chocolate almond cake

June 15, 2012

At sixteen I had my first overseas adventure.

Even without a transatlantic flight, I thought I was pretty cultured in my own kind of teenage way. I wore black-frame glasses with plastic lens. Amélie had just come out and I was convinced every moment of my trip would be filled with upbeat accordion music. I was in French III and knew how to conjugate le subjonctif.

I was going to Paris.

And was it ever glorious! I ate escargot and croissants in cafés with actual upbeat accordion music and because my parents had signed a waiver, I drank wine with a dinner of steak tartare (now as an adult I know one must be drunk to consume what is basically a raw hamburger). As a souvenir I purchased a tiny tin of mini cappuccino flavored cigars.

I could not even get pass the initial puff when we broke into them in the hotel room later that evening and I’m sure it was about the same time as the shop owner who sold them to me arrived home to tell his wife about the ridiculous American girl who purchased such a horrific item.

Since that first trip I have had several visits back but in less than two weeks Paris and I will meet again. I made a cake to celebrate.

More importantly, I made a Julia Child cake. I am pretty sure Julie & Julia is the current equivalent to Amélie and has inspired sixteen year olds wearing all things neon to dream about walking the cobblestone streets of Paris. Although I’ve ditched the fake glasses for real ones now, I will just always be a sucker for France.

Julia Child would be 100 this year. I was asked to participate in a tribute to her anniversaire called the JC100 and each week a different recipe is made in her honor.

I kept her original recipe in tact but pretty much changed everything else. I cut the recipe in half because a 6-inch cake is so much more manageable as a dinner party dessert for four and omitted the frosting in favor of just a dusting of powdered sugar because I wanted to keep it easy and simple.

I listened to café music while I baked and sang La Marseillaise out loud because still to this day it is the only song in French I have memorized. And finally, at last, every bite of the rich chocolate cake was enjoyed as a perfect compliment to the end of a light summer meal.

Chocolate Almond Cake (Reine de Saba or Queen of Sheba Cake)
Makes one 6-inch cake

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 teaspoon (2 grams) espresso powder
2 teaspoons (10 ml) water
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 56 grams) butter, softened
1/3 cup (71 grams) sugar
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons (12 grams) sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (17 grams) almond flour
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup (25 grams) cake flour
cocoa powder, for dusting
powdered sugar, for serving

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 6-inch round cake pan, line with a parchment round and butter parchment. Dust bottom and sides of the pan with cocoa powder and tap to remove the excess.

Melt the chocolate, espresso powder, and water together in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted, turn off heat and set aside.

While you wait for the chocolate to melt – measure out the rest of the ingredients.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and pale. Add both yolks until combined. Stir in the chocolate mixture. Finally add the almond flour and extract and beat until smooth.

Whip egg whites together with a pinch of salt in a clean bowl with new beaters. Beat for about 3 minutes, or until glossy peaks form then with the mixer running, sprinkle sugar over the whites in two batches. Mix well after each addition.

Fold in about a quarter of the egg whites to the chocolate mixture to lighten it a bit. Working quickly fold in about a third of the remaining egg whites. Sprinkle in about a third of the flour and using several quick but gentle strokes, stir to combine. Repeat two more times with remaining egg whites and flour.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until the edges are just set. The middle will look slightly underdone. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Unmold onto a plate, remove parchment round and turn back onto a fancy serving platter.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Diana @ Brooklyn Galley June 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Such a great-looking cake! I first went to Paris in college and was enthralled with trying everything too, though cappuccino-flavored cigars weren’t among them. :) Have a great time on your trip!

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Sue/the view from great island June 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm

The cake looks amazing, I can just imagine how light and airy it is!

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Ninna June 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Hi. I just found your blog and I must say it is fantastic. I live in Denmark and it’s nice to see different and more experimental types of recipes than I’m used to. They do all look very inviting (I’ve been through all your post), and I will definitely bake some of them one day.
Keep up the good work :)

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Lillie June 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Thank you Ninna – I’m so glad you found me! Happy baking! :)

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Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar June 15, 2012 at 2:23 pm

So pretty! Love it!

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Diana June 15, 2012 at 2:40 pm

I loved my visit to France. My sister and daughter and I went to France for 14 days, we visited Paris for one week then went to Monoco for the other week. While in Momoco we traveled all over the south of France. I almost didn’t come back to the states I loved it so much and want to go back… If I could I would move to the small town of VillFrance and live my life on the ocean. I love the way of life, your story just brought back so many memories…
Thank you…
Diana

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sarah June 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I love simple cakes like this, and chocolate and almond is a timeless combination. Six- inch cake pans are such a good idea! My first trip to Paris was as a freshman in college, and I’ve been dying to go back ever since. Enjoy the trip!

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Riley June 15, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I loved my trip to Paris. Everything, especially the food, is special, but simple. This cake just screams Paris. Oui!

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ileana June 15, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Bon voyage! :)

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Katie June 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm

What a fitting cake to make to celebrate Julia! It sounds delicious. I like smaller cakes personally because I have less leftover after the guests leave.

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Molly June 16, 2012 at 1:16 pm

What an amazing cake and post! It totally brings me back to that trip and brings a huge smile to my face! Wow – what a great memory!! :)

Have an amazing time in Paris – can’t wait to see the recipes inspired from the trip!!

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Andreea June 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I love Julia’s cookbooks and this is my favorite recipe so far! I guess you can’t go wrong with chocolate, almond, butter and alcohol (I use rum instead of the coffee :0)).

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SA June 17, 2012 at 12:13 am

Hi I love your site! This is the second recipe of yours I’ve made. (I tried your orange almond cake too). The favors are amazing but my cakes don’t turn out as thick as yours. Like not even close. I think my cake is not even a half an inch. It still tastes fine but what are you doing to get it to rise up??? I only use a hand mixer, could that be it? Thanks so much!

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Lillie June 18, 2012 at 1:52 am

Hello! I’m so happy you have been enjoying BMUB! Hmm…it could be a variety of things – have you checked if your baking powder and soda are fresh? Also folding in egg whites is a fairly delicate process so be sure that the strokes are quick and that the egg whites don’t break down. Hope this helps! Happy baking!

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SA June 18, 2012 at 7:54 am

Oh, does the recipe call for baking powder or baking soda?? It’s not listed in the ingredients.

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Lillie June 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Generally it is a good idea to replace them often to ensure they provide the most lift in baked goods. The almond olive oil cake calls for baking powder, but I suspect that the egg whites breaking down may be to blame in making this cake flat. I hope this helps! :)

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christine [the sugar apothecary] June 20, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Oh my. How could you not swoon over something deemed the Queen of Sheba Cake?! Julia would be proud. Love the story of your first trip to Paris, too. I know that fantasy of meandering through life followed by a band of accordions well! Have an amazing time! xoxo

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Jada July 7, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I LOVE that you made and wrote about this cake. My Grandmother’s cooking life was changed by Julia Child, it is one of the things I remember most about her, her fabulous cooking. This is the exact cake that my Grandmother made for every birthday in our family when I was growing up. Now, I have her cookbook, it has chocolate stains and her penciled in notes on the pages of the recipe. Its such a sentimental cake for me, and SO delicious and now I make it for my friends and family on their birthdays.

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prasad July 25, 2012 at 9:00 am

What a perfect and fresh summer meal. Loving your contribution here Thorough, inspiring, delicious.andhra kitchen

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Nastya Tyshko August 3, 2012 at 2:52 pm

There is something about Paris that makes everybody who plans to go there feel a very specific way)
I just got back home from Paris. It was my first visit. I’m 19 but the general hue of my trip was very close to your first Paris experience.
This cake is a perfect celebration!)

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Lillie August 3, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Agreed! So glad to hear you had a wonderful trip! Already want to go back, right? :)

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Irma February 1, 2014 at 3:59 pm

This is a wonderful cake! I noticed I forgot to put the last third of my cake flour while cleaning up and it still came out great. I loved the way you work, following the recipe was easy and entertaining. Thank you, will definitely make this again, maybe for a dinner party :)

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Lillie February 4, 2014 at 8:02 pm

I’m so glad it turned out well and was enjoyed. Happy baking!

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