Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake

Mention ‘The Queen of Sheba’ and Handel’s famous music from Solomon plays full swing in my head.
Little did I know when I married my Frenchman in 1997 that the Queen of Sheba is la Reine de Saba in French.  So imagine, years later, how it was music to my ears to hear that the French make a gluten-free chocolate cake called the Queen of Sheba. A Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake is a welcome arrival to any party.

Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake

Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba)

I loved to play ‘The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ as a piano duet with my bestie growing up in Edinburgh.  Even the day I married my Frenchman, Dad and I arrived to Handel’s music as I played Queen for the day. What a memorable entrance it was with an oversized Scottish golf umbrella, wondering if the organ of Saint Giles would be drowned out by the bagpipes playing to the tourists outside.

Only recently I discovered that there’s a Reine de Saba museum in Paris, particularly dedicated to Yemen. Out of 27 years in the City of Light, I still haven’t been to it yet on rue de Pradier in the 19th. So, if you have been or plan to go, please tell me below in the comments.

Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake Recipe

I saw a recipe for the Reine de Saba cake in a free French booklet of 50 Best Chocolate Recipes published by France Loisirs many years ago. It was popped into my bag at the checkout after Christmas shopping in a French kitchen appliance shop in Paris’s 16th. If you know the chic 16th in Paris, getting something free here is pretty much unheard of, so I treasured it.

Earmarking the festive-looking Reine de Saba chocolate cake, this wee book of recipes was forgotten about during that festive season madness. It was put away in the bookcase for another Christmas, dwarfed and hidden by my other cookbooks. Then recently on a bout of tidying (inspired by an episode of Marie Kondo on Netflix, as I thought, ‘Do I really need to keep all of those books?’), I re-discovered this slim chocolate-coloured book. It fell apart the moment I opened it. Well, it was free.

Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake slice

That Reine de Saba recipe still looked enticing. After trying it out a few times using different moulds, toppings, and tweaking a couple of things like reducing sugar and adding rum, this is it. That wee book perhaps is already in tatters but this recipe is definitely a keeper and now a firm, family favourite next to the Chocolate Ginger Fondant Cake.

Gluten-Free Dessert Recipes

Can you Handel another French gâteau that just happens to be a gluten free chocolate cake? If you would like more recipes like this, don’t forget that you can find all my best gluten free recipes here on le blog.

What Can I do with the Leftover Egg Yolks?

As you can see from the recipe below, this recipe calls for two egg whites. Normally egg whites can keep for a few days in the fridge but I prefer to use up fresh egg yolks as quickly as possible on the day.  You’ll find a whole index of egg yolk recipes here on le blog.

Moreover, if you’re looking for a recipe with 2 egg yolks, then you can find that too, such as these Honey & Lemon Sablé biscuits, or a creamy lemon sauce to serve with roast chicken, turkey or stuffed mini pumpkins. I even have a most deliciously creamy cauliflower velouté coming up next which, surprisingly, also uses 2 yolks.

Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake Christmas

French Christmas Dessert Recipes

The baked, crispy glaze topping takes this recipe into Christmas dessert mode or for a special occasion birthday cake. The family loved this topped with freshly whipped Chantilly cream, laced with just a touch of dark rum (or with Grand Marnier®).

Finish off with a dusting of unsweetened chocolate powder or edible gold dust. If you like your Christmas chocolate cake spiced, then add a teaspoon of gingerbread or pumpkin spice to the cake and/or the glaze.

Plus (you know it’s coming, don’t you?) why not serve with some almond macarons? Don’t forget that Parisian macarons are also gluten free.  You’ll find the recipes for all my macarons in both my books, Mad About Macarons and Teatime in Paris!

Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake

Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake

5 from 6 votes
Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake slice
Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

A French celebratory, gluten free chocolate and almond cake, made extra special with a hint of Grand Marnier and topped with a festive glaze.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: chocolate almond cake, gluten free chocolate cake, reine de saba cake
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 309 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 125 g (4.5oz) dark chocolate (min. 60% cacao)
  • 75 g (3oz) butter unsalted, diced
  • 3 organic eggs separated
  • 1 egg white
  • 75 g (3oz) sugar
  • 75 g (3oz) ground almonds (almond flour)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour or potato flour (Maïzena)
  • 2 drops vanilla extract (or 1/2 tsp vanilla powder)
  • pinch salt (fleur de sel)
  • 1 tbsp Grand Marnier® (or dark rum) optional
For the Glaze:
  • 175 g (6oz) icing (confectioner's) sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp Grand Marnier ® (or dark rum) optional
  • 1 tsp gingerbread or pumpkin spice optional
Instructions
  1. Break the dark chocolate into bits in a bowl and place over a pan of simmering water (bain- marie). Ensure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl so not to overcook the chocolate. As soon as the chocolate melts, add the butter. Mix together until melted and set aside.

  2. Separate the eggs: place the 4 egg whites in a large clean bowl to whip them later. In another bowl, place the 3 egg yolks and whisk together with the sugar until light and creamy. Add the cornflour, vanilla and stir in the ground almonds. Add in the melted chocolate, alcohol if using, and mix together. Set aside at room temperature.

  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6. Grease a 20cm cake tin with butter.

  4. Whisk the egg whites with the salt in either a stand mixer or using an electric hand whisk. When the whites are whipped up and firm, gently fold into the chocolate and almond mixture.

  5. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for about 20 minutes without browning the surface (a smaller, higher cake tin will need longer baking, about 30 minutes). Remove from the oven to cool.

Make the Glaze:
  1. Mix together the egg white with the icing sugar and Grand Marnier (or rum) if using.

    Depending on the cake tin, there are 2 ways of baking the glaze:

    1) Directly in an easy-release cake tin: once the cake is cooled down (but still warm), spread on the glaze and return to the oven for no more than 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave to cool then turn out on a serving plate.

    2) Remove the cake from the tin and place on an ovenproof serving plate. Spread on the glaze then return to the oven for no more than 5 minutes. Remove from the oven then decorate, if desired.

Recipe Notes

For special occasions such as Christmas, serve the cake topped with whipped cream laced with a dash of Grand Marnier® or rum or simply with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

Reine de Saba Chocolate Almond Cake

 

French Apple Nougat Tart

Some of you saw a few photos of this Apple Nougat Tart recently. A promise is a promise, as I said I’d post the recipe on le blog, didn’t I? So, voilà – here it is, even if a bit later than I was hoping! I didn’t have my kitchen for a couple of weeks as it was getting a few licks of paint – and I finally have a new oven!

Now this makes three apple dessert recipes in a row here but we can never have too many apple desserts, can we? Besides, I need to keep making tarts to help extinguish that lingering odour of fresh paint.

French apple almond walnut tart

Apples with Almonds

Like the previous Quick Apple Tart recipe, it pairs almonds with apples and, while I used ground almonds in the base with a splash of Calvados, this tart uses slivered almonds as a crunchy nougat topping with just sugar and egg whites.

On another occasion, I tried to camouflage apple nougat tart leftovers next day for goûter in the hope I’d get the rest all to myself. Och! It’s always better to share.

French Apple Nougat Tart Slices

I discovered the recipe for Apple Nougat Tart in Jacquy Pfeiffer’s cookbook, The Art of French Pastry. If any of you have seen the 2010 video on The Kings of Pastry (this link is a trailer), he’s the prime subject and I thoroughly recommend you watch it. Hailing from Alsace, this outstanding pastry chef co-founded the French Pastry School in Chicago.

French Apple Nougat Tart

Sweet Pastry Recipe

The chef’s sweet tart base is prepared the day before. Shame on me but, instead of waiting 24 hours, I adapted the Sweet Tart base recipe in Teatime in Paris (there’s a whole chapter on Tarts in the book) by replacing some of the flour with ground almonds (almond flour). The result worked really well and so I’ve posted this alternative pastry base recipe below.

As in Teatime in Paris, the method of making the tart base is all explained, step-by-step using a tart pan or a tart ring.

Best Tart Apples

The chef’s secret to preparing the apples for this French Nougat Tart is to cook the apple chunks on a high heat in butter quickly until the apples are seared, then cool them off on baking paper. It’s a cracker of a pastry tip for making this. Braeburn apples are good for this; so are a mixture of Pink Lady and Granny Smith.

However, lately I’ve been experimenting without using lemon juice with apples.  If you peel, core and chop your apples quickly enough and immediately throw them into a hot pan, there is no need to go through soaking them in lemon juice.  Good news if you’re in a hurry.

Apple Nougat Tart Topping

The recipe calls for just slivered almonds for the topping but I also experimented using a mixture of sliced almonds, fresh walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans too.  The result is deliciously fabulous.

However, in my humble and honest opinion, there’s nothing to beat the original recipe using just almonds to let the apples shine through. Chef Pfeiffer adds a touch of cinnamon to the topping, although I like it also without, sticking with the vanilla. Simplicity is key!

This year we’re seeing Christmas figurines from the Nutcracker all around Paris.  I particularly love seeing them at each entrance to the Tuileries Gardens.

Inspired by chestnuts around Paris, add a few marron glacés (candied chestnuts) on top to complete a Parisian Christmas touch. I love this tart on its own but serve with vanilla ice cream, chestnut & vanilla ice cream, spiced chai crème anglaise or a dollop of crème fraîche.

French Apple Nutcracker Tart

Apple Nougat Tart Recipe

5 from 5 votes
French Apple Nougat Tart
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Resting Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hrs 15 mins
 

A delicious sweet tart with apple chunks in vanilla and topped with a crunchy almond nougat, inspired by French pastry chef, Jacquy Pfeiffer. Sweet pastry dough from 'Teatime in Paris'.

Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: French
Keyword: apple almond tart, apple nougat tart, apple tart
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 338 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
Sweet Pastry
  • 125 g (4.5oz) unsalted butter softened
  • 75 g (2.75oz) icing (confectioner's) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt (fleur de sel)
  • 1 medium egg (organic)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla powder or extract
  • 200 g (7oz) plain, all-purpose flour (type 45)
  • 50 g (1.75oz) ground almonds (almond flour)
Apple Filling
  • 3 Organic apples (Braeburn, Pink Lady, Granny Smith) peeled & cored
  • 30 g (1oz) butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 3/4 tsp extract)
  • 2 tbsp cane sugar (or Turbinado)
Nougat Topping
  • 55 g (2oz) organic egg whites
  • 55 g (2oz) sugar
  • 55 g (2oz) slivered almonds (or mix of sliced almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts)
Instructions
Sweet Pastry Base
  1. For more complete instructions, follow the recipe on pages 106-109 in my book, 'Teatime in Paris'. Mix the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until creamy. Add salt then other ingredients until just mixed, then stop. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film or in a bag and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

  2. Take the pastry out of the fridge. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/360°F/Gas4. Roll out the pastry on a very lightly floured surface to 4mm thickness. Press into the pastry ring or pan. Roll over the rolling pin on top to trim then push the pastry again into the ring to ensure it's straight against the sides. Set aside the remaining pastry, returning it to the fridge or freeze for making another tart.

  3. Blind bake the pastry by topping with parchment paper and fill with baking beans, washed coins, rice or dried beans. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, then set aside to cool on a wire rack, removing the baking beans.

Apple Filling
  1. Prepare a sheet of parchment paper on the side.

    Heat a large frying pan over high heat and add the butter. Meanwhile, chop the apples into large dice (cut them quickly and there's no need to use lemon juice). When the butter is golden, fry the apples in sugar and vanilla for at least 5 minutes until seared a golden brown on one side. Turn the apples, cooking on high still for another 2 minutes then transfer to the parchment to cool.

Nougat Topping
  1. In a bowl, whisk the egg whites with a fork until loosened up then stir in the sugar and sliced (or other chopped) nuts.

  2. Evenly spread the cooled apples into the pastry base and top with the nougat. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe Notes

Best served on the day but can be kept refrigerated until next day. Also freezes well (double wrap).
Serve with vanilla ice cream, a dollop of crème fraîche or chestnut ice cream.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

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