Friday, February 14, 2014

Molten Chocolate Caramel Cakes

Lava cakes were in fashion in the 1990s and appeared frequently on upscale restaurant menus as part of of trend toward unbridled chocolate decadence that began in the 80s.  As Americans gained better access to premium chocolate, we went from enjoying standard chocolate layer cake to a proliferation of chocolate soufflĂ©s, flourless chocolate cake and the heavenly French puff pastry, pain au chocolate.

Although you don't often see these little cakes with the gooey chocolate center served at many places anymore, they are still wonderful to enjoy whenever you want a bit of delicious drama at your table.

This is a recipe from Food & Wine that I've revised just ever so slightly.  Instead of using all granulated sugar, I've used half granulated and half dark brown sugar for more moisture and a richer caramel flavor.  I've also added 1 teaspoon of vanilla and a slight pinch of cinnamon for more depth.

Depending on the density of the cold caramel sauce you use, you may have a lava center or the caramel may blend into the center of the cake.  Not to worry, either way, they are extremely delicious.  This a melt-in-your-mouth warm cake and a very lovely way to savor the wonders of chocolate.

Bench notes:
- I got 6 servings instead of the 4 stated in the recipe.  I used 6 oz (3.75" diameter) tapered ramekins.
- Resist the urge to add more than 1 teaspoon of caramel in the center because it may cause the cakes to fall apart.  The caramel should be cold and solid.
- I like these with dark bittersweet chocolate but they're also delicious with semisweet (54%) if you prefer.
- If you're using a hand-held mixer, it may take more time to get the egg and sugar mixture to thicken and ribbon.
- I baked the cakes at 400 degrees for 13 minutes.  They should be puffed and starting to crack on the surface and mostly dry around the edges.  A toothpick inserted  closer to the edge should release with moist crumbs attached.  It's important to bake them for the right amount of time or they will be either too gooey or too dry.  Check them after 12 minutes.  If they're too moist, bake 1 additional minute and then check them again.  I set my timer and keep checking at 1 minute intervals until done.
- Let the cakes cool for about 5 minutes before unmolding them so they have some time to set up and come out in one piece.
- To finish, I dusted the cakes with dutched cocoa powder for its milder flavor and rich dark color.
- The cakes would also be nice with a dollop of whipped cream flavored with vanilla or brandy or served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- Food & Wine also adapted this recipe for a raspberry filling and a peanut butter filling.  I haven't tried those.  You can also use Nutella.

Molten Chocolate Cake with Caramel Filling
adapted from Food & Wine
Makes 4 servings [I got 6 servings]

soft butter for greasing ramekins
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon flour

6 oz dark chocolate (70%)
4 oz (8 tablespoons) butter
1/4 cup (1 1/4 oz) flour
pinch salt
pinch cinnamon  [my addition]
3 large eggs @ room temperature
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar  [I used 1/4 cup granulated + 1/4 cup dark brown, packed]
1 teaspoon vanilla  [my addition]
4 teaspoons cold caramel sauce  [I used 6 teaspoons]

flaky sea salt for sprinkling  [I omitted this because my caramel was already salted]
powdered sugar for dusting  [I used dutched cocoa powder]

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F [I baked them at 400 degrees].  Grease four to six 6 oz ramekins with a thin coat of softened butter.  Combine the 2 teaspoons cocoa powder with 1 teaspoon flour and dust the ramekins on the bottom and sides.  Tap out excess and place ramekins on a baking sheet.

Finely chop the chocolate and cut the butter into 1/2" pieces.  Place in a heatproof bowl with the butter on the bottom.  Set the bowl over a pan of an inch or two of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl isn't touching the water.  Stir to combine until melted.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Whisk the flour, salt (and cinnamon, if using) in a separate bowl and set aside.

Place the eggs, both sugars (and vanilla, if using) in the bowl of a mixer with a whisk attachment and beat at medium-high speed until thick, opaque and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate until no streaks remain.  Gently fold in the flour mixture.

Scoop 2/3 of the batter into the prepared ramekins, then spoon 1 teaspoon of cold caramel into each ramekin.  Sprinkle just a few grains of sea salt and cover with remaining chocolate batter.  Bake until the tops are cracked but the centers are still gooey, about 13 - 16 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 5 - 6 minutes.

Run the tip of a small knife around each cake to loosen.  Using a towel to protect your hands, invert a small plate over each cake and then invert again.  Carefully lift off the ramekins.  Dust with powdered sugar or dutched cocoa powder and serve immediately.


Lily (A Rhubarb Rhapsody) said...

For a long period of my childhood Rolos were my favourite chocolates. A cake version sounds to die for!

Lu Ellen said...

Oh, dearest Pastry Studio, this looks sinful and divine at the same time. Bliss! Thank you. I always look forward to your delicious posts. They make my day. xxoo

pastry studio said...

Lily, that's funny because as I was making these I actually had the thought about whether a Rolo cut in half and placed in the center would work!

Lu Ellen, thanks for making MY day, too!

The Devil's Food Advocate said...

These are lovely! By the way, I nominated your blog for The Kitchn's favorite sweets and baking blog award. Best of luck!

pastry studio said...

I just heard about the nomination from a friend! You are wonderful, DFA. VERY sweet of you. As always, thanks for your lovely support.

Gianne Paula Lopez said...

You’re so good. I wish I can also do that as good as yours. Pls. check my page and comment, for me to know if I do good in baking and for me to improve. Thank you.

pastry studio said...

Thank you, Gianne. It looks like you're advancing nicely through your pastry program and having fun while you're doing it. Enjoy and all the best to you!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if these could be prepared ahead and refrigerated for a day or two, and if so, how much to add to the baking time.



pastry studio said...

Kirk, I've never done it myself but these cakes are designed for restaurants to make ahead and store in the refrigerator. The only thing you need to make sure and do is bring them to room temperature before baking.

Hope you enjoy them!