Mother’s Day: Reine de Saba Cake

Reine de Saba CakeFor Mother’s Day, I decided to make the chocolate almond French cake, Reine de Saba.  It was a labor of love.  Four bowls, two saucepans, a hand mixer, and a food processor later, I had a lovely, petite cake waiting to be iced with Julia’s fabulous, simple chocolate butter icing.

The cake requires a few steps, including beating egg whites, grinding almonds for almond meal, and chopping and melting chocolate.  However, it’s not a difficult recipe, and it yields an impressive, moist, flavorful cake.  It looks like it’d be very rich, but it’ll surprise you.

Reine de Saba Cake

The most difficult part is probably pressing the almonds onto the sides.  It’s only difficult because I’m very particular about the presentation.  I’ve seen this cake made with the almonds sprinkled on the top of the cake, which is gorgeous, too.

I cut four strips of wax paper to place underneath the cake so that after I iced and decorated, I could easily remove the strips and be left with a perfectly clean cake plate.

Reine de Saba Cake

Reine de Saba Cake

Reine de Saba Cake

Reine de Saba Cake

Reine de Saba Cake with Chocolate Butter Icing

Cake:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons brewed coffee, or dark rum (I used coffee)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + a pinch
3 eggs, yolks separated from whites
1/3 cup almond meal
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup (2 ounces) cake flour, sifted
About 1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds, for garnish

Frosting:
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons brewed coffee, or dark rum (I used coffee)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature

For Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare an 8-inch round cake pan by buttering and flouring the inside, tapping the pan to remove excess flour.
  2. Place the chocolate and coffee/rum in a medium heat-proof bowl and set atop a pan of simmering water. Melt, stirring occasionally, until smooth.
  3. Beat together the butter and 2/3 cup sugar, until fluffy, and lightened in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Add the egg yolks, beating until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Add the chocolate and coffee mixture, almond meal and almond extract, and mix until well incorporated.
  6. In a medium mixing bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
  7. Lighten the batter by mixing in 1/4 of the egg whites. Then alternate between gently folding in 1/3 of the remaining egg whites and 1/3 of the sifted cake flour, until no streaks remain.
  8. Turn out the batter into the prepped cake pan, and gently smooth the cake batter to the edge of the pan.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes, or until puffed, and just set in the center (it should jiggle slightly when shaken).
  10. Allow to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then run a butter knife around the edge of the cake, and unmold from the pan. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For Frosting:

  1. Place the chocolate and coffee/rum in a medium heat-proof bowl and set atop a pan of simmering water. Melt, stirring occasionally, until smooth.
  2. Off the heat, beat in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, with a wooden spoon. Once the butter is thoroughly incorporated, and no lumps remain, place the mixing bowl inside a larger mixing bowl that is filled  with ice.
  3. Mix the frosting over the ice bath, until it has chilled down to a spreadable consistency.
  4. Spread the frosting over the top and sides of the cake.
  5. Decorate with the sliced almonds.

Yield: 1 8-inch cake (serves 6-8)

Reine de SabaI like to chill the cake in the refrigerator to give the frosting time to “set” slightly before wrapping.

Yesterday I attended a writing institute during which we discussed incorporating our sense of “place” into our writing – where we come from.  This proved to be a cleansing exercise, as many of the attendees read theirs tearfully to the group.

For Mother’s Day, I would like to share my “Where I Am From” poem with my beautiful, kind, strong, smart, funny mom.  She is truly selfless and the mother I will strive to be when I am blessed with children of my own.

I am from laundry baskets,
from Rainbow-Brite and Barbies.
I am from friendly, kid-lined neighborhood streets.
(Noisy, lively; mimicking a playground.)
I am from the Bradford Pear trees,
the Holly bushes
        whose prickly thorns grumpily “embraced” my clumsy falls.I’m from Humphrey’s Pine Room Thanksgiving dinners and church-goers,
 from itchy, transparent-green Easter basket grass underneath my legs in the back of dad’s Oldsmobile on spring break trips.I’m from the solemn pre-dinner prayers and bantering of opposing politics,
 the feeling of the first time burying my face into the cottony, white fur of a family member for which I so, so long awaited.

From “Remember the Golden Rule!” and “That’s not ladylike.”

I’m from heavy hymnals
        with music note-splattered pages and pristine bindings,
        heaving shoulders of laughter that shook our pew, resulting in the “eye of warning” to my sister and me.

I’m from Seoul and the BWI airport,
        early afternoon meals of crisp, fried chicken legs, and from glistening, jewel-toned miniature fruit cakes during the holidays.

From the burnt hands of my sister who fought through halftime even after        burning herself with fire batons, and “I’ll help you clean your room if  you help me clean mine first!”
Front porch rocking in the cool mornings of summer, and a household with shelves upon shelves of knowledge, wisdom, adventure, and marvels of the world in the form of books.

Tucked tightly into albums on dusty shelves,
pressed onto sticky pages,
Polaroids of happiness, pride, life’s most significant moments,
        some – painful reminders of life’s fragility.
I am from those snapshots–
        ashy knees, unruly hair, glasses, and soiled play clothes,
        birthday candles, Christmas morning Santa Claus wonder.
I am from grace, sweet grace,
        opportunity, resounding laughter, tears, and endless joy,
from family members who may not look like me, but whose souls are beautifully bound to mine. 

Happy Mother’s Day to the most beautiful woman I know.

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5 thoughts on “Mother’s Day: Reine de Saba Cake

  1. DSprad says:

    That is the most beautiful poem I’ve ever heard! Love you so much 🙂 Oh, and I can’t wait to get my hands on that cake. Ha!

  2. laurasmess says:

    This is such a gorgeous post. Your cake looks amazing… perfectly iced and definitely channeling Julia!! My mother is on the other side of the country at the moment. Even though we did an early Mother’s Day bash last Sunday, I’m missing her now (with all these gorgeous Mother’s Day posts around the blogosphere!). Anyway, thanks for sharing the recipe. I bet your mother adored this cake 🙂 x

    • Thank you! It was pretty delicious, and I give the credit to Julia for her fabulous recipe. I’m glad that you were at least able to spend some time with your mother prior to Mother’s Day!

  3. Great job with the almonds, they look great.

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