Known by myriad names: fallen chocolate cake, chocolate volcano, molten chocolate cake, chocolate lava, pudding cake, etc., to me they’re just lava cakes. I like these little things because they don’t require a brain to bake up plus the batter can be made ahead of time, refrigerated, and then baked at the last minute. Straight from the oven, it’s a thrill to stab one with a spoon and watch gleefully as the soft ”“ dare I say it? ”“ molten! center seeps out like sludge.
Heeding the siren call of making something warm and chocolate-y and peanut buttery, I’m trying out a recipe from a food magazine that I read occasionally. My mind is on what I’m doing but also on trying to keep up a conversation with my Bin who himself is tinkering with the toys in his toolbox. And of course the radio is blasting as it always is when I’m in the kitchen.
Here I am greasing the ramekins, cutting up chocolate, and weighing out the ingredients on my digital scale. “What’re you making, Mom?” I suddenly hear Boo’s voice behind me. “Oh, just some lava cakes, hon,” I reply absent-mindedly. How many grams are in an ounce again? The question echoes in my head. “Chocolate?” Boo asks again, after surveying the ingredients laid out on the counter. Oh right, 28, I remember. “Mm-hmm,” I answer her distractedly.
I hear Boo skipping to where her dad is, and then she shouts, “Mama’s making larva cakes!” My head jerks up, disbelieving what I hear, and then a chuckle escapes from my lips. “Boo Boo, it’s lava cakes not larva!” I yell. “Yeah, larva,” my daughter replies, already busy with a toy. Aw heck, who am I to tell my 6-year-old that there’s a difference between lava and larva?
Later at the table, Boo’s eyes widen in wonder as she watches me run a knife around the edges of the little cakes and then flipping them over onto dessert plates. I hand her a teaspoon and, following her dad’s lead, she pokes the cake. Seeing the resultant khaki-colored ooze she’s rewarded with, she giggles. It’s terrific, this melding of hot pudding and cold ice cream, chocolate and peanut butter, lava and larva (!) …
… and delighting in my daughter’s renaming of a favorite dessert. Now that’s cool.
- 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus melted butter for brushing
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 6 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), chopped
- 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar, plus more for sprinkling
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush four 6-ounce ramekins with melted butter. In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of the flour; dust the ramekins with the cocoa mixture, tapping out the excess. Transfer the ramekins to a sturdy baking sheet.
- In a medium saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter with the chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Let cool slightly.
- In a bowl, blend the peanut butter with the 1 tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.
- In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the granulated sugar with the eggs and salt at medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow, 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate until no streaks remain. Fold in the 1/4 cup of flour.
- Spoon two-thirds of the batter into the prepared ramekins, then spoon the peanut butter mixture on top. Cover with the remaining chocolate batter. Bake in the center of the oven for 16 minutes, until the tops are cracked but the centers are still slightly jiggly. Transfer the ramekins to a rack and let cool for 5 to 8 minutes.
- Run the tip of a small knife around each cake to loosen. Invert a small plate over each cake and, using pot holders, invert again. Carefully lift off the ramekins. Dust the warm cakes with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.