I believe that birthdays are meant to be festive occasions. There is nothing wrong with getting older. Even though it may mean a few more fine lines on my face, or indicate that my youthful 20's are truly over, I don't mind. I always try to live life to the fullest, and on my birthday I like to spend my time celebrating the good, not worrying about the bad.
Of course, I don't mean to sound like Pollyanna, my life isn't all wine and roses. Just yesterday I burned my finger on a hot pan, and this morning my toddler daughter threw a four alarm tantrum when I wouldn't allow her to wear party shoes to the playground. Oh well. I am still going to embrace my happy birthday and celebrate by eating lots and lots of chocolate cake.
This year, when contemplating potential birthday desserts, I decided to pay homage to everyone's culinary hero and make myself a delicious cake by Julia Child. Many people I know share the dream to follow in Julia's footsteps and become food professionals and, even, icons. This is especially true after the release of last summer's blockbuster, Julie & Julia. Since I started my own culinary career a mere two years before Julia did I think I am off to a good start in retracing her career path. Only, I live in New York, not Paris or Cambridge, my husband is taller than me, and, I was never a spy. I guess this means we have a few differences, too. However, despite these, I am confident that we share a similar culinary point of view. Like Julia's, mine includes a love of butter, sharp knives, eggs, roast chicken, and, of course, cake.
I've baked quite a lot from MtAoFC and to honor my birthday this year I chose to bake Julia's Reine de Saba. A delicate chocolate cake made with almond flour that is subtly sweet, with a tender crumb and pure chocolate flavor. It seemed perfect to celebrate with a classy dessert that is simultaneously decadent and restrained.
I know Julia didn't have children, but with this cake she definitely wrote a recipe that is Naptime Chef-friendly. I was able to bake this while my daughter napped yesterday. Then I let it cool for the afternoon and iced it this morning. (There is no way I would ice it in advanced and offend Julia!)
Shortly before I posted this article my husband declared the cake too good to look at, and we served ourselves big slices for breakfast. Some people would consider it sacrilege that I intend to eat my birthday cake all day long, but, I pay them no mind. There is nothing wrong with eating delicious food all day to celebrate my birthday, and, although I didn't know her, I am pretty sure Julia would feel the same way.
Julia Child's Reine de Saba
adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 T. strong brewed coffee
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 c. plus
1 T. sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 t. Kosher salt
1/2 c. finely ground almonds
1/4 t. almond extract
3/4 c. cake flour, sifted, then measured
1 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 T. brewed coffee
3 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
For the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 8-inch round cake pan and set aside.
2. Melt chocolate and coffee together in the microwave. Stir together and set aside to cool.
3. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and 2/3 c. sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and beat until fully blended.
4. In a separate mixing bowl beat egg whites and salt until the whites form soft peaks. Add 1 T. sugar and beat again until stiff peaks form, but are not dry.
5. Pour cooled chocolate, ground almonds and almond extract into butter mixture. Then, fold in 1/4 of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Then, alternate folding in the 1/3 the egg whites, then 1/3 of the cake flour until everything is combined.
6. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Push some batter 3/4 inch up the sides of the pan with a spatula. Bake for 25 minutes, or until cake is puffed and gently set and a cake tester yields only a few moist crumbs. Cool cake for 8-10 minutes in the pan. Then release it from the pan and cool it completely on a rack for at least 2 hours.
1. Combine chocolate and coffee in a glass bowl over simmering water. Once it is combined and smooth remove the bowl from the simmering water and stir. Using a wooden spoon beat in the butter, 1 T. at a time, until icing is completely smooth.
2. Place bowl over slightly large bowl filled with ice water. Stir the icing until it is cool and thickened enough to be spread. Ice the cake when both the icing and cake are completely room temperature.
Naptime Recipe Props: The best part about this birthday cake is it's size. Unlike a gigantic tiered cake, this one is a perfect proportioned 9-inch round pan. It looks immaculate the minute it comes out of the oven and is perfect to serve at almost any occasion.
Naptime Stopwatch: I opted to make my own almond flour which took a bit of time but was worth it. Overall the batter preparation took about 20 minutes then I popped it in the oven. The icing was also a snap to make and complemented the cake beautifully.
Naptime Reviews: Who doesn't like chocolate cake? Happy Birthday to me!