According to stories, this cake was made by the Queen of England herself. This moist, gluten-free treat is iced with chocolate ganache and could be a magnet for the crowd that usually avoids cake.
The Queen was invited to tea at the home of Jan Smeterlin, the eminent Polish pianist. She was served this chocolate cake and asked for the recipe. After receiving the recipe, the Queen made a habit of serving this cake at her royal parties.
This recipe is gluten-free and perfect for guests with special diets. Try it at your next birthday party, or any Friday evening, just for fun.
Queen Mother's Cake Recipe:
This moist cake is delicious simply iced with a chocolate ganache. Or you can serve it with a spoonful of whipped cream and a few berries for a more festive dessert. I’ve added vanilla to the cake because in my way of thinking, chocolate and vanilla just belong together.
For the cake:
6 ounces almond meal or almond flour
6 ounces semisweet chocolate (about 60% cocoa), chopped (do not use morsels!)
3⁄4 cup sugar
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 ⁄ 8 tsp. salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
For the ganache:
1 ⁄ 2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons instant espresso or coffee powder
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70 to 72% cocoa), chopped
1. To make the cake, toast the almond meal or flour in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown and fragrant. You should get a lovely aroma of toasted almonds. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
2. Adjust a rack one-third up in the oven and preheat oven to 375°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9” x 3” springform pan and line the bottom with a round of baking-pan liner paper cut to fit. Butter the paper. Dust the pan all over with fine, dry bread crumbs and tap out the excess. Or, to make the cake completely gluten-free, dust the pan with unsweetened cocoa powder.
3. Place the chocolate in a small saucepan. Heat about 1 inch of water in a medium skillet over moderate heat. When the water come to the simmer, set the saucepan in the skillet, cover loosely with a paper towel, and wait a few minutes until the chocolate is partially melted. Then uncover and stir with a small whisk or heatproof silicone spatula until the chocolate is just melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the water and set aside until chocolate is tepid or at room temperature.
4. In a stand electric mixer beat the butter with the paddle attachment until soft and smooth. While beating on medium speed, gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar (reserve the remaining cup sugar) and the vanilla and beat to combine. Scrape the bowl and beater and beat 5 minutes on medium-high speed. Stop to scrape the bowl and beater twice. On low speed, add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating until smooth. On low speed add the chocolate and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated. Then add the almonds and beat on low until incorporated. Scrape the bowl and beater as necessary to keep the batter smooth.
5. Now, the whites should be beaten in the mixer bowl. If you don’t have an additional bowl for the mixer, transfer the chocolate mixture to any other large bowl. Wash the bowl and beaters in hot soapy water. Dry them and they’re ready to for the egg whites.
6. Beat the egg whites with the salt and lemon juice, starting on low speed and increasing it gradually. When the whites barely hold a soft shape, reduce the speed a bit and gradually add the remaining 1⁄4 cup sugar. Then, on high speed, continue to beat until the whites hold a straight point when the beaters are slowly raised. Do not overbeat. The whites should look creamy and hold a shape. When you tip the bowl the whites should not slide around in it.
7. Stir a large spoonful of the whites into the chocolate batter to soften it a bit. Then, in three additions, very gently fold in the remaining whites. You’ll see traces of whites after the first two additions. Do not fold thoroughly until the last addition and do not handle more than necessary. Scrape the thick batter into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan briskly in order to level the batter.
8. Bake for 20 minutes at 375° and then reduce temperature to 325° and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes (total baking time is 50 minutes). Do not overbake; the cake should remain soft and moist in the center. (The top might crack a bit; it’s okay.)
9. Wet and slightly wring out a folded towel and place it on a smooth surface. Remove the cake pan from the oven and place it on the wet towel. Let stand until tepid, 50 to 60 minutes. (Maida says she doesn’t know the reason for this step, but she always does it. I do, too).
10. Release and remove the sides of the pan (do not cut around the sides with a knife—it will make the rim of the cake messy). Now, let the cake stand until it is completely cool, or longer if you wish. The cake will sink a little in the middle; the sides will be a little higher. Use a long, thin, sharp knife and level the top. Brush away loose crumbs. Place a rack or a small board over the cake and carefully invert. Remove the bottom of the pan and the paper lining.
11. The cake is now upside down; this is the way it will be iced. Place 4 strips of baking-pan liner paper (each about 3” x 12”) around the edges of a cake plate. With a large, wide spatula, carefully transfer the cake to the plate; check to be sure that the cake is touching the paper all around (in order to keep the icing off the plate when you ice the cake). If you have a cake- decorating turntable or a lazy Susan, place the cake plate on it.
12. To make the icing, scald the cream in a 5- to 6-cup saucepan over medium heat until it begins to form small bubbles around the edges or a thin skin on top. Add the espresso or coffee powder and whisk to dissolve. Add the chocolate and stir occasionally over heat for 1 minute. Then, remove the pan from heat and whisk or stir until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth. Let icing stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or a little longer, until icing barely begins to thicken. Then, stir to mix, and pour it slowly over the top of the cake, pouring it onto the middle. Use a long, narrow metal spatula to smooth the top and spread the icing so that a little of it runs down the sides (not too much—the icing on the sides should be a much thinner layer than on the top). With a small, narrow metal spatula, smooth the sides. Remove the strips of paper by pulling each one out by its narrow end toward you.
13. This cake is wonderful all by itself. Just cut into portions with a sharp knife and set on dessert plate. Or place a spoonful of lightly sweetened whipped cream next to the cake and decorate with a few raspberries or, as I did in the photo, a sliced and fanned out strawberry.
Makes 12 portions.