When I set out to write my first book, one of the first recipes I knew I wanted to include was one for individual steamed pudding cakes. I ended up doing a lemon cakelet after a pregnancy-inspired double-order at a neighborhood eatery called Mary's Fish Camp. The chef there walked me through the magic of a pudding cake; how, thanks to an imbalance of wet to dry ingredients, a creamy smooth pudding layer forms on the bottom and a layer of fluffy sponge cake blossoms on top.
Bake it in a ramekin and flip it over onto a serving plate and you have something pretty spectacular, and all for yourself.
This week I decided to adapt the concept with chocolate for all you romantics who want to goose up your lover for Valentine's day.
Now it's not the prettiest thing in the world; you don't get the same pronounced separation of cake layer and pudding layer and I suspect the magic between wet and dry ingredients is much more magical with lemon as an ingredient, but the chocolate still tastes darn good.
One option is to skip the inversion move I show here and just serve it straight from the ramekin. Get slick and poke a little hole in the middle and slide in a lick of ice cream or mascarpone. No one will know you skipped the part about the sexy jiggling pudding top; they'll be too busy kissing you.
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons dutch process cocoa
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease six 6-ounce ramekins and if you plan to invert the cakes onto serving plates, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Set the prepared ramekins in a baking dish large enough to accommodate them with space in between and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour and sugar and set aside.
Melt the butter in a heat proof bowl over a pot of barely simmering water or in the microwave. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until the mixture is smooth (heat it in the microwave using low power if the chocolate does not all melt). Add the cocoa powder and egg yolks and stir until smooth. Gradually whisk in the milk until well-combined. Set aside to cool slightly.
Pour the liquid mixture over the the flour mixture and whisk until the batter is smooth.
In a clean dry bowl of an electric mixer, with clean dry beaters, beat the egg whites with the salt on medium-high speed until they hold stiff peaks. Carefully fold the whites into the batter and divide the batter evenly between the ramekins.
Pour very hot water in the baking dish until it comes halfway up sides of the ramekins. Take care not to splash water onto the batter.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes are puffy and the tops are dry. Do not overcook.
Carefully transfer the ramekins to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Serve straight from the ramekin or run a small thin knife around the edges, then invert onto small plates.
Can be kept in the refrigerator, covered for up to 3 days.
Serving suggestion: Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, mascarpone, or vanilla ice cream, or dust the top with confectioners' sugar.
(image: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)