If my fiancé and I ever end up on "The Marriage Ref," I'm convinced our never-ending argument will be over dessert. He always wants to order the classic warm chocolate cake; I always want to try something inventive and new (goat cheesecake? Campari sorbet?).
But recently, in an effort to show my honey just how much I love him, I decided to surprise him after an ordinary weeknight meal with his favorite fancy restaurant dessert. Of course, there are a million recipes for molten chocolate cake out there, but I couldn't resist trying King Arthur Flour's Chocolate Lava Cake Mix ($8.95). Not only did the picture on the box look absolutely heavenly, it also came with instructions for dividing the mix and baking only two of the cakes at a time—très romantic!
To prepare the cakes, I coated two ramekins with cooking spay per the package directions. Then, for good measure, I dusted them with cocoa powder. (In my opinion, nothing—absolutely nothing—is worse than baking something that won't release from the pan.) Next, I combined 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the mix with 3 tablespoons of hot-but-not-boiling water, one large egg, and half a stick of melted butter. I gave everything a good stir and then divided the mixture between the ramekins, filling each just about 2/3 of the way full.
Then came the tricky part: baking the cakes so they were cooked at the edges yet still molten in the center. Fortunately, King Arthur flour provided not only a cooking time (18-22 minutes), but also two additional points of reference: each cake should have a jiggly circle in the middle about the size of a nickel, and an instant thermometer should register between 165 and 170 degrees. How could I possibly mess that up?
Well I don't know, but somehow I did. My cakes rose considerably in the oven, puffing up way over the edges of the ramekins and wobbling all over the place. After 22 minutes, the internal temperature was only about 130, so—and this was my fatal mistake—I slid them back in the oven for an extra 2 minutes.
When I finally did take them out, I inverted one on a plate and presented it to my sweetie, watching in anticipation as he broke into it with a fork. I was hoping for a river of rich chocolate fudge but instead there were...crumbs. Exceptionally moist, fudgy, dare I say gooey crumbs, but crumbs nonetheless. He ate every bite and declared it absolutely delicious, but I was disappointed. While the flavor was excellent, the texture of the cake was all wrong—but I don't think the mix was at fault. Ultimately, it comes down to having a foolproof technique.
So I turn it over to you, Serious Eaters. What are your tips for baking restaurant-worthy molten chocolate cakes?
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