La Reine De Saba The Queen Of Sheba Chocolate Almond Cake

Makes 8 servings

1/2 cup sifted cake flour
1/3 cup blanched pulverized almonds
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 stick; see note)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, separated
3 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons dark rum or strong coffee

Powdered sugar to dust cake or optional Soft Chocolate Icing (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set rack in lower-middle level. Grease and flour an 8-inch round cake pan or 8-inch square pan. Measure out cake flour and almonds separately; set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream butter with sugar; when fluffy, beat in 3 egg yolks one at a time.

Meanwhile, melt semisweet chocolate and bittersweet chocolate with rum in a measuring cup in the microwave oven or over medium-low heat in a saucepan; stir the warm chocolate into the yolk mixture.

Beat egg whites into stiff, shining peaks, and stir a quarter of them into the yolk mixture. Rapidly and delicately fold in the rest, alternating with sprinklings of almonds and siftings of flour. Turn at once into the prepared pan and bake about 25 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool 15 minutes before unmolding. This type of chocolate cake is always at its best at room temperature. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar, or with the icing.

Soft Chocolate Icing: Melt 2 ounces semisweet chocolate with 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, a pinch of salt and 11/2 tablespoons rum in double boiler over simmering water. When smooth and glistening, beat in 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (see note), 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir over cold water until cooled to spreading consistency.

Note: Use real butter or stick margarine. Do not substitute reduced-fat spreads; their higher water content often yields less-satisfactory results.