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Julia Child’s Chocolate Almond Cake for JC100

Julia Child's Chocolate Almond Cake

As we make our way through the one hundred days of the JC100 programme I’m reminded how much more sophisticated recipes sound when presented under their French name. Last week it was vichyssoise–much better than the dreary-reading “potato leek soup”–and the pattern continues this week with Chocolate Almond Cake dressing itself up as reine de saba.

What I like best about baking from Julia Child’s recipes is that she doesn’t assume that every household will have a $500 piece of equipment (a stand mixer) that they use to mix $5 of ingredients together, three or four times a year.  We’re asked here to beat egg whites to stiff peaks and that could be done with whisk but a $50 hand mixer is all that’s really needed to make the process easy.

Rich, dark chocolate meets fluffy, yellow butter, sugar, and egg yolks.

Rich, dark chocolate meets fluffy, yellow butter, sugar, and egg yolks.

The third characteristic of this recipe that caught my eye is it’s scale. This is the sort of dessert that works for lunch with four to  eight adults and doesn’t need a roomful of screaming children to conquer multiple layers and pounds of sugary frosting.

Julia Child’s Chocolate Almond Cake (reine de saba)

Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Copyright © 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

A rich and deeply flavoured chocolate cake where the almonds play a supporting role that intensifies the chocolate’s flavour.

Yield: one 8-inch cake that serves 6 to 8 people

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 TB rum or coffee
  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • pinch salt
  • 1 TB granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup pulverized almonds
  • 1/4 teasponn almond extract
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Butter and flour the 8-inch, straight-sided cake pan. Set the chocolate and rum or coffee in a small pan, cover, and place (off heat) in a larger pan of almost simmering water; let melt while you proceed with the recipe. Measure out the rest of the ingredients.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture.
  • Beat in the egg yolks until well blended.
  • Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.
  • With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in the almonds, and almond extract. Immediately stir in one fourth of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift on one third of the flour and continue folding. Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated.
  • Turn the batter into the cake pan, pushing the batter up to its rim with a rubber spatula. Bake in middle level of preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed, and 2 1/2 to 3 inches around the circumference are set so that a needle plunged into that area comes out clean; the center should move slightly if the pan is shaken, and a needle comes out oily.
  • Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse cake on the rack. Allow it to cool for an hour or two; it must be thoroughly cold if it is to be iced.
  • To Serve use the the chocolate-butter icing below and press a design of almonds over the icing.

Julia Child’s Chocolate-butter icing (glaçage au chocolat)

Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Copyright © 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

The icing that goes with the chocolate-almond cake above.

Yield: enough icing for one 8-inch cake

  • 2 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 2 TB rum or coffee
  • 5 to 6 TB unsalted butter
  • Place the chocolate and rum or coffee in the small pan, cover, and set in the larger pan of almost simmering water. Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt for 5 minutes or so, until perfectly smooth. Lift chocolate pan pan out of the hot water, and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time. Then move the pan to a bowl filled with ice water and beat chocolate mixture until it has cooled spreading consistency. At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife.

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  1. I just made this for my colleagues to celebrate the end of the school year – man it was good, huh?

  2. James Cann says:

    I agree with that dishes sound much better with French names, but would go one further – they sound better with non-English names. How evocative does Aloo Gobi, and Keema Matar sound? In English, however, the translations are Potato and Cauliflower, and Mince Meat and Peas. The foreignness gives the name of the dishes some romance.

    The French examples you’ve given are different of course in that they are dishes named for something rather than the ingredients (like Pizza Margarita). I wish there were more English dishes like this. The best English dish names I think are either whimsical (Toad in the Hole), or linked to some place (Lancashire hotpot) or part of history (Ploughman’s lunch).

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