Julia Child’s Reine de Saba cake

In the 100th episode of her TV show, The French Chef, Julia Child made the Reine de Saba cake. Yesterday, I made it for the first time for Debbie’s birthday. I purchased the semi-sweet chocolate (6 oz for $4) from Art Mart, and the other ingredients ($10) from Common Ground, and I could only find Swans Down cake flour ($3) from Schnucks. I used a double boiler instead of offsetting in two pans, espresso instead of coffee, and my KitchenAid mixer to make the stiff peaks.

I think I was pretty successful—despite the fact that it cracked. But, once you throw some frosting on top of it — no one will ever know the difference. It makes an 8-inch cake serving 6-8 people.

Here is Julia Child’s original recipe below—straight out of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking“—for the cake + the butter frosting… I had a very difficult time finding the original online.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
[Ingredients for 1st part: round cake pan 8 inches in diameter + 1 1/2 inches deep; 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate melted with 2 Tb of rum or coffee] Butter + flour the cake pan. Set the chocolate + rum/coffee in a small pan, cover, and place (off heat) in a larger pan with almost simmering water; let melt while you proceed with the recipe. Measure out the rest of the ingredients.

[ " 2nd part: 3-quart mixing bowl; wooden spoon or electric beater; 1/4 lb or 1 stick of softened butter; 2/3 cup of granulated sugar]
Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture.

[ " 3rd part: 3 egg yolks]Beat in the egg yolks until well blended.

[ " 4th part: 3 egg whites; pinch of salt; 1 Tb of granulated sugar]Beat in the egg whites + salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the sugar + beat until stiff peaks are formed.

[ " 5th part: rubber spatula, 1/3 cup of pulverized almonds; 1/4 tsp almond extract; 1/2 cup of cake flour that must be scooped + leveled + turned into a sifter] With the 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 + continue folding. Alternate rapidly with more egg whites + more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated.


Turn the batter into the cake pan, pushing the batter up to its rim with a rubber spatula. Bake in the middle level of preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed and 2.5-3 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.

[ " 5th part: cake rack]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.


[Ingredients for icing: 2 ounces of semi-sweet baking chocolate; 2 Tb of rum or coffee; a small covered pan; a larger pan of almost simmering water; 5-6 Tb of unsalted butter; wooden spoon; bowl with a tray of cube cubes + water to cover them; small flexible-blade metal spatula or table knife.]

Place the chocolate + rum or coffee in the small pan, cover, and set in the larger pan of almost simmering water. Remove pans from heat + 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.

Press a design of chopped almonds into the sides of the cake, over the icing.


Serve + enjoy!


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