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Food: Julia’s Queen of Sheba Cake

March 22, 2012

Potlucks in the workplace, though delicious, are stressful for me. Nobody wants to be that person who brings the item nobody eats.

One year I made tremendously bad cupcakes (though people still ate a few to be nice). One year I made brownies, which, while crude, were a huge improvement on the cupcakes. This year, in keeping with the potluck theme of “Julia Child,” I made a Reine de Saba (“Queen of Sheba”) cake. True to Julia style, the cake and icing are made with a touch of rum, as well as chocolate that requires a double boiler, almonds that need to be finely ground, and egg whites that are whipped and added in 5 separate batches. For a self-admitted lazy baker, this felt like a lot of work.

However, in keeping with my new year’s resolution, I used a make shift double boiler instead of a microwave to melt the chocolate. I pulverized those almonds in my coffee grinder, and I whipped those egg whites, added salt, whipped again, added sugar, and whipped again. Then I added 1/4 of them, and then 1/3 of the remaining, and then divided the rest into three more portions. It was exhausting, math-laden work.

Fortunately, the result was well worth it. In particular, creating the icing (required the double boiler again, then putting the glass bowl in an ice bath and beating the mixture for 10 minutes) was incredibly satisfying. Just when I thought it was a bust and I’d have to go buy a can of Duncan Hines, the frosting started to firm up. At that moment, I fell in love with Julia, as well as the first cake she ever ate in France.

If you have the patience and a good electric beater, try this recipe. I topped my cake with fresh raspberries, but almonds or chocolate shavings would work just as well.

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