Molten chocolate cakes will always make me think of seminary, which was somehow nine years ago. It was the same scene, over and over: parents would come visit, they’d take a group of girls out to dinner, and everyone would come back talking about the hot chocolate cakes they’d ordered for dessert. The few times I was part of such a group, for whatever reason, there were no hot chocolate cakes in sight. (Though there was one memorable meal at which all 10 girls ordered milkshakes. Not for dessert — for the drinks.)
When I saw Levana’s recipe for molten chocolate cakes, I knew it was finally time to try my hand at them. It didn’t look like it would be too difficult, but here’s the thing — I got totally tripped up by the baking time, and when it comes to molten chocolate cakes, it’s all about the baking time.
Levana says to bake the batter in ramekins for 12 minutes and then invert one onto a plate to test it. When I did that, my plate was filled with raw batter. No problem, she writes. If that happens, just scoop it back into the ramekin and return them to the oven. Seven minutes later, they were still completely raw. Fourteen minutes later, they were still completely raw. After 20 extra minutes, I took them out for good, but sadly, somewhere between 14 and 20, they crossed the line from “totally raw” to “no longer molten.”
Where did that leave me? Fortunately, still with a wonderfully delicious dessert. Straight from the fridge, they had a rich, dense, fudge-like brownie feel. Cooled in the fridge and then reheated, they managed both a rich chocolate flavor and a light, airy texture.
So molten chocolate cakes and their baking time still elude me. If you’ve had success with these or something like them, please share your secrets.
Recipe at a glance:
- Accessible ingredients? Yes, all pantry items.
- Multiple steps required? Melting the chocolate, etc. / beating eggs and sugar / combining and adding the final touches / baking. Not the simplest dessert, but not the craziest.
- Left with lots of dirty dishes? Kinda, but making individual servings of cake in ramekins will do that to you.
- Taste worth the effort? Yes and no. They were delicious, no question, but I missed the mark on the molten.
- Make again? Maybe, if I can figure out the baking time thing.
Update: The following is Levana’s comment about my trouble with the cakes’ baking time.
Many recipes instruct you to bake them 400 degrees for 8 minutes, sometimes even 450 degrees. The risk with that is, if the cook’s oven temperature runs too high, they will be calcinated. Only a professional cook with rigorously exact temperatures can risk these high temps for something so delicate. So my compromise in developing my recipe was, medium high temp, longer time. Preheated 375 degrees, 12 to 15 minutes. If you baked it for 2 or even 3 times this time, my guess is: your oven temperatures must be checked by an oven technician.
From The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen
Yield: 6 (5-ounce) ramekins and an 8×8 dish
- 3 cups chocolate chips
- ½ cup unsalted butter or margarine spread
- 1 Tbsp coffee powder mixed with a few drops of hot water
- 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp flour (for Pesach: potato starch)
- 1 tsp peppermint extract *
* I went with Levana’s variation to sub out the traditional vanilla extract for peppermint. If you prefer vanilla, use 1 Tbsp of that.
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C. Melt the chocolate, butter/margarine, coffee, and cocoa powder in a double boiler or the microwave.
2. In a food processor, beat the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy. [Note: I used a stand mixer fitted with the wire whisk, and I beat them until very frothy and paler in color. I assume you could also use an electric hand mixer.]
3. Add the chocolate mixture to the airy eggs/sugar and gently combine. Add the flour and extract and gently combine. [Note: I folded the chocolate into the eggs/sugar by hand with a spatula so as not to get rid of all the air I'd just whipped into them.]
4. Pour the batter into a measuring cup with a pouring spout and use that to fill your well-greased ramekins, baking dish, or some combination thereof close to the top. This makes it a pretty clean process. You can use 12 (5-ounce) ramekins, a 9×13 dish, or 6 ramekins and an 8×8 dish. It makes the most sense to bake molten chocolate cakes in ramekins, but hey, I only have 6 of those.
5. Bake about 12 minutes, or until the top is barely set and the center is still slightly wet. To test them, invert one onto a plate. If it’s still raw, scoop it back into the ramekin and return them all to the oven. Be careful, though. If you overbake them, be prepared to have non-molten chocolate cakes. [Note: That's what happened here. You can read my commentary above, in the post.]
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