Queen of Sheba Cake

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A very special cake of rum, almonds, butter, and chocolate that is somewhat moist in the center – it literally melts in the mouth.  This was the first French cake I ever ate, prepared by my French colleague, Simca, and I have never forgotten it.  Like most French cakes, it is only an inch and a half high, which makes it easy to serve.


4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons strong coffee
4 ounces (1 stick) softened unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup blanched almonds pulverized with 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor
¼ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup plain bleached cake flour, sifted onto wax paper
3ounces bittersweet chocolate
1-1/2 tablespoons rum or strong coffee
A pinch of salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350°F and set the rack in the lower middle level.  Butter and flour an 8-by 1-1/2-inch round pan.  Set out all the ingredients and melt the chocolate.  Cut the butter into pieces and cream it in the bowl of an electric mixer.  When soft and fluffy, add the sugar and beat 1 minute, then beat in the egg yolks.  Beat the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until foaming throughout, beat in the cream of tartar and salt, and continue until soft peaks are formed.  Gradually beat in the 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue until stiff shining peaks are formed.  At once blend the warm, smoothly melted chocolate and the coffee into the yolk mixture, then the almonds and the almond extract.  Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten it.  Scoop the rest of the whites over the chocolate and, alternating with sprinkles of flour, rapidly and delicately fold in the egg whites.  Immediately turn the batter into the prepared pan and set in the preheated oven.  The cake is done when it has puffed to the top of the pan and a toothpick plunged into the cake 2 and 3 inches from the center comes out clean.  The center, however, should move slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 25 minutes.  Remove the pan to a rack and let cool 15 minutes; unmold onto the rack.  Let cool completely before icing.

Melt the chocolate with the rum or the coffee.  When smooth and glistening, beat in the salt, then the butter a tablespoon at a time.  Beat over cold water until firm enough to spread.  Turn the icing on top of the cake; spread it over the top and sides.

Serves 12