If I have one great failing in life, it is that I am not very good with desserts. I always leave them for my sister to take care of, because she's had tonnes more experience in home ec classes and all.
I feel my great fear of desserts, especially baked ones, stems from the fact that they are perhaps the most scientific branch of cookery, and I have very little patience with weights and measures, as Wen En can probably attest. Were I at Hogwarts I would probably fail Potions. This is why I have great respect for good bakers like her.
When you cook (or when I cook), there is a lot of leeway for adding or substituting ingredients. If you forgot to add something early into the cooking process, it usually doesn't matter, or you can always remedy it slightly later on. See what happens if you try that while baking. You end up with no butter in your butter cake (which Wen En now claims was supposed to be a lemon pound cake).
In baking, not only do you have to be very precise, you also have to be very quick. You can't be blasé about how much to beat your eggs, and you can't afford to dwaddle while your soufflé is collapsing. The time your dessert goes into the oven is perhaps the most nerve-wracking of all - the moment of truth: did you forget anything? Will it rise correctly? Will it explode?
Still, there are times when you just have no choice but try your hand at baking - especially when the dessert is a yummy Molten Chocolate Cake and when the recipe is this simple.
Ingredients (Serves 5)
112.5g bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
62.5g unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
2 large eggs
80g white granulated sugar
50g cake flour
Mixture of cocoa powder and icing sugar
Notes on Ingredients: Measurements are weird because the original recipe serves at least 20. You can bump up the chocolate and butter to the nearest gramme or five grammes if it's more convenient. Use the best chocolate you can find, it really does make a difference. Anything better than 55% would be good, as the bitterness also helps offset the sweetness of the cake. I didn't have cake flour handy so I used a mixture of half plain flour and half self-raising.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC and prepare six 3-inch ramekins. You can use souffle cups like these, or metal moulds, which are recommended as they conduct heat better. To do so, butter the insides of the ramekins liberally, then pop them in the freezer for five minutes.
Apply another generous layer of butter, then dust the insides with a mixture of cocoa powder and icing sugar, knocking out the excess. This double layer of butter and dusting will help your chocolate cake unmould easily. If you can't be bothered to mix cocoa and sugar, you could conceivably just use cocoa powder, or even Milo powder. I used powdered hot chocolate with no problems.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a metal bowl. The correct way to melt chocolate is to do so in a double-boiler, or in a metal bowl set over simmering water that functions as one. However, if you are supremely confident, or just very pressed for time, you can melt chocolate directly over an open fire. But please, please, for the love of God, be very careful and do not burn your chocolate.
Properly melted chocolate glistens and gleams and is one of the most beautiful things you can achieve on a stovetop. Wrongly melted chocolate, on the other hand, breaks the heart. Once your chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat to let it cool.
Place your eggs and sugar into the mixing bowl of an electric mixer.
Beat, at medium-high speed, until your eggs are pale and thick, about 10 minutes.
Reduce the speed, and gradually mix in the flour. Knock the bowl with a spoon to make sure no flour sticks to the sides.
Add the chocolate mixture to the flour mixture, and continue to beat until thick and glossy, about 5 minutes. Try not to make too much of a mess as you do this. You can also just add the batter to the melted chocolate and fold the two together, but doing it this way is less work.
Spoon the batter into your prepared ramekins, filling the ramekins only about 2/3 or 3/4, leaving room for the cake to rise. At this point, just cling-wrap them and chuck them in the freezer, where they can wait for practically ages before you decide to serve them. There is absolutely no necessity for you to tear yourself away from the dinner guests just to prepare dessert. Simply remove them from the chiller, and pop them into the oven, without the cling-wrap, naturally.
You can also do this last-minute and bake them in the preheated oven; there's a five minute difference in baking time.
Now for the moment of truth. Bake them in your oven until the cake is set around the edges and the top is dry, but the centre jiggles slightly when the cup is moved, about 15 - 16 minutes, depending on whether your batter was frozen solid and how big your mould is.
If you're baking them in bulk (5 - 10), this will cause your oven temperature to fall quite substantially, which means the cakes could take something like 30 minutes to bake. Metal moulds require less baking time, so this is something that requires some amount of judgement.
Remove them from the oven and turn the moulds onto prepared dessert plates. The cakes should unmould easily, allowing you to check if, for any reason, they are still too wet.
Dust some icing sugar over them and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some fresh berries, if you have them.
The centre of the cakes should be deliciously runny and hot as you spoon into it, and you can congratulate yourself on an impressive dessert which practically came out of the freezer.