Chocolat: Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake

Chocolat:  Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake

One last week in France, one last French dessert. Being Thanksgiving in the States, when looking for a dessert for southern France, I tried to focus on holiday recipes. One interesting practice that I came across was the Provencal tradition of 13 desserts at the Christmas table. While I recognize it’s not yet Christmas, I thought it was a fun idea and worth sharing.  On Christmas Eve, the table is laid out with 13 individually cooked dishes, representing Christ and the 12 apostles at the Last Supper. The 13 desserts can vary from region to region but the core items are as follows:  the first four represent the four ‘beggars,’ or the four monastic groups (Dominicans, Augustines, Franciscans and Carmelites); then something from Africa to represent the three wise men;  next two types of nougat, white and black, to represent good and evil; then a type of brioche bread to signify ‘breaking bread’ as at the Last Supper; and finally the remaining items are made up of a selection of other fruits, nuts and pastries.  Pretty fun, huh?  The desserts in Southern France utilize the light, fruity flavors of the region. So, fruit in dessert. Since my original comments on the matter on week 1, I’ve gotten quite a lot of crap from my friends about it, so I’d like to clear a few things up. I’m not anti-fruit. I like fruit! And I do like fruit desserts on occasion. HOWEVER, if presented with a fruit dessert and a non-fruit dessert, I will always, always pick the non-fruit one because in my mind, they are just better. Total personal preference, so don’t hate!  Anyway, the desserts in southern France seemed to be a lot of fruit tarts and fruit creams.  Again, there is nothing wrong with that.  However, you know what other kinds of French desserts are good? Chocolate ones. So, while not exactly region specific, I’m making something rich and chocolate-y. It is Thanksgiving week, after all.  I think it’s allowed. I mean, after six weeks, I have yet to make a chocolate dessert…what’s that about?  Shame on me. So this week, I remedy the problem with Reine de Saba, or Chocolate Almond Cake.  I made a few Buddha tweaks with the flavorings that I hope you enjoy.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Reine de Saba
Ganache-topped Chocolate Almond Cake
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For the cake
  1. 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted with 2 TB rum or coffee
  2. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  3. 2/3 cup sugar
  4. 3 egg yolks
  5. 3 egg whiles, beaten stiff with 1 TB sugar
  6. 1/3 cup almond meal
  7. 1/4 tsp coconut extract**
  8. 1/4 cup vanilla extract
  9. 1/2 cup cake flour
For the ganache
  1. 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  2. 3 TB unsalted butter
For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Butter and flour a round 8″ cake pan.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes until pale and yellow.
  4. Beat in the egg yolks until well blended.
  5. Blend the melted chocolate into the butter mixture and add the almonds and extracts. Immediately stir in one fourth of the egg whites to lighten the batter. Delicately fold in the remaining whites alternating with the flour and fold gently, being careful not to deflate the cake, until all the whites are incorporated.
  6. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. The cake should puff.
  7. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes before removing it to a cooling rack. Let cool 1-2 hours before frosting
Make the ganache
  1. Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and beat in butter until melted.
  2. Cool the chocolate mixture and beat until spreadable consistency. Spread. Eat. Enjoy. Repeat.
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World
**In what I think was season 1 of Grey’s Anatomy, Izzy spent almost the entire episode trying to figure out the secret ingredient in her mom’s chocolate cupcake recipe. It turned out to be coconut extract. Ever since seeing that, I have added just a bit of coconut extract to anything chocolate that I make. It’s not enough to taste coconut-ty, but adds a certain “Je ne sais quoi” to a dessert that makes everyone scratch their heads in confusion and lick their lips in delight.  I think you’ll like the end result, and start incorporating Izzy’s trick into all your chocolate desserts, too.**


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