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Gluten-Free Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes

Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes

Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes

A recent visit to the Big Island of Hawaii led me to a wonderful restaurant with the most fantastic dessert: hot chocolate cakes with centers that oozed with melted chocolate.  I have a recipe for these cakes in one of my cookbooks, but touring the coffee farms on the Big Island made me want to combine my two favorite flavors: chocolate and coffee.

The Big Island is known for its Kona coffee, grown in only 4,000 acres along the western coast. It is a particularly high-quality, expensive coffee, prized for its robust, distinct flavor resulting from the area’s climate, volcanic soil, and altitude. It amazes me to learn all of the steps required to plant, tend, and harvest coffee beans. Who originally figured all this out? Must have been lots of trial and error! The coffee bean itself is actually housed inside a red cherry, starts with a bloom (see photos below) and requires several steps from that point to your morning cup of Joe…and most of these steps are done by hand, so I now appreciate my coffee fix even more.

Coffee and chocolate just naturally go together; in fact, a little coffee in a chocolate dessert actually heightens the chocolate flavor. So, I modified my original recipe for lava cakes to include a hint of coffee. You may use any coffee you wish (or omit if coffee isn’t your “cup-of-tea” – sorry, I couldn’t resist!).

Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes

Adapted from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Wiley, 2008)

Cooking these luscious little gems during dinner tantalizes your guests with their heavenly aroma.

9             ounces semi-sweet dark chocolate, chopped

1             teaspoon espresso powder (or very, very finely ground coffee)

¼            cup (½ stick) unsalted butter or buttery spread

1             teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼            teaspoon salt

4             large eggs, at room temperature

¼            cup granulated sugar

2             tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting

[1] Generously grease 6 small (4 ounce), oven-proof ramekins with butter and set aside. Or, if you have bottomless 3-inch diameter soufflé rings, line them with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray. Have a 13×9-inch baking sheet ready (lined with parchment paper if using soufflé rings).

[2] In a medium glass bowl, combine chocolate, coffee (if using), butter, vanilla, and salt. Heat on High for 1 ½ to 2 minutes in a microwave oven or until mixture is melted. Stir to thoroughly combine. Set aside to cool slightly to room temperature.

[3] In another medium bowl whip the eggs and sugar with the wire whisk of an electric mixer until very light and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Fold the egg mixture into the chocolate with a spatula. Divide mixture among the 6 ramekins or soufflé dishes and place on the baking sheet.

[4] Bake 8 to 10 minutes in a preheated 375°F oven or until the tops look dry or set and are firm-looking. Don’t overbake or the insides will not be like “molten lava.” Wearing oven mitts to protect your hands, loosen edges of the cakes from the ramekin with a sharp knife, place a small dessert plate on top, and invert. If using soufflé rings, remove cakes from soufflé rings and peel away the parchment paper. Use a thin metal spatula to transfer the cake to a serving plate, top side up. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy immediately, since they can deflate quickly (be careful not to burn your tongue). Makes 6.

Carol’s Tips

[1] Every oven is different, so baking times can vary. If you bake the cakes immediately after assembly, it could take anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes. Watch carefully and if you overbake them the first time, adjust accordingly next time.

[2] Some recipes for molten lava cakes suggest refrigerating the batter in the bowl overnight for a higher rise.  If you refrigerate the batter (whether it’s in the ramekins or left in the mixing bowl; not a good idea for the soufflé rings), lengthen the baking time to 20 minutes or more. The tops should be set and look cooked and dry when ready. Again, overbaking destroys the molten lava effect.

[3] My version is more like a soufflé (soft and gooey); if you want a stiffer cake texture like the photo, whisk 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into the sugar before adding to the eggs. But these cakes are delicious however you make them!

[4] Let your imagine run wild with garnishes: chocolate-covered coffee beans, raspberry sauce (see photo), chocolate syrup, mint sprigs, or simply a dollop of whipped topping or your favorite ice cream. There isn’t that much sugar in the recipe, so use the garnishes for added sweetness if you wish.

Coffee Bloom on the Tree

Coffee Bloom on the Tree

Coffee Beans

Coffee Beans

Coffee Cherry

Coffee Cherry

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