Today would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday. In Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Julia calls Queen of Sheba chocolate almond cake her “all-time favorite”, and in The Way To Cook she tells us that it was the first French cake she ever ate, made by her friend and co-author, Simca (Simone Beck Fischbacher), and that she never forgot it. The recipe is in both books, with only the slightest variations in ingredients and method. She didn’t tinker with it. That is saying something.
The ingredients: semi-sweet chocolate melted in coffee (or rum), unsalted butter, granulated sugar, egg yolks, egg whites, almonds pulverized with sugar, almond extract, and cake flour.
The method: Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale in color, beat in egg yolks, stir in chocolate mixture, almonds and extract, fold in egg whites whipped to stiff peaks, alternating with cake flour, transfer to buttered, floured cake pan, bake at 350 deg. F for about 25 min. I say about, because I might have overbaked mine a bit because I didn’t follow the cardinal rule of checking for doneness 5 min. before it’s supposed to be done.
The icing is very simple, and is perfect for this cake. It’s Chocolate Icing (Glacage au Chocolat) from MTAoFC.
Melt semi-sweet chocolate in a bit of coffee (or rum) in a small pot, that is set in just-simmering water in a larger pot. Remove from the heat and stir in unsalted butter, a tablespoon at a time, until it’s all smooth. Finally, set the pot in ice and beat the icing until it is spreading consistency. After the cake is iced, Julia suggests decorating with almonds around the top, but I wanted to use up the pulverized almonds I had left, so I trimmed the top and sides with those.
There is good reason for Julia to call this her favorite cake. Deep chocolate flavor, moist texture, and the lightest icing you’ve ever tasted. I am desperately restraining myself, to only eat one piece. Tonight. There’s always tomorrow.
This wraps up my little tribute to Julia Child. I hope I have inspired you, or made you curious, to try some of Julia’s recipes and techniques, and to be fearless in your kitchen, just like Julia was.
Happy Birthday Julia, and if I may, Bon Appetit!