Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Queen of Sheba Chocolate Cake

My dad had a great sense of humor and he had a special way of putting people ‘in their places’ when they were being disrespectful.  One of his favorite Bible stories to use to ‘crush’ gossipers was the story of Solomon and Sheba.  When folks would begin to gossip about the marital escapades of others, Daddy would remind them of Solomon’s many wives, concubines … and his affair with the Queen of Sheba!  That would usually turn off the gossip. 

Raphael's Solomon and Sheba

Most of us know the story of the Queen of Sheba.  The stories vary, depending upon the religious text!  Sheba visited Solomon, gave him many gifts after testing and marveling at his wisdom.  Solomon wanted her, but she didn’t believe in his lifestyle and did not ‘lie’ with him until he tricked her on the last night of her visit.  He promised Sheba that he would not touch her if she did not touch anything in his palace.  He had made sure the cooks fed her spicy food at the banquet that night.  The story says that she was thirsty in the night and reached for a pitcher of water.  … touching it … and breaking her promise.  Solomon, of course, seized the moment.  On her journey back to the Kingdom of Sheba, she gave birth to Solomon’s son.  She named him Menelik.  Menelik and his 200 descendants following, ruled in the ways of Judaism.

Who was this Queen?  Where did she really come from?  Was she white or black?  The earliest sculptured likeness of Sheba shows us a face that looks neither black nor white.  Raphael painted a white Queen.  If she was from Ethiopia, was she black?  If she was from Arabia, was she white?  Who really knows?

The ancestry of the Kingdom of Sheba goes back to Noah.  Two of his sons had descendants named Sheba.  One son’s people were in Ethiopia and the other in Arabia, just across the Red Sea (a distance like going across the Mississippi River).  The Kingdom of Sheba spread across both regions.  I don’t think there is really much mystery there.  I also think she would have had dark skin, no matter which part of that region she was from.

The Mariners' Museum holds a bust of the Queen of Sheba in their collection.  It is clearly a black female.  The bust dates to 1853 and was probably a ship captain's cabin ornament.  There is a hiding place in the back of it.   It is believed that this bust was carried on the ship also named "Queen of Sheba" that ran between London and New Zealand.

Now we get to the rich chocolate cake that is named for the Queen of Sheba!  Not much is known about the history of this cake.  It is actually a pretty common recipe, but at some point along the line, somebody named it after a black queen instead of calling it chocolate.

Julia Child made it popular.
  The French version of the Gateau Reine de Saba was the first French cake Julia tasted!  She featured it in her first cookbook and in her television shows. 

This cake is rich and filling!  Plan to serve small pieces, and I think it can only be improved upon by serving it with good coffee! 

Picture from Creative Commons

Queen of Sheba Cake

For the cake:
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate squares
2 Tablespoons of rum
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔ cup sugar
3 large eggs, whites and yolks divided
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup almond paste

¼ tsp almond extract
½ cup all-purpose flour

For the icing:
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons rum
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature

Begin this recipe by beating the 3 egg whites and the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Set this aside.

In a microwave, melt the chocolate squares a few seconds at a time, so you don’t over do it! Stir in the rum to smooth the chocolate.

In a big bowl, whip the sugar, salt, almond paste and almond extract with the butter. When this is creamy, beat in the egg yellows and the flour.

Now it is time to gently fold in the egg whites until incorporated. Bake in a prepared 9-inch cake pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Preparing the icing is quite simple. Melt the chips in the microwave, a few seconds at a time. Stir in the rum and let it cool. Whip it with the soft butter. Spread it on the cooled cake. It should be glossy.

This column is part of my 2021 foodie project!  Click he menu button to see other columns about foods named after famous people.

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