January 27 is National Chocolate Cake Day in the United States. To be honest, I thought every day was chocolate cake day. This warm (and flourless) chocolate lava cake is delicious enough to declare a national celebration. But to help keep us all focused, there are several national food day lists floating around like this one to make sure all kinds of decadent delights get their day.
I’m a little curious, though, how National Pie Day, National Peanut Butter Day, and National Chocolate Cake Day all fall in the same week. I have a sneaking suspicion that the final week of January is right about the time that most folks have felt pretty good about the three weeks of intense dieting and exercise they have done after the holidays. Admit it. Your thinking has probably come close to this at some point: “I’ve been to the gym twice this week. Of course I deserve pie/peanut butter/chocolate cake!”
Molten lava cakes are the perfect little cakes to celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day. They require relatively little effort and bake in less than 15 minutes. Even if the cakes collapse into a quivering pool of warm chocolate, I promise you that your guests will not complain. Cover them with enough ice cream and in one, two, three, swoops of their spoons the cake will be gone.
But if you do want to impress a loved one, you might want a practice run or two to figure out the best results with your oven. If you underbake it, you will end up with a puddle of chocolate (there are worse things). If you overbake, by even a minute, no molten center – and you’ll end up with more of a brownie cake (again, not a travesty).
Now get celebrating. And keep this recipe handy for Valentine's Day.
Molten Lava Cake
Adapted from Bon Appétit
6-1/2 ounces bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate, chopped (Note: good-quality chocolate chips are an easy shortcut)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons sugar, separated
2 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter four 3/4 cup custard cups. Dust with flour, shaking out excess, and set aside.
In a double boiler over simmering water, combine chocolate, butter, and salt and heat. Stir until chocolate and butter have melted and mixture is smooth. Remove upper pot from water and let cool 10 minutes.
Beat egg yolks and 3 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until thick and light, about 2 minutes. Fold in chocolate mixture. In a separate bowl beat egg whites and 1 tablespoon sugar using electric mixer with clean, dry beaters, until whites are stiff but not dry. Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Divide batter among prepared cups.
Place custard cups on a baking sheet. Bake until cakes are puffed but still soft in center, about 11 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to rack; cool cakes 1 minute.
Using a small knife, cut around sides of cakes to loosen. Place plates on top of cups. Using an oven mitt or tea towel (the cups will be hot) invert cakes onto plates; remove cups. Serve immediately with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.