Thursday, August 24, 2006

Cooking School: Molten Center Chocolate Cakes

One way to make a molten center chocolate cake is to undercook your batter, preferably at a high temperature that will cause the outside of you cake to appear to be cooked. I don't honestly think that this is the best way to make a dessert because while cake batter is tasty, I don't want it for my dessert. I mentioned once before that I was taught to make molten center chocolate cakes by putting a ball of ganache into the center of the cake (or of a souffle) before baking. Once the individual cake is done, the ganache is melted and makes a lovely, warm center when the cake is served.
The trick of using a ball of ganache can really be done with most cupcakes or souffles, and is not specific to this recipe, so don't be afraid to try it out with your favorite chocolate cupcakes sometime.
This recipe, from Williams-Sonoma, has a fairly light cake that is somewhere between a sponge cake and a souffle, though it is much more chocolaty than those two types of cake usually are. The base is formed and a ganache ball is inserted. It's very simple.
Once of the best things about this technique is that it is easy to add different flavorings. You can use mint truffles, for example, or even store-bought truffles, provided that they do not have a hard chocolate coating. A chocolate coating should not affect the outcome, but it's rather like adding ganache and chocolate chips, instead of just ganache.
Whipped cream is the best serving option because the light cream contrasts with the richness of the cake beautifully, though you can't go wrong with vanilla ice cream, either.

Molten Center Chocolate Cakes
(recipe from Williams-Sonoma)
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped and divided
1 tbsp heavy cream
3 tbsp unsalted butter, very soft
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter a 6-cup muffin tin and dust each well with cocoa powder.
In a small bowl, melt together 2-oz. chocolate and 1 tbsp cream, either in the microwave in very small intervals or over a small double boiler. Chill for about 20 minutes once it is smooth. (This step can be done in advance and the ganache softened before using.)
In another small bowl, melt together the remaining 4-oz chocolate and the butter. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes at room temperature.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat with an electric mixer until the mixture triples in volume and is very thick (about 5-7 minutes). Sift flour over egg micture and fold in. Add cooled chocolate/butter mixture and fold in until batter is uniform. Pour into prepared muffin tins.
Form ganache into 6 teaspoon-sized balls and place one in each cake, pressing gently to cover with batter. (If there is a little left over, that's ok.)
Bake at 400F for 9-11 minutes, until the tops are set. Let cakes cool in pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and serving on individual plates. Cakes can be served right side up or still inverted (personal preference for the look).
Serve immediately, with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Serves 6.