Reine de Saba

Recently, I had a go at clearing out the scary place known as The Mysterious Store Cupboard and I found some ground almonds that I bought for a Tarta de Santiago that I didn't quite get round to making. I then found the ground almonds that I bought for the winter-warming Gingerbread that I still haven't bothered to make. Finally, I found the ground almonds that I bought for the Galette des Rois that I didn't make because I got distracted. So ground almonds had to be put to work.

The Reine de Saba (the Queen of Sheba cake) is a well-known, classic French recipe – I'm fairly sure there's a version of it in one of Elizabeth David's books – but it has a lot of variations. For what it's worth, this is the way I make it and, happily, it's made a small dent in the ground almond mountain.

Reine de Saba
130 g  dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids) , broken up
30 ml Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
100 g unsalted butter, cut into smallish cubes and allowed to soften, plus a bit more for the tin
3 eggs, separated
110 g caster sugar, divided into 80 g and 30 g portions, plus a bit more for the tin
25 g potato flour
10 g cocoa powder
75 g ground almonds

Prepare a round 20 cm cake tin thoroughly, since this cake is fond of sticking to things. I line the base, rub the tin with butter and sprinkle with a little caster sugar.

Melt the chocolate with the Grand Marnier – normally I would do this in the microwave, but for this cake, it's easier to use a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Once the chocolate has melted, keep the bowl on the heat and add the butter a little at a time, stirring as you do so. Once all the butter has been incorporated, take the bowl off the heat and allow it to cool a little.

Whisk the egg yolks with 80 g of the caster sugar until they're very pale. Whisk in the potato flour and cocoa powder. Stir in the ground almonds and then the chocolate and butter mixture.
Whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage, then whisk in the remaining 30 g of caster sugar a bit at a time until the whites are stiff.

Add about a quarter of the egg whites to the chocolate and almond mixture and stir it in. Finally fold in the rest of the egg whites carefully, keeping the mixture as light as possible.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and level it out. Bake in a 170ºC oven for around 30 minutes, but check after 25 minutes. The cake should have formed a light crust but should still be a little soft and gooey in the middle.

Cool the cake in the tin before attempting to turn it out – the Reine de Saba is a fragile thing. Hopefully, the cake won't sink too much, but a little cracking and crumbling can be hard to avoid. If you feel like it, lightly dust the top of the cake with icing sugar or cocoa powder or decorate with toasted almonds or almond flakes. This is definitely a dessert-style of cake, so if you happen to have a little crème fraîche and maybe a few raspberries then they would be most welcome.

Reine de Saba 3


  1. this looks divine! I love using potato flour and ground almonds in cake, they make such a welcome change to plain old flour and make everything taste so rich and luxurious... i'm making my we should cocoa challenge dish tomorrow, also using ground almonds... wish me luck that it's as good as yours!

  2. Looks delicious Phil and I'm very happy with your French gateaux. Is potato flour something they use in France or just your version?

  3. Choclette - I think I'm right in saying that most classic recipes for Reine de Saba use just ground almonds. I added the little bit of potato flour because I think it makes the cake hold together a bit better. Although French cooks do use potato flour in gateaux I suspect that in this case they might prefer to use Maizéna (cornflour), which seems a lot more common in French baking.

  4. yes I have seen many versions of this cake but I love the name of this one - makes it sound like it is for very important people!


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