Foodie Dreams, Kitchen Nightmares: Molten Cake

Every once in a while I come across a kind of food that makes my little taste buds sing, but for a variety of reasons, I know I'll never be able to get that food ever again. This semi-weekly column, "Foodie Dreams, Kitchen Nightmares," will showcase the foods I've fallen in love with and my (devastatingly disastrous, usually) attempts to recreate them.

On the menu for this evening: Molten Cake.

The one and only time I had this molten cake was at the semi-formal dinner my house master and his wife hosted for outgoing seniors last spring.* Cheryl, of the awesome kitchen and sunny spirit, topped a delicious dinner with heaven in a ramekin, her special molten cake. I'd never had molten cake before and I spent most of the dessert babbling incoherently, drunk on love and chocolate, interrupting the conversation to say again and again, "What is this?" It had the consistency of slightly solidified brownie mix, but sweet, airy, and stop-you-in-your-tracks chocolaty. At the time, I didn't even have my own kitchen, but I foresaw the day when I'd need my own gooey comfort (that sounds gross but I'm really talking about the cake), so I went ahead and asked Cheryl for the recipe.

She said sure, and then "forgot" to give it to me, which led to a campaign of emails and a series of friendly chats, subtly underscored by the rabid gleam in my eye which said, "gimme my molten." Finally, finally! oh sweet day, I had the recipe. It seemed simple enough until I got to the part: "Grease 12 ramekins." Ramekins? Twelve ramekins?? I don't even have 12 spoons. I adapted, which they say can lead to moments of genius but in my case usually just leads to crappy food. I bought 2 ramekins, thinking I could try it for dessert one night and freeze any leftover batter.

It was a disaster from the start. I was out of margarine and used butter, I didn't refrigerate it for the suggested period of time, and I didn't adjust the heat of the oven for the fact that I was cooking 1/6 what the recipe called for. What I eventually pulled out from the oven were two shriveled things that stained my ramekins a dirty brown and resembled less floaty mounds of chocolate than the charred remains of a scorched earth, post-apocalypse. Gamely, my boyfriend tried them and declared them "Just as good as Cheryl's, baby!" proving that while the way to a man's heart may be through the stomach, true love has no taste buds.

Someday, when I have a real kitchen and can afford cookware not gotten from Ikea, Urban Outfitters, or my parents cast-off pile, I'll try molten cake again.


1 and 2/3 cups choc chips
10 Tablespoons margarine
teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 eggs
3 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup all purpose flour

Melt choc chips and margarine in microwave
Beat eggs, salt and vanilla
Add confectioners sugar
Temper in choc mixture (add a little at a time, and beat well)
Stir in flour by hand with wooden spoon
Heavily grease 12 ramekins
Fill to brim
Refrigerate for 3 hours or longer
Preheat oven to 450
Bake for 13 minutes
To see if ready poke open top of one with sharp knife
Inside should be liquid; outside set
Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

*House masters are what we call the, usually, married couple who resides in or near one of the houses at my college (Houses = dorms. It's like Harry Potter). They're like the de facto parents of the house, and they typically offer academic and personal guidance, as well as open their homes on a semi-regular basis to offer snacks to weary students. Jay + Cheryl 4eva

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