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Betsy Block


Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate!

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate

Oh my Lord, these are good.

Individual chocolate cakes warm from the oven, with the center gooey and fine, are my standby, my workhorse, my fabulous restaurant-quality dessert that most of my long-suffering friends have had more than once. In fact, I've made them so often that - I can't believe I'm saying this - even I'm sick of them.

When I serve these, as I just did on New Year's Eve, I can't seem to stop myself from going on (and on) about how easy they are to make. What kind of a sick honesty compulsion would make me do such a thing? Learn from my mistake. Don't follow my lead. When your guests rave, you should just smile serenely and offer up a modest "Thanks."

Sadly, for me, this recipe is almost at the end of its useful life, which happens when you overuse one perfectly excellent recipe. That's why it's time to pass it on, like a juicy secret or a gorgeous pair of pants that - ahem - no longer fit (possibly due to  too many chocolate cakes). And so, I solemnly bequeath to you my very special, unoriginal, already published recipe for chocolate molten cake, otherwise known in our house as: Volcano Cake.

May you eat it with as much joy, but not quite as much frequency, as my family and I have.

Volcano Cake
Adapted from Todd English

I found this recipe in The Olives Table (Simon & Schuster), which Todd English co-wrote with Sally Sampson in 1997. He didn't send this recipe to me personally, nor is it new, but I'm highlighting it anyway. That's how good - and simple - it is.

The prep for this takes about 15 minutes, but the best part is that you can make the batter in the morning, or even the day before you want to serve it. (I bet you could even freeze it. I know you could.) Just take the filled ramekins out of the fridge an hour or so before cooking so they can come back to room temperature before you pop 'em into a preheated oven.

(Yes, this recipe does indeed require the dreaded "ramekins," but at least there's no water bath. If you don't have any, it's worth buying them just for this one recipe, though, I promise.)

Serves 6

Butter and flour six 8-ounce ramekins. Then melt together in a double-boiler (or in a regular ol' pan if you're like me and can't deal with double-boilers):

12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I eyeball the amount and it's always worked out just fine)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

Set aside to cool.

While that's all happening, place

1 cup sugar
cup all-purpose flour
6 large eggs (at room temp)

in a large bowl and beat until thick and fluffy, about five minutes. Gently beat in the cooled chocolate mixture. Pour the batter into the buttered, floured ramekins until they're about  full, cover with foil or plastic, refrigerate them, then go about your day, smug in the knowledge that you have something special up your sleeve.

About an hour before you're ready to eat this luscious dessert, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and take the filled ramekins out of the fridge. Fifteen minutes before D-time, put them in the preheated oven. The amount of time they'll take to cook will vary depending on your oven, but you want them to be pretty darn puffy and rising above the top of the ramekins. (I love the word "ramekin." Ramekin ramekin ramekin.) Run a knife around the sides and turn them upside down to unmold. The outside should be a normal cake consistency, but the middle should be gooeylicious. Mmm.

Serve topped with raspberries and a light dusting of powdered sugar, or, if you want to take it to the next level, serve it with raspberry sauce, which is not only gorgeous, it's perfect with the cakes:

Raspberry Sauce
4 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen
cup sugar
1 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Place the berries and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring, over high heat. Boil until the sugar dissolves. Add lemon juice to taste and let cool. Voila - fancy sauce. Fancy dessert. You rock.