When I found out I couldn’t eat gluten (and went through all the stages of grief, literally), I also learned I couldn’t eat many other foods that I loved, among them, chocolate. I stopped eating chocolate for several years, then decided to reintroduce it into my diet slowly. I’ve found that I can tolerate any chocolate that has no added milk products. Now, I enjoy gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and brownies.
But I waited a year before trying to bake my favorite dessert of all: Queen of Sheba Cake. I was afraid of spending a great deal of time creating this delicacy just to find out that it didn’t taste the way it had when I’d baked it with wheat flour. But it was my birthday, and I was adamant that I’d have a real birthday cake. What better time to make this luscious dessert, one that I had recently learned was created by Julia Child? No wonder I loved it so much.
If you have never eaten a Queen of Sheba Cake--either the gluten-containing or gluten-free variety--it’s a one-layer 8- or 9-inch almost flourless cake that also contains almond meal (now called “almond flour”), semisweet chocolate, and coffee, both in the body and in the icing. It’s so rich that this tiny cake feeds 16! One of its hallmarks is that the center remains the consistency of fudge while the outer area is cake-like.
Julia Child’s “Queen of Sheba” Cake (now gluten-free)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks, at room temperature (save whites for use later)
1/3 cup ground almonds (can be ground in a blender; use the “grate” and then the “liquefy” cycles)
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted in 2 tablespoons coffee (melt on a warmer or over a double boiler)
7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sorghum flour
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons arrowroot starch
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat butter and gradually beat in sugar. Mix in egg yolks, then ground almonds, then melted chocolate with coffee.
In a separate bowl, whisk sorghum flour, arrowroot starch, and xanthan gum.
By hand, in a third bowl, whisk egg whites with the salt until the soft peak stage. Then dust with 1 tablespoon sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form. Stop when bowl can be turned over while egg whites remain inside; avoid overbeating. Set aside but use soon.
Sift flour over chocolate mixture and mix in with almond extract.
Quickly mix about a fourth of the beaten egg whites into the batter. Then fold the other egg whites gently into the batter, using a rubber spatula and a figure-8 motion.
Pour into one greased 8” OR 9” cake pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes (convection oven: 325 degrees for about 18-20 minutes). When done, the cake’s center is still wet; a toothpick 2 inches from the edge of the pan should come out dry.
Allow cake to cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. When completely cool, ice with Buttery Chocolate Icing (below)
Buttery Chocolate Icing
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons freshly prepared coffee
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (do not use salted butter)
16 whole almonds for garnish
Melt chocolate chips with coffee, using double boiler or warmer. In one-tablespoon portions, add butter to melted chocolate, mixing in each addition fully. Cool frosting and ice cake. Arrange 16 whole almonds around the outside of the cake, one per piece.
Yield: 16 servings. Note: This is a deceptively rich cake, especially for its size. Freezes well (wrap each piece individually in plastic wrap).
My birthday was a success, and my gluten-loving family also loved this cake, as I am sure you will. It is definitely worth your time and effort. And if you freeze a few pieces, you’ll also be able to celebrate your cooking success…or your birthday…later.