The dense layer, somewhere between brownie and lava cake, is called a “Reine de Saba” or a “Queen of Sheba” cake.
The recipe came my way via Eve Bark (merci!), at an orientation session to life in Paris called Bloom Where You're Planted. She not only gave us the recipe, but baked enough cake to give everyone in the audience a bite. Oh la la!
If this cake was any clue, life in Paris was going to be sweet.
For the longest time, I thought the cake was Eve’s invention and my personal secret weapon for dessert, even as France fell in love with le brownie, le muffin, and most recently, le cupcake.
Finally, I thought, I’ll bring this recipe to Pittsburgh – to America!
But in converting the recipe to U.S. measures and in Goggling around this past week, I realized that SOMEONE ELSE brought the Queen of Sheba to America a long time ago.
Julia Child in 1961.
She beat me by 56 years!
Julia included the cake in her book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” And she featured it on her TV show "The French Chef." See the vintage video here.
You’ll also see the cake in the film “Julie & Julia,” about Julia Child’s foodie experience in Paris, and Julie’s experience following in the master’s foodsteps, er, footsteps.
Respectfully speaking, Julia’s cake complicates things. You really don’t need the rum and almond extract, or the chocolate-butter frosting, or the slivered almonds decorating the whole thing.
The cake itself is amazing, and if you must, a dusting of powdered sugar or vanilla ice cream will do the trick. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Eve’s variation, and my variation on hers, is a one-bowl one-layer wonder. So here we go. Done the apron, and get to work:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour one 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan. In a large microwavable bowl, melt 4 ounces of dark chocolate (or semi-sweet chocolate chips) in a microwave on medium power. Whisk in 1 stick of butter (or margarine or canola oil), 2/3 cup plus one tablespoon of sugar, three eggs, one-third cup almonds ground in a food processor, and ½ cup flour. Bake only 20 minutes for a 9-inch cake or 30 min for an 8-inch cake--until barely done. Cool for 10 minutes. Eat warm.