Reine de Saba Cake with Candied Cranberries


Reine de Saba CakeI found a version of this Reine de Saba Cake going through my very old files, ostensively to clean them out. It’s funny how many never make it to the waste can.  It was called an ice cream cake, but the filling isn’t really ice cream.  By whatever name, it’s very, very good….and easy!

As good as the cake is as a stand alone, I felt it needed a little bit of a bump up.  So, it lingered on my desk and in my mind until I thought of pairing it with my favorite fall fruit, cranberries.  Cranberries are only one of three fruits indigenous to America. When I had my bakery, the staff would not let me put all my cranberry recipes on the fall menu. I was usually held to three.  But I had them everywhere, muffins, cheesecake, tarts, cake fillings, and cranberry curd.  There isn’t much I won’t put them in.  See the end of this blog for some other ideas.

This frozen Reine de Saba is the perfect dessert for a busy schedule as the entire thing can be done a month ahead.  If you do freeze it ahead, keep it in the pan so the filling doesn’t get smooshed.

The Reine de Saba cake is one of my favorites and I use it as a base in other recipes such as the Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Torte.

Candied CranberriesIngredients for Candied Cranberries

12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
1 3/4 cup sugar (350 grams)

Place the cranberries in a rimmed baking sheet and pick over the cranberries.  Discard any that aren’t plump and perfect.Cranberries on Tray

Prepare a steamer by placing a rack on the bottom of a pot or pan into which the bowl of the cranberries will fit.  I use an 11” wide by 3“ deep braising pan with straight sides and a lid.  I put a cake cooling rack on the bottom and set a 9” round cake pan with the cranberries in it on the rack.

Cranberries in braising pan

Bring the water and sugar to a full boil.  Wash the sides of the pan down with cold water.Washing down sides of the panPour it over the cranberries.  Cranberries in pan with the syrupWeight the cranberries down with a plate or two to keep them submerged below the sugar syrup. Plate weighing cranberries downAdd water to the bottom pan just below the cranberries.  Cover the pan.  Candied Cranberries coveredBring the water to a simmer and keep it at a low simmer for 15 minutes.  Do not let the water boil as the berries may pop and you want to keep them as whole as possible.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Remove the plate with a pair of tongs.Removing plate from braising pan

Leave the cranberries in the uncovered pan to cool completely.

If making these in advance, store the cranberries in the syrup in the refrigerator.Candied Cranberries

If the syrup is too thin to glaze the cranberries, pour the syrup into a small saucepan.  Make sure you pour off all of the syrup.  Bring it to a boil and cook  to a temperature of 220°F.  Cool completely.  I usually do this a day or two ahead of serving. Pour the syrup over the cranberries and stir gently to coat them.  Refrigerate. Serve at room temperature. 

Riene de Saba Cake

Please go here for how to photos, using the ingredients listed below.

6 ounces semisweet chocolate (225 grams)
1/3 cup flour (45 grams or 1 1/2 ounces)
1/3 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup butter, softened (170 grams, 6 ounces or 1 1/2 sticks)
1/3 cup sugar (100 grams or 3 1/3 ounce)
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray the center of a 9 inch round pan.  Line with parchment circle and spray center.  Set aside.

Whisk together the flour and baking soda. Set aside.

Melt chocolate over a double boiler or at half power in the microwave.

Cream the butter and sugar on medium.  Add one egg, beat well on low and then add half the chocolate.  Beat to incorporate the chocolate completely.  Add the remaining egg followed by the chocolate and finally the flour mixture.

Divide the batter equally between the two pans (abut 280 grams or 10 ounces each).

Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes until a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Cool; release, remove parchment and turn right side up.

These layers can be made a day ahead, wrapped well and stored at room temperature or they can be frozen for a month or so.

Amaretto Soaking SyrupAmaretto wash for Riene de Saba Cake

1/3 cup amaretto liqueur
2 tablespoons water

Combine the ingredients and set aside.

Reine de Saba Filling

 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup milk
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar (130 grams or 4 1/2 ounces)
1 cup heavy cream

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave at half power.

Whisk the egg yolks to combine.  Eggs whisked for Reine de Saba CakeAdd the milk. Strain them into a saucepan to remove the chaleze.  Eggs strainedWhisk in the sugar and place over medium low heat.  Heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to thicken and the mixture leaves a path on the back of a spoon or spatula when the finger is drawn through it.  Do not bring to a boil.Cooked custard for Reine de Saba Cake

Add the melted chocolate to the custard, stirring until smooth.  Cool completely, stirring from time to time.Chocolate Custard for Reine de Saba Cake

Whip the cream to soft peaks.  Cream whippedStir about 1/4 of the cream into the chocolate to loosen it.Folding in initial cream

Fold in the remainder.Finished filling


2 layers Riene de Saba, thawed if frozen
Amaretto Syrup
Chocolate Filling

Place a cake layer, bottom side up, in a 9×3 inch cheesecake pan.  Brush with half the Amaretto Syrup. Spread 1/2 of the filling over the layer (about 315 grams or about 11 ounces).  Place the second cake layer on top of the filling, bottom side up. Brush with the remaining Amaretto syrup. Spread the remaining filling on top, smoothing it. Freeze until hard. This may be done a month ahead and held in the freezer well covered.

Release the cake by heating the edges with a hair blower on high.  Slide the rim down.  Transfer the cake to a cake board or serving plate with two pancake turners, one on each side.Reine de Saba Cake released

Store in the freezer.

Heat a knife by running it under really hot water and quickly drying it.  Re-heat and dry the knife for each cut.  Cut the Reine de Saba into pieces and serve with the Candied Cranberries.  This is best if it sits for about 5 to 10  inutes before serving.

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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8 thoughts on “Reine de Saba Cake with Candied Cranberries

  1. sallybr

    that is truly a masterpiece! once these crazy times are over and we can either have guests in the house, or make desserts that can be shared, I intend to make it. Right now I can only bake things that can be served in individual portions, wrapped. Cookies, brownies, small tarts, things like that. Very limiting… I miss my entremet bakes…. (sigh)

    but this too shall pass….

  2. Terry

    Thank you, Helen, for this lovely opportunity.

    I’d like to make a half-recipe version since there are only 3 of us. Should I go with a 6” or a 7” pan?


  3. RobL

    Helen, I have made Julia’s Queen of Sheba cake, many times, more that fifteen over the years, and it is always a favorite dessert. She definitely claimed it to be her favorite of all time (chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate as she referred to it). HOWEVER I do think your take on the Reina de Saba sounds EVEN BETTER !!!!

    So, I’m game. I plan to make this for a very small (you know, Covid) dinner next Friday. I always use a raspberry finish to a chocolate mousse cake, but I think you are definitely on to something with the cranberries.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Rob – There is nothing to me like chocolate and cranberries together. I have used cranberries everywhere I can think to, sweet and savory. I think you will like this. A bit different use of the Reine de Saba.

  4. suzi Parks

    My friend and fellow Pastry Chef Lee Napoli and I made a Reine de Saba for the James Beard Awards dinner 2005. That’s years event was a celebration of Julia Child and Stephanie Hersch told us it was one of Julia’s favorite cakes! We served ours with a Port Wine reduction sauce and Chocolate Butterflies. Our recipe separated the eggs and also had pulverized almonds in it. So delicious.
    thanks for the reminder! Suzi Parks, Boston / Albuquerque

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Suzi – You are so correct. Julia loved this cake. Your Port wine reduction sounds wonderful. I do a pork tenderloin with Port wine reduction that is out of this world. Something about Port Wine that goes either way. My cake is probably a bit denser because it doesn’t use the egg whites but I’ll take Riene de Saba anyway I can get it. Thanks for sharing this.

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