This is one of those desserts surely everybody has had at least once before: a warm, flourless chocolate cake with the surprise of gooey, warm, fudgey chocolate oozing out of the center. Classic, rich, decadent, and most importantly, chocolate.
This particular recipe is from The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert, which continues to be good to me. This recipe was a hit: 2 batches in one week! Batch one: I didn’t want big (well, normal-sized) cakes, so I thought it might be good to try a cupcake pan instead. I also wanted to add a little something different to the recipe, and I thought I had a simple, clever idea to make it better: why not add more texture contrast by coating the outside of the cake with praline (its not like my recent desserts show an odd obsession with hazelnuts or anything)? I’ve had this stuck in my head after seeing various pistachio-coated truffles, so I tried to coat my buttered cupcake pan with chopped praline so that it could stick to the cakes without totally mixing in with the batter.
Unfortunately, these bright ideas didn’t work out entirely as planned–the cupcakes baked too quickly (eliminating the “molten” part of the dish) and the praline just sort of melded with the batter not so attractively without doing any exciting things flavor-wise.
Before I had any time to lament this dish gone awry, somehow, every last cupcake was eaten up and gone. Dessert normally covers about a week in my household, but somehow, these “defective” flourless chocolate cupcakes didn’t survive a day. Seemed like a good opportunity to revisit the original recipe as it was intended (no chocolate fiends in this household). I didn’t have big ramekins, so I instead used coffee mugs, resulting in 6 deliciously gooey servings instead of my original brownie-esque 12.
- 8 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 large egg whites
- 6 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
- Optional: 1 tsp finely grated orange zest (if you’re not the type who likes the chocolate truffles with the fruity liqueur flavors in them, skip this)
Before you do anything, get 6 containers ready (ramekins, coffee mugs–something oven safe and able to hold about 6 oz). If you have ramekins or something short like them, use that–I discovered that while coffee mugs work, transferring the cakes out of the mugs can be difficult (the gooey centers make them unstable and so they might splat and deflate on your plate–so much for presentation! Lesson learned… ). Grease these with butter and dust the insides with cocoa powder and sugar. This is to ensure easy removal after cooking and to crunch up the outside a little. Set these aside on a baking pan and preheat the oven to 400?F.
Now set up a double boiler (get some barely simmering water going in a saucepan and place a bowl on top of the saucepan, ensuring the water isn’t touching the bowl), and melt the chocolate and butter, whisking until silky smooth. Remove this from the heat, add in the vanilla and salt, and whisk until incorporated. Let this cool off a bit.
Now, separate the eggs, putting the yolks in a large bowl and the whites (remember: 4 yolks and 3 whites, not 4!) in the smaller bowl.
In the yolk bowl, also add half of the sugar, cocoa powder, and zest if you’re using it (I tried the zest and wasn’t a fan–only do it if you love orange). Beat this well with an electric mixer until thick. Now, scoop the melted chocolate mixture into the yolk bowl and beat it some more until well blended–it will be pretty thick.
In the whites bowl (with a clean whisk), beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy, incorporating the remaining sugar as you speed up the mixer. Keep beating until the whites froth up and firm peaks form.
Now, spoon about half of the egg white mixture into the batter bowl and whisk just enough to blend. Add in the remaining white mixture, carefully, gently folding it into the batter (you don’t want to whisk all the fluff away–the cakes need it and you worked hard to beat it into the eggs!).
With your batter ready to go, divide it amongst your six containers and transfer to the oven. Set a timer and keep an eye on the cakes as this will go by quickly. The cakes will puff up, the tops will crack, and within 13 minutes, they should be done (if you let them cook too long, they’ll cook all the way through, leaving you with no molten inside–the one time in the world you don’t want to cook your cake batter all the way through! Woo hoo, no clean tester in the center). Get them out of the oven, let cool for 2 minutes or so, and serve immediately (or run a knife around the sides, transfer to a plate, and serve on that immediately).
Consider a scoop of vanilla ice cream, creme anglaise, or raspberry (or mango) coulis for the final touch. Enjoy!
Update: cooking these in ramekins (which I now have!) is infinitely easier and looks a lot sexier.