Julia Child’s Queen of Sheba Chocolate Cake

Julia Child’s Queen of Sheba Chocolate Cake

HBO’s 2022 series “Julia” inspired me, and I’m sure countless others, to make this cake.

A slice of chocolate cake
The light texture of this french chocolate cake is what sets it apart from all others.

In the first episode, she makes it to try and win over a television producer at WGBH. And so I did an online search and found the recipe, but also found the original black-and-white WGBH broadcast of “The French Chef,” where she makes it. And I discovered that the recipes differ slightly.

On the original TV show Julia uses 3/4 cup of cake flour, not 1/2 cup. She also recommends using semisweet chocolate morsels, rather than “72 percent dark chocolate,” mainly because the morsels melt easier. And she uses the same chocolate mixture (with rum) to ice the cake, along with adding unsalted butter to it.

Chocolate batter
The secret to making this light and fluffy is gently folding in the beaten egg whites.

I made this for the first time last week using the original TV show recipe and the results were impressive (at least that’s what my dinner guests told me). It delivers a burst of rich, creamy, chocolate to your tastebuds via a very light, airy, meringue-like cake.

Watching the original WGBH show also reminded me of how good Julia was at teaching. You pick up so much more from watching her than reading her recipes. She describes in detail the most important parts of the recipe and offers techniques to accomplish what needs to be done: how to sift and measure flour at the same time; and how to gently fold in the stiff, but moist, egg whites so that the batter is the right, fluffy consistency. And her laissez faire attitude encourages you take a chance, even on the most complex recipes: which this isn’t.

Chocolate icing poured over the cake.
To ice the cake you simply pour the chocolate icing over it and it hardens in a couple of minutes.

One of the most important parts of making this cake is to slightly under-bake it. That’s right, the middle of the cake should be a little gooey and the edges should be cooked through. You test this with a toothpick. The toothpick should come out clean around the edges and should have a little bit of cake on it when you sample the middle.

This doesn’t mean that part of the cake will be gooey and part of the cake will be drier. I discovered that as the cake cools, it evens out, making the texture for all of the cake moist, light, and just a little bit fudgy.

Julia Child's Queen of Sheba Chocolate Cake

April 18, 2022
: 20 min
: 20 min
: 40 min
: Medium

This recipe is from the original WGBH broadcast of the French Chef and differs slightly from the printed recipe.


  • Egg whites (3, from large eggs)
  • Salt (just a pinch)
  • Sugar (1 tbsp.)
  • CAKE:
  • Unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
  • Sugar (2/3 cup)
  • Egg yolks (3, from large eggs)
  • Semisweet chocolate morsels (2/3 cup)
  • Rum or brewed coffee (2 tbsp.)
  • Almond meal (you can make this by chopping up almonds fine in a food processor) (1/3 cup)
  • Almond extract (1/4 tsp.)
  • Cake flour (3/4 cup)
  • Almonds, blanched and skinned, (enough to decorate the cake as you wish)
  • Semisweet chocolate morsels (2/3 cup)
  • Rum or brewed coffee (2 tbsp.)
  • Unsalted butter at room temperature (6 tbsp.)
  • Step 1 Preheat the oven to 350 and brush a 9-inch cake pan with softened butter.
  • Step 3 Add egg whites to a mixing bowl and mix at slow speed until foamy. Add a pinch of salt and mix on high.
  • Step 4 Sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar and mix on high until stiff peaks form. The egg whites should stick to a spatula when tipped over.
  • Step 5 Be careful not to overmix. The egg whites should be stiff but not dry.
  • Step 6 TO MAKE THE CAKE:
  • Step 7 Beat unsalted butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and beat until batter is light yellow.
  • Step 8 Melt the chocolate with the rum (or coffee) either in a microwave (just 20-30 seconds at time, mixing in between) or by putting one pan inside another pan that is filled with hot water (don’t melt butter over an open flame). Stir just until the morsels are melted and the chocolate is liquid and velvety.
  • Step 9 Add the melted chocolate to the batter and blend it in.
  • Step 10 Add the almond meal and almond extract and blend it in.
  • Step 11 Add the flour and blend it in.
  • Step 12 Fold in the egg whites. First put in 1/4 of egg whites and stir them in. Then dump the rest of the egg whites on top and gently fold them in.
  • Step 13 Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and gently spread it to the edges. Shake and turn the pan a little so the batter runs evenly to the edges.
  • Step 14 Bake the cake on the middle rack in a 350-degree oven for about 20-25 minutes. (Take it out and test it with a toothpick. When testing the toothpick should come out dry along the edges but a little wet or crumbly in the center).
  • Step 15 Let the cake rest for 10 minutes before turning it over onto a wire rack.
  • Step 16 Let the cake rest for about two hours before icing it.
  • Step 17 Prepare the chocolate glaze icing the same way you melted the chocolate previously but add in the butter. The icing can be warm but shouldn’t be too hot. Pour it over the cake. Decorate the cake with almonds as you see fit.

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