The first time I tasted Molten Chocolate Cake was at Zibibbo in Palo Alto. It was a birthday dinner that I had arranged for a guy I was dating at the time. When dessert time came around, my date decided to pass. I ordered a “molten chocolate cake” from the menu.
When the cake arrived, I had my fork ready to plunge into the chocolate cake. But wait? My date decided the cake looked tempting enough, irresistible enough he wanted to also try it…just a bit.
Dear reader, we all know where this is going. Needless to say, the firm cake exterior and the warm chocolate interior was quickly pillaged by two forks waring over the prize.
The second memorable time I had molten cake, I made it for Clinton at his first dinner in my bachelor-ette pad in San Jose. This time around I made sure there was a 1:1 ratio between guest and cakes. Little known to both of us, we would fall in love and get married.
So here is my favorite recipe for Molten Chocolate Cake. May it inspire love, and not war on this Valentine’s day.
Molten Chocolate Cakes
Makes 6 or 7 individual cakes
Butter and flour to prepare molds: 4- to 6-ounce oven-proof glass cups, porcelain ramekins, or ceramic custard cups
3 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
6 tablespoons butter
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons flour
Generously butter the molds and flour thoroughly, tapping out any excess flour.
In the top of a double boiler, or in a bowl over a pot of hot water, melt the chocolate and butter together. Stir until well blended, then let cool to warm room temperature, which should take only a few minutes.
Meanwhile, in another bowl, with an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg yolks and whole eggs together until blended, then beat in the sugar a tablespoon at a time and continue beating until the eggs are greatly increased in volume, pale yellow, and hold a ribbon for a few seconds when allowed to drip off the beaters onto the top of the mixture. (This will take somewhat longer than usual because of the small ratio of sugar to eggs.)
Pour the beaten eggs into the chocolate (scraping out the bowl with a rubber spatula) and, with a whisk, blend together, scraping the bottom of the bowl to make sure you bring the chocolate up.
When the mixture is almost blended — still streaky — sprinkle the flour on top and continue mixing until well-blended. As Vongerichten says, “Do not attempt to make it light.”
Pour 1/4 cup batter into each prepared mold, using a 1/4-cup dry measure and a small spatula to scrape out the last bits from the measuring cup.
Place filled molds on a baking sheet and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to bake, or for at least 30 minutes.
Bake in a preheated 475-degree oven for 8 to 9 minutes if chilled only slightly, up to 12 minutes if chilled thoroughly (more than several hours). When done, the batter will be puffed up and, when you move the baking sheet, it won’t jiggle in the center. (If you DO bake the cakes as soon as the batter has been prepared, reduce baking time to about 7 minutes.)
Remove from the oven and immediately unmold the cakes: Hold the mold in one hand, protecting yourself with an oven mitt or pot holder, and work a small sharp knife around the perimeter (between the cake and mold). Place a serving plate on top of the mold and reverse to unmold the cake onto the plate. Use the point of your knife to begin to lift the mold off the plate, then remove it. A nickel-sized spot on top of the cake may still be molten: that’s fine.
Garnish, if desired, with whipped cream, ice cream, or a custard sauce, and, also only if desired, some fresh raspberries or strawberries, or some shaved chocolate.
Note: There’s no need to bake off all the cakes at once. They may be kept, covered with plastic, in the refrigerator for several days. Leftover baked cakes can be kept at room temperature, covered with plastic, in which case the runny centers gain a mousse-like consistency.