Queen of Sheba

21 July 2013

Post image for Queen of Sheba

I’m conscious that I have quite a few recipes for chocolate cake on this blog, but I suppose one more can’t hurt …

This recipe was given to me by my French mother-in-law after some pleading on my part. One afternoon, after she had served a procession of five courses at lunch, she brought out this beauty for dessert, a plain chocolate cake which tasted anything but.

This is a flourless chocolate cake which, unlike most which are rich and decadent, is instead light and soft. In comparison to Nigella’s Chocolate Cloud Cake, another flourless chocolate cake which I have previously blogged about, this cake is not so tall, making it somewhat lighter and more appealing as a dessert if lunch or dinner has been quite indulgent. And like most French cakes, this one is served plain with maybe a drizzle of chocolate glaze or simply with whipped cream on the side.

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My mother-in-law found the recipe for this cake, called a Reine de Saba, in a French magazine some many years ago. When she sent me the recipe, I instantly recognised the cake as one which Julia Child made on her show, The French Chef. Fans of the wonderful Julia Child can watch the episode here where, back in the olden days, cooking shows had the luxury of devoting an entire episode to just one recipe:

If you are interested in Julia Child’s recipe, the recipe can be found in her book, The French Chef Cookbook.

Watching this video has been a delightful trip down memory lane for me, especially since I have fond recollections of watching Julia Child on TV as a young child, in part because her show often aired before the weekly Shirley Temple movie. I think that, even as a young child, I unconsciously picked up a lot of tips from cooking shows which I used to watch with my mother, such as to start beating egg whites on low speed until they are frothy before turning up the speed to let them increase in volume. Even if I didn’t pick up this tip from Julia Child, I feel reassured watching her do the same.

My favourite part of this video is watching Julia Child lick the cake spatula and saying, “That’s part of the recipe.” :-)

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Having compared the recipe below to Julia Child’s, it became obvious to me that there must be many different recipes out there for Queen of Sheba. In particular, Julia Child’s recipe contains flour and the aromatic addition of rum, whereas this recipe contains cornflour for stability and is alcohol-free. Although, you could certainly add a dash of rum, Grand Marnier or even Frangelico to the batter for a more adult affair. If you are also serving children, perhaps the best compromise is to serve a bowl of whipped cream on the side, laced with your favourite liqueur.

If you’re looking for a quick and fuss-free recipe for a crowd-pleasing dessert, this is the one.

Queen of Sheba (Reine de Saba)
Makes 1 cake

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Cook’s Notes

To make this a gluten-free cake, make sure that you use gluten-free cornflour. Not all brands of cornflour are gluten-free.

The original recipe calls for fécule which, in France, refers to potato starch. If potato starch is readily available where you live, you could use this in place of cornflour.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Kayk 22 July 2013 at 12:19 am

Definitely will make this when I can afford the ingredients. I love the look of your blog, btw. I love the way you include lthe video and pics of the ingredients. Will definitely follow.

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eat, little bird 23 July 2013 at 10:18 am

Thank you! Where possible, I like to include videos to help tell my story about a recipe. I hope you will enjoy visiting my blog.

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Rosalind 22 July 2013 at 1:02 am

Thank you for the tip on beating egg whites. The cake looks yum and I will definitely try it one day.

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eat, little bird 23 July 2013 at 10:21 am

You’re welcome :-) A lot of recipes simply tell you to beat the egg whites until they are stiff, but fail to explain how to do so. I’ve even seen some recipes tell you to start beating the egg whites on very high speed. I’m not sure what the difference is to the end result, but I like to start off slowly to loosen the egg whites and to see the stages that it goes through, and not least to make sure that you don’t overbeat your egg whites.

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Silver Magpies 22 July 2013 at 1:42 am

A version of this cake is a staple at our house…if the timing is fortuitous we eat it warm from the oven, whe it is still puffed and soufflé-like. Yum! If any survives, it is equally good when cooled.

So glad to see you back so soon!

Nan

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eat, little bird 23 July 2013 at 10:22 am

Oh yes, I should have mentioned that the cake can also be served warm … might amend that later! But it is also delicious served cooled. My husband and I can polish one of these cakes between ourselves in just 2 days!

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Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar 22 July 2013 at 3:45 am

The more chocolate cake recipes the better! Yum!

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eat, little bird 23 July 2013 at 10:22 am

I agree! :-)

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Kay 24 July 2013 at 8:37 am

I agree too! It’s amazing; the infinite variations of chocolate cake available! :)

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Paula 22 July 2013 at 8:34 am

Hi, Thanh!! Nice to see you again!! :P

There are never enough chocolate cakes, and less with that texture!!

What fun are things. You fall in love for a french recipe of a French relative. You ask for the recipe, she send it. And… you recognize the recipe for gâteau au chocolate (French type) thanks to a cook… from US!!
But now, I also see the recipe, and yes, very similar also to the one I use for my gâteau au chocolat :P

A couple of months ago I made one with Frangelico. You now have to use all you can, while baby can’t sink teeth into!! Then, you’ll have to take alcohol out of your desserts :P Just a joke!!

These days, we’ll be finally in Switzerland, will be only 2 or 3. As I told you (no, I don’t expect you to remember) we rented a car and will be in Germany, Alsace an Austria. So we’ll need another trip to visit more of Switzerland, but I’m happy to know a little!

See you!!

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eat, little bird 24 July 2013 at 10:58 pm

Hi Paula :-)

LOL!! I didn’t realise but it is rather ironic to learn about French food from an American, isn’t it?? I love Julia Child. I have most of her books and even some of her DVDs.

I’m sure there are many versions of this chocolate cake recipe. I’m not exactly sure why this one is called a “Reine de Saba”, but it tastes great and that’s all that matters :-)

And you are right about the alcohol … I ought to make the most of the opportunity now! I absolutely love the combination of Frangelico and chocolate – I can confirm that it works really well in this cake.

Enjoy your trip through Switzerland – the weather has just been beautiful here these past few weeks so I hope it will be a magical time for you :-) I can’t wait to hear all about your trip!

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Alan 22 July 2013 at 8:55 am

Fabulous!! Disappeared too quickly for my liking!. And thanks for introducing Julia Childs!… What a fantastically eccentric and knowledgable cook. I’m now devouring her YouTube videos!!! Thank you!

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eat, little bird 24 July 2013 at 11:02 pm

Enjoy her videos! I think they are wonderful to watch, if not just to see how cooking shows were filmed back in those days. I love that the focus was solely on the recipe and cooking tips, and not so lifestyle driven like today’s cooking shows are.

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thelittleloaf 22 July 2013 at 2:14 pm

In a world of insanely rich and gooey chocolate cakes it’s so refreshing to see a light one! This looks wonderful.

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eat, little bird 24 July 2013 at 11:03 pm

Yes, I agree that it is refreshing to have a “light” chocolate cake. One doesn’t feel so bad after having dessert then ;-)

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thespicysaffron 22 July 2013 at 3:44 pm

Lovely post, Thanh !! Photos are stunning as usual :)

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eat, little bird 24 July 2013 at 11:03 pm

Thank you so much :-)

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Rushi 22 July 2013 at 4:07 pm

Oh Thanh, this is one of my favourite French cakes of all time. A friend of mine made a similar cake and I had a hard time trying to stay away from the cake. I made a different recipe sometime back for Christmas and it was such a hit. What I like about this cake is that it’s a crowd pleaser, one can never say no to a slice or two :)
Thanks a million for posting the recipe :D

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eat, little bird 24 July 2013 at 11:04 pm

I’m glad you also know of this cake in France. There are lots of recipes for flourless chocolate cake out there but this one is perhaps my favourite :-)

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Carmen 23 July 2013 at 9:51 am

mmm yumi! i have a couple of versions and every one its fine!!

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eat, little bird 24 July 2013 at 11:05 pm

It’s hard to find a bad chocolate cake recipe ;-)

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Angela 23 July 2013 at 10:02 am

Hello,
I am from Australia and am checking how many teaspoons are in your tablespoon? We have 4 teaspoons in a tablespoon but many countries have three. Could you let me know if you have 3 (15 ml capacity) or four (20 ml capacity)?
Thanks so much,
Angela

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eat, little bird 23 July 2013 at 10:15 am

Hi Angela,
I have a large collection of measuring spoons which I use frequently and they are a mix of standards. The tablespoons which I use are generally 15 ml capacity (3 teaspoons). Although, I just measured my favourite tablespoon and it yields 10 ml!! Hmmm …

I haven’t drawn a difference between Australian and UK/US tablespoons on my website because, for me, I haven’t found there to be a difference in results in a lot of the recipes which I have tried. But to err on the side of caution, a tablespoon mentioned on this website would generally refer to a UK/US tablespoon, i.e. 15 ml.

I hope this helps!

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Angela 23 July 2013 at 11:02 pm

Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Regards from Australia,
Angela

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Jennifer @ Delicieux 24 July 2013 at 12:27 am

You’re right Thanh, one more chocolate recipe can’t hurt. In fact, I believe there is no such thing as too many chocolate recipes. :) Especially a recipe as delicious as this!

In a funny co-incidence I’m reading Julia Child’s My Life In France at the moment (which I’m loving) so I especially loved seeing the video of Julia making the cake. I can’t help but smile when I see her cooking.

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eat, little bird 24 July 2013 at 11:10 pm

I love her book, My Life in France, and I hope you will enjoy it too! Her cookbooks are quite old-fashioned but I love reading them. She’s quite instructional with her cooking but I sort of like that because I feel that I learn a lot from her writing and her shows.

I have a sign in my kitchen with a quote from Julia Child which says, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream”. I always smile when I see it :-)

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Angela 24 July 2013 at 11:29 pm

Hi again,
I am wondering which version of the cake do you prefer…Julia Child’s or your mother-in-law’s? Is there any difference in texture?
Regards,
Angela

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eat, little bird 24 July 2013 at 11:38 pm

Hi Angela,
I actually haven’t tried Julia Child’s version. When my mother-in-law sent me a scan of the recipe which she had used, I recognised it as one which Julia Child had made on her show, mostly because the name of the cake was quite unusual. But I’m hoping to try Julia Child’s version very soon …

Julia Child’s recipe contains 3/4 cup of flour, which is not a lot compared to normal cakes, but I think it would be a denser than the recipe above. Cornflour typically adds lightness to a cake, which is probably why I like my MIL’s recipe.

Also, my MIL’s recipe doesn’t include an icing. Although I love icing on cakes, I particularly love the crust on this cake which gives it that crumbly look.

But I will experiment soon and report back :-)

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Angela 24 July 2013 at 11:41 pm

Thanks so much. I really think your Mother-in-law’s will deliver what I am looking for. I like to add some alcohol for flavour…when would I add it?
I do so appreciate your replies. You are amazing.

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eat, little bird 24 July 2013 at 11:48 pm

A dash of alcohol would really lift this cake, I think! I would add about 1 tablespoon of your favourite liqueur to the slightly cooled melted chocolate, or to the batter when you are mixing in the melted chocolate.

If you want a cake which is quite strongly flavoured with alcohol, then you could add more than 1 tablespoon, but I would experiment first.

I hope you will enjoy this cake! Let me know how it turns out for you.

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Lindsey @ American Heritage Cooking 29 July 2013 at 1:47 am

This looks delightful! One can NEVER have too many chocolate cake recipes! I can’t wait to try it! Bien fait!

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eat, little bird 31 July 2013 at 9:58 pm

Merci! I hope you will enjoy this recipe.

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Amrita 11 August 2013 at 2:44 pm

When it comes to a chocolate cake recipe, no amount is enough to have in your repertoire.

I once had a college-mate who gave me the recipe or ‘a’ recipe for chocolate cake that she’d made for a dinner party. It was a flour-less cake and it was doused in a goosebump-inducing amount of chocolate ganache. The ganache had rolled off the top of the cake and formed a puddle around it. The cake was dark and gleaming like yours and it melted in our mouth.

She called it the Queen of Sheba cake. And I think you’ll agree with me if I say that one can never fall out of love with a cake with that name.

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eat, little bird 11 August 2013 at 6:13 pm

Your college mate’s cake sounds similar to Julia Child’s version of the Queen of Sheba. Your description of the cake is very mouth-watering! I’m not sure how the name of the cake came about but it is a memorable one :-)

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Elizabeth 15 October 2013 at 3:03 pm

You know, your blog is beautiful and inspiring. I am a big Rachel Khoo fan too, and I felt happy seeing so many of her recipes cooked. This chocolate cake looks fab. If I were to ever start a food blog, this is what I would want it to look like. :)

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eat, little bird 15 October 2013 at 3:19 pm

Oh that’s so lovely of you! Your message has just made my day :-) I hope you will enjoy your visits to my blog!

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Allen 27 November 2013 at 4:20 am

Yummy! This one is different from Donna Hay’s recipe of flourless chocolate cake which I keep and make all the time. Will definitely give one a shot : )

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Lillian 22 May 2014 at 4:47 am

Quick question: do you use unsweetened baking chocolate or semi-sweet baking chocolate? Can’t wait to try this recipe!!

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Eat, Little Bird 22 May 2014 at 9:27 pm

For this recipe, and also most baking recipes, I would use chocolate with a minimum of 60% cocoa content. There is sugar in the recipe, so if you were to use chocolate with anything less than 60% cocoa content, the cake might be on the sweet side.

In the US, I think chocolate with around 60% cocoa content is called semi-sweet chocolate, but I could be wrong … Check the packaging and hopefully you can use this as a guide.

I hope this helps!

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