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Julia Child's birthday: A cake recipe fit for the French cooking maven

Julia Child carved a name for herself by introducing Americans to the recipes and techniques of French food and cooking. She would have been 103 years old Saturday, Aug. 15, but passed away in 2004. 

Arguably the original foodie, Child left a legacy of cooking knowledge and passion behind in her books, including a must-have for any cook’s stash of cookbooks, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

No birthday should be without cake, and this Reine de Saba, or Queen of Sheba, chocolate cake was a favorite of Julia Child’s, according to The Foodie’s Kitchen. You can find the original in the first of two volumes of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

While the cake sits in the oven, test your knowledge about the cooking maven and her accomplishments with trivia from PBS and Cooking Channel (but no cheating).

From “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck via The Foodie’s Kitchen


For the cake: 

  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate 
  • 2 tbsp. rum 
  • 4 oz. butter, softened 
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks 
  • 3 egg whites 
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar 
  • Pinch salt 
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar 
  • ⅔ cup pulverized almonds
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract 
  • ½ cup cake flour

For the icing: 

  • 2 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate 
  • 2 tbsp. rum 
  • 5-6 tbsp. unsalted butter 


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour 8-inch round cake pan. 
  2. Set chocolate and rum in small pan with tight cover and place off the heat in a larger pan of simmering water. Let the chocolate melt. 
  3. Cream butter and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks until well blended. 
  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. 
  5. With rubber spatula, blend melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture. Stir in almonds and almond extract. 
  6. Immediately stir in one-fourth of the the beaten egg whites. Then carefully fold in a third of remaining egg whites. When partially blended, sift in a third of the flour and continue folding. Alternate folding the eggs and flour until all is folded well. 
  7. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes. 
  8. When cake is done, let cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove from pan by turning onto a cooling rack. Let cool for at least one hour. 
  9. To prepare icing, place chocolate and rum in a small pan, cover and set in large pan of simmering water again. Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt until smooth. Don’t let the chocolate burn. 
  10. Lift the chocolate pan out of the water, beat in butter until smooth. 
  11. Beat over ice and water until frosting has cooled and can be spread smoothly. 
  12. Ice the cake and sprinkle almonds on top and sides. 

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