This flourless chocolate and almond cake, called Gateau Reine de Saba in French, is a single-layer, moist, and slightly dense cake which is covered in a chocolate glaze and decorated with almond flakes. The whipped egg whites help the cake rise in the oven but it sinks as it cools, often leaving a cracked crust.
This French dessert is named after the legendary Queen of Sheba as it is “fit for a queen”. It was introduced to the United States by Julia Child and since then has been adapted and renamed by many pastry chefs.
85 grams (1 cup) toasted almond slices, for decoration
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
Butter a 23cm/9-inch springform pan and place a parchment circle on the bottom. Butter the parchment. Place the pan on a baking sheet and set aside.
Place the butter and chocolate in a bowl and melt the mixture over a bain-marie or pot of simmering water. Make sure that the mixture does not have direct contact with the flame/heat or it will burn. When the mixture is melted halfway, remove from the heat and stir to finish melting the ingredients. (This ensures it’s not too hot to add the other ingredients.) Stir until smooth.
Stir in salt, almond flour, and then yolks into the lukewarm chocolate/butter mixtures. Make sure that the mixture is lukewarm (not hot) or the yolks will cook and congeal. Add coffee and rum, if using. Mix to incorporate. Set aside.
In a large and clean bowl, combine the egg whites with cream of tartar and whip until foamy and almost at the soft peak stage. Slowly add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whipping well after each addition. Gradually increase the speed and whip the egg whites until glossy, stiff peaks form. The egg whites should stick to the beaters when held upside down, and they should look slightly firmer than shaving cream.
Fold a third of the egg white mixture into chocolate/butter mixture to lighten the batter. Continue to fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate/butter mixture until incorporated. There should not be any egg white streaks in the batter.
Immediately and gently pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Gently even out the top using a palette knife and put into the oven.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out with no crumbs on it; it may be moist or shiny.
Thoroughly cool the cake before unmolding. The cake will deflate as it cools.
Make the glaze as per the recipe (hyperlinked above).
To decorate, unclasp the springform sides and invert the cake onto a cardboard cake round the same size as the cake. Take off the springform pan bottom and the parchment round from the top.
Place the cake with the cardboard on top of a turntable (or improvise by using an overturned, shallow bowl). Pour the glaze over the cake, catching the excess on a piece (or two) of parchment paper underneath the cake (Note: you can return the the glaze back to your bowl by rolling up the parchment with the chocolate in it and then squeezing it out and back into the bowl). Smooth the glaze across the top of the cake using an offset or straight icing spatula, allowing the glaze to cascade over the edge to cover the sides. Gently smooth down the sides, if needed. Wait a few minutes for the chocolate to slightly set before moving to step 13.
Placing another piece of clean parchment below the cake (underneath the turntable or shallow bowl) to catch the excess almonds. Gently press the toasted almond slice along the sides of the cake as decoration. (Note: you can return the excess almonds back to your bowl by scooping it from the paper.)
Allow the glaze to set for at least 1 hour before serving.
Serve with barely sweetened whipped cream or berries.