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Chocolate cake


Special Section: Made in America—Cheeses!

Hot Fudge Sauce with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Molten Chocolate Cakes

Chocolate Butter

Fudge Ribbon Bars

Milk Punch

Sweet Spot


Molten Chocolate Cakes

Tips: There seem to be two types of these individual, deeply chocolate desserts. The more common type involves simply undercooking a batter, so that when the hot dessert is unmolded and cut into, the still-fluid inside seeps out. I developed a recipe for that type of cake, but then I decided I like the second type better, where a truffle is placed into the middle of a cake as it bakes. When this dessert is unmolded and cut into, melted truffle—hot, smooth, shiny, and intensely chocolate—seeps out. To make this, you'll need six individual ramekins, each of a 9 ounce capacity. Mine are white porcelain and measure 4-1/4 inches in diameter by 2 inches in height.

These cakes are very rich and rather large; if two people are on good terms and have eaten a normal dinner, one cake might be enough for both. Otherwise, eat vegetables for dinner and have one of these by yourself! It's important to use good quality chocolate here. Bittersweet chocolate varies in sweetness; if you like things very dark, you can use 7 ounces of bittersweet and 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate here. Please serve these with whipped cream, as you'll need something to cut through the intense richness of the dessert. Nice for a special meal. Take note that these are served hot, but it is critical that they stand for a few minutes after being removed from the oven. They can also be made ahead and reheated in the microwave, however (see Note at end of recipe).

Truffle Center:

  • 2 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • Few grains salt
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into thin pats
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, alkalized OR nonalkalized


  • 8 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 10 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 5 eggs, graded "large", separated (yolks and whites should both be at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp. orange liqueur
  • 1 Tbsp. coffee liqueur
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

For Serving:

  • Lightly sweetened whipped cream

Make the truffle centers first, as they must be frozen when they're used. In small heatproof bowl, combine chocolate, heavy cream, and salt. Set over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl); stir often just until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and hot water. Add butter pats; stir in until melted. Pour mixture into a shallow plate or bowl (I use a salad plate with a flat well about 6 inches in diameter in the center). Chill briefly, then set plate flat in freezer until very cold.

Place cocoa powder onto small plate or piece of wax paper. Line a flat plate about 7 inches in diameter with a round of wax paper. Remove truffle mixture from freezer. With tip of sharp knife, score into 6 equal portions. Using a teaspoon, scrape up one portion, then scrape off into the cocoa powder with another teaspoon. Roll gently to coat, then quickly work into a flattish round about 2 inches in diameter—don't worry about getting the size or shape exact—and place patty on the wax-paper-lined plate. Keep your hands dusted with cocoa powder, and be aware that the truffle mixture will still be a bit sticky even when frozen. When all six portions are shaped, replace the wax-paper-lined plate in the freezer. If you're not going to complete the recipe for a while, cover the truffle patties with another piece of wax paper, then cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap.

To make the cakes, butter the bottom and sides of each ramekin; place prepared ramekins on a foil-lined baking sheet (trust me on lining the baking sheet with foil—if you spill any batter, it's much easier to clean up that way). Set aside.

In large heatproof bowl, combine chopped chocolate and butter. Set over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl); stir often until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and hot water. Set aside to cool until chocolate is just slightly warm; gently whisking occasionally.

When chocolate mixture is only slightly warm, preheat oven to 375 degrees F; adjust rack to center of oven. Using a fork, beat egg yolks to blend; gradually add yolks to chocolate mixture, whisking then in gently (chocolate mixture will thicken slightly with addition of yolks). Be sure to scrape bottom and sides of bowl with rubber spatula frequently throughout mixing process. Add sifted cake flour and whisk in. Add liqueur 1 tablespoon at a time, then add vanilla, whisking in after each addition. Set aside briefly.

Place egg whites in medium nonplastic bowl. Add salt; sift in cream of tartar. Using a hand-held electric mixer or a whisk, beat at high speed until white, very foamy, and at least doubled in volume. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat at high speed until the meringue almost achieves stiff peak stage (you don't want to beat it quite to stiff peaks, but if you do it probably won't be a tragedy).

Whisk the chocolate mixture briskly to loosen it; it should be no warmer than room temperature and will thicken as it cools. Add a large spoonful of the beaten whites and whisk in briskly to lighten. In three additions, add remaining meringue to chocolate mixture. Don't fold in first two additions too thoroughly, but make sure the last addition is completely folded in and that the batter is a uniform color.

Divide batter evenly among prepared ramekins; each will be about three-fourths filled or a bit more. Place baking sheet with filled ramekins into preheated oven and close oven door. Bake 8 minutes. When the 8 minutes are almost up, remove truffle patties from freezer; remove any wrappings on top of the patties. After 8 minutes of baking, open oven door. Working quickly, place one truffle patty at a time onto the center top of each cake; with a toothpick or teaspoon handle, push just below the surface. A top crust may have formed on top of the cakes that this process will disrupt—don't worry about that, as you'll serve the cakes upside down. You want the still-liquid batter on the inside to cover the truffle patties. Once you have pushed in all 6 truffle patties, turn the baking sheet back-to-front. Re-close oven door.

Bake 8 minutes longer. Reach into oven; again turn baking sheet back-to-front. Re-close oven door. Bake 3 to 4 minutes longer (total baking time is 19 to 20 minutes). When done, cakes will have risen slightly above the edges of the ramekins, especially in the centers, but the centers will still appear uncooked if the ramekins are gently tapped. Do not overbake!

Remove baking sheet to cooling rack. Allow cakes to stand at least 5 full minutes—no cheating here, as the standing time firms up the cakes enough to allow you to unmold them in one piece (theoretically, anyway). The cakes may start to deflate slightly during this standing time—OK. To unmold, use a small, sharp, serrated knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the ramekin. Carefully, using potholders (the ramekins are hot!), invert a dessert plate with shallow sides onto the top of a ramekin, then, holding both together, invert the ramekin so it is upside down on top of the right-side-up dessert plate. Let the ramekin stand for a few seconds, then carefully remove it. The cake should have come out in one piece. Repeat with remaining ramekins.

To serve, pass lightly sweetened whipped cream. Cut into the hot cake, and a pool of melted truffle will flow out—don't burn your mouth!

Yield: 6 or more servings

Note: To save these for serving up to two days later, allow to cool to room temperature (as these cool, the centers will sink and they'll look awful—OK). Chill in refrigerator; cover tightly when cold. To reheat, remove cover. Microwave at high power, monitoring carefully, until center of cake has risen and looks shiny and as though cake center is uncooked (20 to 45 seconds per cake). Carefully, as ramekin will be hot, remove to heatproof surface. Run a small, sharp, serrated knife around edges of cake to loosen from ramekin; turn out and serve as above.

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