Let Them Eat: Hot and Spicy Chocolate Cake

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[Photograph: Maria del Mar Sacasa]


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Hot. Sultry. Picante. No, this isn't a Sofía Vergara-starring hot tub fantasy, it's a spicy adaptation of molten chocolate cakes for Valentine's Day.

Legend has it that Aztec emperor Montezuma devoured cocoa beans to lure the ladies. Whether chocolate's aphrodisiac qualities are mostly the stuff of legend is open to debate, although chocolate does in fact contain chemicals involved in lust and love. Either way there's no denying chocolate's slow, luxurious melt.

Molten chocolate cakes are defined by the moment the fork cuts into its center to release a thick flow of rich, dark lava. Ubiquitous on restaurant menus, the recipes for these mini-volcanoes are incredibly simple—chocolate and butter are melted then mixed with eggs, sugar, and flour. Make the individual servings by baking them in a standard muffin tin. The trick to the chocolate lava: bake the cakes until they're just set for a lusciously silky center.

My recipe at its core is run-of-the-mill, but as a love letter to Montezuma, I added a few layers of spice and insinuating heat. After experimenting with ingredients like cinnamon, black pepper, ground nuts, and even assorted dried chiles, the flavor almost matched mole poblano, the complex chocolate-based Mexican sauce that blends spicy, earthy, and sweet. Though a commercial edition, jarred mole is available in the Latin American aisle of most supermarkets and makes this recipe fit for an emperor.

Make them ahead: You can prepare the batter up to 24 hours in advance. All you need to do is pop the cakes in the oven when you're ready to serve.