In an article in the New York Times this past winter, Julia Moskin quotes a restaurant patron as saying "There is a chocolate person and a lemon person in every marriage." Amen to that. Nothing makes my husband happier than seeing warm chocolate cake listed on a dessert menu. As a special treat this week, I whipped up Dean Jacobs Molten Chocolate Lava Cake Mix. Was it as good as restaurant versions?
Preparing the mix (available online and at many gourmet grocers) was a simple two-part process. First I whisked together the dry mix, 1/2 cup of water, and one stick of melted butter. Next, I melted a package of chocolate chips (included) and stirred them into the batter. The results were thick and fudgy, on the line between brownie batter and pudding. It was pretty quick, too. The entire prep took about five minutes, and I only used two bowls, a small pot for melting the butter, and a whisk.
I divided the batter between four generously greased 5-ounce ceramic ramekins, filling each about 2/3 of the way full. Since baking times for lava cakes need to be exact, I decided to bake my cakes one at a time. That way, if a cake over- or under-cooked I would have a backup.
It's a good thing I did. The first cake, which I baked for 13 minutes exactly per the boxes instructions, ripped in half as I inverted it onto a plate, spewing forth a messy chocolate river. So much for an elegant presentation.
The next cake, which I baked for 15 minutes, came out much better. It was a little squishy and ragged at the edges, but it sprung from the ramekin in one piece and the center was appealingly gooey.
What the cakes lacked in appearance they made up for in taste. The outer "cake" part had a delicate crumb and light cocoa flavor, which contrasted nicely with the intensely rich, deep dark chocolate center. Each bite was a perfect ratio of crumbly cake and warm sauce.
Ultimately, I would recommend something a little out of the ordinary. I suggest that you serve these cakes still in their ramekins, as little cake-soufflés, maybe with a shot of bourbon whisked into the batter or a raspberry pressed into each center. They will look lovely and taste fantastic, and you won't have to worry about presentation at all.