Molten Center Chocolate Cake

This is a wonderful make-ahead dessert. As long as everything is ready in advance, you can make the cake batter and fill the molds hours ahead of time—just bake them immediately before you intend to serve them. Most people agree that these were invented by the 3-star French chef Michel Bras. But Bras’s version calls for the cake batter to have a frozen chocolate truffle baked in the center, unlike these cakes, where the batter itself provides the flow of warm, semiliquid chocolate. These are easier to prepare and taste better, so maybe they’re the 4-star version, which, by the way, comes from my friend and Hong Kong restaurateur Jennifer Morris.

Makes 7 individual cakes

5 ounces 70% bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

Crème Anglaise, below

Seven 4-ounce aluminum foil molds or porcelain ramekins, buttered and floured

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400˚F.
  2. Half fill a saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat. Combine chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and place over hot water. Stir occasionally until melted.
  3. Whisk eggs and yolks together by hand in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk in sugar, then butter and chocolate mixture. Place the bowl on the mixer and mix on medium speed with the paddle for 1 minute. Remove the bowl and whisk in the flour by hand.
  4. Fill the molds to within 1/4 inch of the top. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (unmold one to see how liquid it is), then unmold onto warm dessert plates.

Crème Anglaise

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup milk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

5 large egg yolks

  1. For the crème anglaise, combine the cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan and whisk to mix. Place over low heat and bring to a full rolling boil. Meanwhile, set a fine strainer over a clean glass or stainless steel bowl and place them near the burner where you are heating the liquids.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl to break them up. When the liquid boils, whisk about 1/3 of it into the yolks. Return the liquid to a boil and, beginning to whisk before pouring, pour the yolk mixture into the boiling liquid. Whisk constantly until the cream thickens slightly, 10 to 15 seconds after adding the yolks. Remove the pan from the heat, never ceasing to whisk. Quickly strain the sauce into the prepared bowl. Remove the strainer and set it over the saucepan. Whisk the sauce continuously for about 30 seconds to cool it down so the yolks won’t scramble. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the crème anglaise.

Serving: Serve with the sauce.

Storage: These are like soufflés—you have only one chance to enjoy them. You may prepare the batter and put it in the molds several hours before you intend to serve the cakes—keep them at a cool room temperature until it’s time to bake them.