter. This took me about 1 ½ minutes. Add the yolks to the mixture and beat until yolks are blended in. Keep this mixture aside.
- Remove the blades and wash & wipe them dry to beat the egg whites.
- In bowl take egg whites & pinch of salt and beat them until soft peaks are formed. This step took about 1- 1 ½ minutes with my hand held electric beater. Add 1 tbsp. of sugar and continue beating it for another 2-2 ½ minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Don’t over beat the whites which will result in deflated peaks. Keep the whites aside. This is a little tricky for first time bakers and hence giving the beating times. I am no expert baker either and please use the times mentioned here as a guideline.
- Now back to egg yolks mixture. With a rubber spatula add melted chocolate to the yolk mixture. Remember, we put chocolate in a water bath to melt it! Mix the mixture until chocolate is blended in. One can use a rubber spatula or lazy bums like me can use the beat set to “fold” to do this work.
- Add ground almond & almond extract and stir the yolk chocolate mixture to well incorporate the almond flour. I use my beater set to “fold” to do the stirring for me.
- Now divide the egg whites to 4 parts and add one quarter of the beaten egg whites to chocolate yolk mixture and fold it in. I used the beater to do the job for me.
- Add another quarter of the whites and fold it into the chocolate yolk mixture. When the whites are half folded in, add 1/3 of the flour and continue folding the flour. Repeat this step, folding in egg whites and flour until 2 more times until all of the whites and flour is folded into the chocolate yolk mixture. Now the cake batter is ready.
- Transfer the batter into greased and dusted pan(s), even the surface and bake in a preheated oven 25 minutes.
- Cake is done when it is puffed, 2 ½ – 3” around the circumference of the cake is set and when a tooth pick inserted in that area comes out clean. The center should move slightly if the pan is shaken and a tooth pick inserted in the middle of the cake comes of oily or comes out with moist crumbles on it.
- The recipes called for cooling the cake in the pan for 10 minutes and then reverse it on to a cooling rack. I let the cake cool for almost 30 minutes and remove the spring-form. Run a knife or a tooth pick around the edges before removing the spring. I forgot to loosen the edges for one the cakes the top crust fell apart. I removed it to even the top layer. Also, I could not wait for the cake to cool and ate of the top layer 🙂 I am as bad a small chicldren at birthday party when it comes to chocolate cake 😛
- I let it cool for another 30 minutes and then reversed it onto a rack/plate to remove the pan base. Let the cake cool completely before icing it, for at least 2 hours. Since I cooled the cake for an hour before removing it from the pan, I let it cool for another hour before icing it.
Preparation of chocolate butter Icing:
- Melt the chocolate in a similar fashion as we did above. Put chocolate & coffee in a small pot that has a lid. Place this pot in a pot of almost boiling water. Leave these pots on the countertop and let the melt, about five minutes.
- Take another wide pan and fill it with little water and keep it aside. We will add some ice cubes to this pan when the chocolate is melted and is ready for the ice bath.
- After five minutes, when the chocolate is melted and is smooth, remove the chocolate pan from the hot water. Add 1 tbsp. of butter at a time to melt chocolate and whisk it with a whisk. I used a whisk here but one can use a beater too. I left my butter on the counter top for about 1-2 hours so that it would easy melt when I add it to melted chocolate.
- Once the butter is melted, add some ice to the wide pan that we kept aside. Put this chocolate butter pan on the water & ice, and beat the mixture until the chocolate cools and comes to a spreadable consistency. I think I used too many ice cubes and my chocolate cooled immediately, with in a minute after putting it on ice bath.
- Transfer chocolate butter icing to the cake(s) and spread it evenly on and around the cakes(s).
- Decorate the cake with almonds and serve it chilled. I pressed sliced almonds on the sides of the cake and put a few slices on the top.
Before I sign off, wish you all a Happy Indian Independence Day!