You can call this post “A Tale of Two Cakes”. The first, pictured above, was our little Maddie’s first birthday cake. Or to be more precise, her first half birthday cake. She turned all of six months old in February and there was no way her dad and mom (lovers of baking cakes and eating cakes, respectively) would let the occasion pass without a special sweet treat to commemorate the event. Hence the 1/2 birthday cake was invented, a two layer cake cut in half and stacked into four astounding “half” layers, then frosted all around. Maddie, of course, hadn’t a clue what was going on and happily settled for dining on pureed carrots while the rest of us noshed on cake and feted her.
The second cake in question (pictured above) is decidedly more adult, a simple, elegant molten chocolate, made in individual portions and perfect for a romantic evening (not that there are many of those in our lives these days with Maddie around!). It was posted here on Bitten, the New York Times‘ food blog, and suggested as a perfect Valentine’s Day dessert. I suggest, however, that you needn’t wait nearly a year for another Valentine’s Day to come around. Dylan and I whipped up a half batch of these warm and gooey cakes in just a few minutes one lazy Friday night as we curled up on the couch with a DVD. With only a few minutes of prep time and 6-7 minutes of baking, with a little cooperation, you can make these cakes faster than you can run out to the corner store for a carton of ho-hum ice cream. Just remember that the beauty of the molten chocolate cake is in the moist, oozing center so be sure to take them out of the oven while the middle is still a little jiggly. If they make a bit of a pooling, fudgy mess when you invert them on the plates, as ours did, so be it- that’s what fingers are for.
Individual molten chocolate cakes (makes 4)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more to butter the molds
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons flour, plus more for dusting (or dust with cocoa powder for aesthetics)
1. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, heat the butter and chocolate together until the chocolate is almost completely melted. While that’s heating, beat together the eggs, yolks, and sugar with a whisk or electric beater until light and thick.
2. Beat together the melted chocolate and butter; it should be quite warm. Pour in the egg mixture, then quickly beat in the flour, just until combined.
3. Butter and lightly flour four 4-ounce molds, custard cups, or ramekins. Tap out the excess flour, then butter and flour them again. Divide the batter among the molds. (At this point you can refrigerate the desserts until you are ready to eat, for up to several hours; bring them back to room temperature before baking.)
4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the molds on a tray for 6 to 7 minutes; the center will still be quite soft, but the sides will be set.
5. Invert each mold onto a plate and let sit for about 10 seconds. Unmold by lifting up one corner of the mold; the cake will fall out onto the plate. Serve immediately.