According to varying sources, The Queen of Sheba Torte is the first French cake that Julia Child ever ate and one that she continued to cherish and write about throughout her culinary journey. It is a beautifully elegant, adult cake, that with almonds and brandy speaks to a refined palate.
It’s a perfect capstone to a romantic meal and we have given it a new whimsical look fit for the amorous day ahead!
This recipe comes to us by way of ‘Bittersweet Chocolate Queen’ herself, Alice Medrich. The chocolate torte and bittersweet glaze are delivered unadulterated. However, the addition of white chocolate is our own. While Medrich might not approve, it does look visually striking and we enjoyed the contrast it brought in texture and taste.
Queen of Sheba Torte
6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces
6 ounces sweet butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons brandy
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (2 ounces) ground blanched almonds
1/4 cup (1 ounce) flour
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) sliced toasted almonds
1.) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of an 8X3-inch springform pan with parchment or waxed paper.
2.) Combine chocolate and butter in a small bowl placed in a barely simmering water bath over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Or, microwave on medium (50%) for about 2 minutes. Stir until completely melted and smooth. Stir in brandy and almond extract. Set aside.
3.) In a bowl, whisk egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until pale and thick. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture, almonds, and flour. Set aside.
4.) Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar at medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating at high speed until stiff but not dry. Fold about one-quarter of the egg whites completely into the chocolate batter to lighten it. Quickly fold in remaining whites. Turn mixture into the prepared pan and smooth top if necessary. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick or wooden skewer plunged into the center of the cake shows moist crumbs (the center of the cake should be neither completely dry or runny).
5.) Cool torte completely in a pan on a rack. It will have risen and then fallen in the center leaving a higher rim of cake around the sides and possibly some cracking. The torte can be easily removed from the parchment paper and flipped over. You might need to round out the edges, cutting it ever so gently with a knife. (The torte may be prepared to this point up to three days ahead. It can be wrapped well and stored at room temperature or popped into the freezer for up to three months).
Decorating the Torte
Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze
Makes enough for an 8-inch to 10-inch torte
This is the simplest and most classic chocolate glaze that can be used on tortes that are stored at room temperature.
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into pieces
4 ounces (1 stick) sweet butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1.) Place chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a small bowl. Melt gently in a water bath over low heat, stirring frequently until almost completely melted. Do not overheat the glaze. Remove glaze from water bath and set aside to finish melting, stirring once or twice until the glaze is perfectly smooth. Or, melt in the microwave on medium for about 2 minutes. Stir mixture gently with a spatula or wooden spoon until completely smooth; do not whisk or beat.
White Chocolate for the Heart
8 ounces high quality white chocolate
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Follow the same instructions as above minus the butter.
2.) Place a heart shaped cookie cutter in the center of the torte and begin glazing the top with the Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze. Do not worry if glaze drips down the sides of the cake as you will be marbling the sides anyway. A knife can be used for the chocolate glaze. For the white chocolate, which is a denser texture, use a spoon and gently smooth the white chocolate into the mold with your fingers. Fill the mold generously as you want the white chocolate to pop up above the bittersweet chocolate glaze, thereby creating a raised effect for the heart.
3.) At this point you can either keep the heart plain and it will still look very attractive. Or, you can choose to write an initial, or another word using bright red sprinkles of your choice.
4.) Glazing the sides of the cake are the trickiest part of this endeavor, but since it is marbled there’s really no stress. Ice the sides of the cake with the white chocolate without worrying too much about how it looks. Once finished, use a clean brush to gently swirl the bittersweet glaze along the sides.
5.) If at this point your cake plate is messy, a wet paper towel and steady hands does the trick. Pop the cake into the refrigerator for just about 30 minutes to set the chocolate and then very gently remove the heart cookie cutter. Voila!
Cooks note: This type of glaze looses it shine when refrigerated. If you are decorating the torte….no problem. If however, you are serving it without any added pizzaz, let the glaze shine and keep it out of the fridge.