Queen Mother's Cake

Queen Mother’s Cake

This was in my first book. It is one of the most popular recipes in all of my books and is the one cake I make more often than any other.

I originally got the recipe in 1962 from a food column by Clementine Paddleford in The New York Herald Tribune.

The story is that Jan Smeterlin, the eminent Polish pianist, loved to cook. And he collected recipes. This is one that was given to him on a concert tour in Austria.

When the Queen Mother was invited to tea at the home of the Smeterlins, the hostess baked the cake according to Smeterlin’s recipe. The Queen Mother loved it and asked for the recipe. Then–as the story goes–she served it often at her royal parties. Including the time she invited the Smeterlins to her home.

It is a flourless chocolate cake that is nothing like all of the flourless chocolate cakes that are so popular today. It is not as heavy or dense. This has ground almonds and the texture is almost light, although it is rich and moist. It is divine.

6 ounces (scant 1 1/2 cups) blanched or unblanched almonds
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

First toast the almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan in a 350 degree
oven for 12 to 15 minutes, shaking the pan a few times, until the almonds
are lightly colored and have a delicious smell of toasted almonds when you
open the oven door. Set aside to cool.

Adjust a rack one-third up in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 3-inch 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, invert over paper, and
tap lightly to shake out excess. Set the prepared pan aside.

Place the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over warm water on
moderate heat. Cover until partially melted, then uncover and stir until
just melted and smooth. Remove the top of the double boiler and set it aside
until tepid or room temperature.

Place the almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar (reserve remaining 1/2 cup sugar)
in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. Process very well
until the nuts are fine and powdery. Stop the machine once or twice, scrape
down the sides, and continue to process. Process for at least a full minute.
I have recently realized that the finer the nuts are, the better the cake
will be. Set aside the ground nuts.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until soft. Add 1/4
cup of the sugar (reserve the remaining 1/4 cup sugar) and beat to mix. Add
the egg yolks one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl as
necessary until smooth. On low speed add the chocolate and beat until mixed.
Then add the processed almonds and beat, scraping the bowl, until

Now the whites should be beaten in the large bowl of the mixer. If you don’t
have an additional large bowl for the mixer, transfer the chocolate mixture
to any other large bowl. Wash the bowl and the beaters.

In the large bowl of the mixer, with clean beaters, 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.

Stir a large spoonful of the whites into the chocolate mixture to soften it
a bit.

Then, in three additions, fold in the remaining whites. Do not fold
thoroughly until the last addition and do not handle any more than

Turn the mixture into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan a bit briskly from
left to right in order to level the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees and then reduce the temperature to 350
degrees and continue to bake for an additional 50 minutes (total baking time
is 1 hour and 10 minutes). Do not overbake; the cake should remain soft and
moist in the center. (The top might crack a bit – it’s okay.)

The following direction was in the original recipe, and although I do not
understand why, I always do it. 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.

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 cut the top level. 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. The cake is now upside down; this is
the way it will be iced. Place four strips of baking pan-liner paper (each
about 3 x 12 inches) 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 papers all round (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.

1/2 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons powdered (not granular) instant espresso or coffee (see Note)
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces

Scald the cream in a 5- to 6-cup saucepan over moderate heat until it begins
to form small bubbles around the edges or a thin skin on top. Add the dry
espresso or coffee and whisk to dissolve. Add the chocolate and stir
occasionally over heat for 1 minute. Then remove the pan from the heat and
whisk or stir until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth.
Let the icing stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15
minutes or a little longer until the icing barely begins to thicken.

Then, stir it 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 toward a narrow end.

(Note: I use Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso.)


Chocolate curls or chocolate shavings Whipped cream Fresh raspberries

Decorate the cake or individual portions with optional chocolate curls or
chocolate shavings (try chocolate shavings formed with a vegetable parer and made with milk chocolate). Place a mound of optional whipped cream (lightly sweetened with confectioners sugar and lightly flavored with vanilla
extract) on one side of each portion on individual dessert plates, and a few
optional raspberries on the other side of each portion.

12 portions

Maida Heatter’s Cakes