Friday, July 27, 2007

Molten Chocolate Cakes

Although the novelty of these cakes has worn off after eating them a million times, the enjoyment has yet to fade! There are two methods (that I know of) to making a molten chocolate cake. The obvious way to do it would be to stick a meltable ball of something-or-other into the center of the batter prior to baking. This method has the advantage of allowing you to incorporate a molten center other than chocolate, but why would you want to do that anyways?? The method I prefer uses just six basic ingredients (not counting garnishes or sauces!), which come together without any fanfare to create one of the most delicious, deeply chocolaty desserts imaginable. I originally obtained this recipe from Nigella Lawson's "How To Be A Domestic Goddess" (fantastic book!), and have altered it a teensy bit to suite my taste (especially since, in my opinion, extra chocolate topping and ice cream are indispensable companions to this dessert). I've made it dozens of times, and it's virtually foolproof as long as you don't overcook the cakes! I wish I had a picture, but the time it would take me to grab my camera would cause the glaciers of vanilla ice cream around my cake to melt into puddles. Ok, ok, the real reason is that I'm always too distracted by dessert to remember the camera at all . . . maybe next time.

Cake Ingredients:

1/4 c. unsalted butter (plus extra for buttering)
one package bittersweet chocolate chips, or semi-sweet if you're a chocolate wuss
3/4 c. sugar
4 eggs
1/3 c. flour
pinch of salt


Vanilla ice cream (please don't insult the dessert by using "light" ice cream)
equal parts chocolate chips, and milk (or cream if you want to go all out)


Parchment paper
6 ramekins, or a 6-muffin jumbo muffin tin
A cookie sheet to transfer cakes to and from the oven, and for easy removal if using a muffin tin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Fold a piece of parchment onto itself three times, set a ramekin on top, and trace the bottom of a ramekin onto the parchment. Cut out the tracing to create 8 ramekin-sized circles (you only need six, obviously). Butter the ramekins, place a parchment circle in each, and butter the parchment circle. Set the ramekins aside.

For the cakes: Microwave the chocolate chips for 30 second intervals, stirring between intervals, until they are melted. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer (this can be done by hand with forks or a whisk, but it's a real pain). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Stir the pinch of salt into the flour, and stir the flour into the egg mixture until just combined. Blend in the cooled chocolate.

Divide the batter between the ramekins/muffin tins and place them on a cookie sheet (if using). Pop it in the oven for 10 minutes, and not a moment longer!

While the cakes cook, take the vanilla ice cream out of the freezer to soften, and make the sauce. For the sauce, microwave equal parts chocolate chips and milk on 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval until smooth. If you like a runnier sauce, add more milk.

Immediately remove the cakes from the oven. Use a sharp knife to separate the edges of the cakes from the ramekins/muffin tins. If you are using ramekins, tip the cakes out one by one onto plates, remove parchment, top with sauce and ice cream, and serve. If you are using a muffin tin, place the cookie sheet on top of the muffin tin, and using your thumbs (inside oven mitts of course) to hold the cookie sheet firmly against the muffin tin, invert the whole contraption over your head. Place it on the counter and rap the bottom of the muffin tin to make sure the cakes release. Carefully lift the tin up to reveal six perfect little cakes. Remove the parchment and proceed with saucing and serving.

Another incentive to use the chocolate sauce is that if you do overcook the cakes by accident, you'll still be able to enjoy melted chocolate. And the ice cream? Trust me, you don't want to miss out on the delightful contrast between the sweet, cold ice cream, and the rich, piping hot cakes. Phenomenal!

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