Valentine’s Day brings out weird reactions in people. I have seen Teddy Bears the size of a cheap Manhattan apartment gracing Walmart shelves and people agonizing over the card choices, because none of them seem right. Some people try to outdo themselves, every year (hot air balloon ride over the countryside, anyone?), and others claim that Valentine’s Day is “stupid” and go out of their way to avoid it. Some people notice with delight the pink on everything from their outfits to the Pepto Bismol in their medicine cabinet. Even the medicine is in LOVE! How FESTIVE!
Honestly, though, Valentine’s Day was invented, according to legend, to honor St. Valentine. The guy was a compassionate country cleric who helped Roman citizens marry people of other races, a practice which was illegal at the time. He was thrown in jail for his under-the-table romantic assistances, but the people of Rome loved him so much that they threw notes of encouragement, sometimes filled with sweet treats and food, through the bars of his cell to bring him comfort. Our tradition of passing out tiny paper Valentines containing candy or notes comes from this story.
So, I guess, technically, if we really want to honor the true spirit of Valentine’s Day, we should go around throwing chocolate at people. Hmm. People throwing chocolate at me all day . . . I could get used to that 😉 But, until that fetching little tradition catches on, I would suggest making Molten Lava cakes as a delicious substitute. No one can resist a cute little cake smothered in ruby red fruits, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. And when the delicious chocolatey filling oozes out at you, you can pretend that someone is throwing chocolate. It’s the thought that counts, and these little guys are nothing, if not thoughtful.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes
(adapted from Food Network)
1 stick butter or margarine (1/2 cup)
6 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup flour
Melt butter, cocoa, oil, and chocolate chips in the microwave for 30 second increments, whisking after each heating, until mixture is melted and combined. Using the whisk, stir in the powdered sugar, then beat eggs and vanilla with a fork and whisk into the chocolate mixture. Whisk in the espresso powder and stir in the flour. Butter and flour a jumbo muffin tin or mini ramekins and bake at 425 for 9-10 minutes, until the cakes are set around the edges but still soft (not raw or completely liquid) in the center. Wait 2 minutes before inverting cakes onto plates. Serve immediately.
Now, in pictures! 🙂
This recipe couldn’t be easier. Got a microwave? Good– because that’s just about the most complicated thing about making them– turning on the microwave, because we all know that easy and impressive is the very best combo (Go ahead and give me an “Amen”). Get ready to impress your sweetie this Valentine’s Day! 🙂 To start with, melt your butter, cocoa, oil, and chocolate chips. To make sure you don’t zap these little guys too much and burn them, just do the heating in 30 second increments. Make sure you whisk the mixture after each 30 seconds, and stop when everything is nice and melted. Oh NO! I’m having a MELTDOWN!!!!! That’s OK . . . it’s a good thing, in this case 🙂
Now, go ahead and separate your eggs. Save your 3 egg whites for another delicious use, like Strawberries and Cream French Macarons, which are another excellent Valentine’s Day dessert choice. Egg whites freeze really well– just put them in a sandwich bag, label it with how many are in there, and throw in the freezer until you need them. It’s easy peasy.
Since this recipe calls for 2 whole eggs, also, mix those into the yolks and whisk the eggs with a fork. Add in the vanilla, too . . . because the eggs like company, and the more the merrier.
By this time your 30 second heating increments should have melted the butter and chocolate, and you can whisk it all nice and smooth. Mmmm . . . chocolate is so beautiful, isn’t it?
I’d say “whisk in the powdered sugar,” since we are using a whisk, but it’s so thick that it’s really more like stirring. Just kind of gently use your whisk to stir in the powdered sugar, until no white remains. Man . . . I wish I could do that with my hair . . . keep adding chocolate and sugar until no white remains. Hehe. Maybe I should give it a try– eat tons more chocolate, in the name of science, of course *innocent face*.
Go ahead and add in your egg/vanilla mixture. It will be kind of hard to whisk the chocolate, at first, because the eggs are runny and the chocolate is thick. But keep working at it, and eventually they will play nicely together and combine.
Now, go ahead and add the espresso powder.
Basically, espresso powder is super concentrated coffee flavor. But wait . . . I thought we were making CHOCOLATE. You didn’t say anything about COFFEE. You lied to me! It’s the season of love, and you are showing zero love to me right now!
Naw– you won’t taste the coffee at all– believe it or not, chocolate and coffee are like a man in a good suit. Coffee dresses chocolate up and helps it looks its best. Adding just a small teaspoon of espresso powder to your chocolate lava cakes will make them unbelievably rich and decadent. You won’t taste coffee– but you will feel like the first time you got glasses– like you’re seeing chocolate through new eyes. I love King Arthur Flour’s espresso powder here. It is extremely finely textured (I keep it in the freezer to keep it fresh and keep it from clumping) and really adds the “oomph” you are missing in regular, one dimensional chocolate baked goods. It will take your chocolate desserts over the top and make people feel like they are eating something from a fancy restaurant. If you don’t have espresso powder, you can grind up instant coffee granules nice and smooth for a substitute, although the flavor won’t be quite as strong. I bet you will find yourself adding coffee flavor to everything chocolate– and discovering all your favorite recipes in a whole new light 🙂
Whisk your espresso powder into the chocolate, and then go ahead and mix in the flour. See? You’re practically done, and you just go started! I just love desserts that are impressive without taking all day to make.
Now, let’s talk baking containers. Any little oven safe dish will work, but I am using jumbo muffin tins. They work really well for this because they have a nice smooth edge and are just the right size. Plus, I found that the recipe made exactly 6 little cakes, which was perfect for the 6 cup muffin tin! Yay. I think it was meant to be! Awww– the muffin tin is in love, too! 🙂
We don’t want the cakes to stick, so make sure that you butter the molds really well. For this recipe I would avoid the cooking spray– we need the heavy duty butter and flour so that these cakes don’t even THINK about sticking. You don’t want to try to pry a liquid cake from a pan– trust me. It can get messy.
Once you have buttered the molds (I just used Country Crock and a paper towel to do that part), lightly flour them and turn the pan so that the flour gets onto their sides, too, and not just the bottom. Fill the molds about 3/4 of the way full and bake the cakes at 425 for 9-10 minutes. You want these cakes to be set around the edges, but they should still jiggle a little bit in the centers when you move the pan around. Try not to overbake them, or there goes your molten center. Just a hint– if you accidentally overbake your cakes, serve them on the plate with a little wedge cut out, and drizzle chocolate syrup in the center. No one will know the difference. It helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve 😉 I won’t tell if you don’t!
Wait about 2 minutes before you invert the cakes onto plates. These little guys are best served immediately, but they will still be awesome even if you take longer than you plan– the centers just may be a little more soft than liquid. No matter what, I don’t think you’re going to meet anyone who will turn this decadent piece of chocolate glory down.
I mean, seriously– would you?
Happy Valentine’s Day. Throw some chocolate and have a cherry. It’s a good day to remember those we love.
Because you did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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