(Photos by Diane L. Wilson)
A couple of weeks ago, Tom Harte, a local food expert and columnist for the Southeast Missourian, e-mailed me a recipe for the Queen of Sheba cake. Tom said it was one of the first things he baked after he became interested in cooking. The recipe can be found in his new cookbook, "Stirring Words."
Tom let me know the recipe wasn't "very difficult," which made it even more appealing. I had never baked a cake before, so I figured this chocolate concoction could be my first.
Here are the ingredients:
2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1 tablespoon instant coffee
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 stick plus 6 tablespoons soft butter
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
A pinch of salt
1/3 cup pulverized blanched almonds
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
The ingredient list seemed a little long and unusual -- I've never heard of rum in anything other than a mixed drink -- but I was up for the challenge.
The first step called for dissolving the instant coffee in boiling water and adding 2/3 cup of chocolate morsels, stirring over low heat until the chocolate melted. Not a problem -- I now know what a saucepan is.
In a bowl, I was required to cream one stick of butter and 2/3 cups of sugar until soft and fluffy. This is where I run into problems with cooking. The language seems so foreign -- exactly how do you "cream" something?
I was "creaming" the mixture with a fork when my younger sister Meagan walked into the kitchen.
The next step required me to separate the three eggs. Tom mentioned in his e-mail that separating egg whites might require a bit of technique. Knowing this beforehand, I purchased a tool called an egg separator at the grocery store when I picked up my ingredients.
Yes, but it would be much more difficult.
I cracked my first egg on the countertop and poured it into the egg separator without any problems. I was so impressed that it actually worked. I got a little excited and cracked the next egg a little too hard on the countertop -- unfortunately, that egg didn't make it into the separator.
After the eggs were separated, I whipped the egg whites with cream of tartar and salt at a low speed. Yes, this was my first time using a mixer. When the egg whites began to foam, I added two tablespoons of sugar.
In the bowl with the creamed butter and sugar, I stirred in the melted chocolate and coffee mixture as well as the almond extract and flour. The recipe required me to add 1/3 cup of pulverized blanched almonds into this mixture as well.
(Diane L. Wilson)
The final step called for stirring in one-fourth of the egg whites to lighten the batter, and then carefully folding in the remaining egg whites. I get a little impatient when I'm cooking, so I dumped the whole bowl of egg whites in and stirred rapidly -- using a metal fork, which our photographer told me was a "no-no" when baking.
The batter went into a round 8-inch greased and floured cake pan and was baked at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.
While the cake was in the oven, I made the icing, which consisted of the rum and remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate morsels melted in a saucepan. Six tablespoons of butter -- one at a time -- were added to the mixture until it was smooth.
When the cake was finished, I pulled it out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. It smelled delicious! After it cooled, I poured the icing over the cake and sprinkled the pulverized almonds on top.
The next day, I brought the cake into work for our photographer to snap a final picture. She laughed when she saw it -- the cake had drooped a little in the middle and a few unwanted bumps appeared on top.
According to my own taste buds, the cake was pretty good -- rich and chocolatey.
I told Tom I would let him be the true taste-tester of my cake, but before I left work for the day, it was gone. Sorry Tom, next time!
Want to read about an inexperienced chef attempting to cook your favorite meal? Every fourth week, Jennifer Freeze will whip up something new in the kitchen and write about the experience. E-mail your recipes to email@example.com or mail them to Jennifer Freeze, Southeast Missourian, 301 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701.