Quarantine Bake Along: Chocolate Lava Cake

Chocolate lava cake (and the worst photo to ever grace my blog)! Another super simple, pantry staple recipe that comes together in about 10 minutes. You can be digging into warm, melty chocolatey goodness in less than half an hour. Be aware, this dessert is rich. I can usually only finish half (I share with my husband) and I’m good. This recipe is tailored to make 2-4 single serving lava cakes so you don’t end up with so much you have no idea what to do with them, especially now that we can’t really leave the house to share with anyone.

Brief Chocolate Lava Cake History
Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten claims to have invented molten chocolate cake in 1987, but the French chef and chocolatier Jacques Torres disputes this, arguing this dessert already existed in France. According to Vongerichten, he pulled a chocolate sponge cake from the oven before it was done and found that the center was still runny, but was warm and had both a good taste and texture. Regardless of who invented the dish, Vongerichten has been credited with popularizing it in the US.

Chocolate Lava Cake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (half stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon all purpose flour (for GF variation: use teff flour, almond flour, or your favorite GF flour blend)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coffee or espresso powder (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Get two ramekins ready or butter a few holes in a muffin tin.
  2. In a bowl, mix together melted butter, cocoa powder, sugar, flour, coffee, and salt. Stir in eggs until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into the prepared ramekins or muffin tin.
  3. If using ramekins, set them in a large baking dish and pour hot water into the baking dish to a level about halfway up the side of the ramekins.
  4. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the batter puffs but the center is not set. The edges will be firm but the center will be runny. For a muffin tin, check at 8 minutes.
  5. Serve the cakes in the ramekins or tins or run a knife around the edge of each cake and unmold onto plates. Serve the cakes warm or chilled.

Quarantine Bake Along: Chocolate Cake

Oil-based cakes are the next thing I think of when it comes to easy at-home baking. All you need is one bowl, a whisk, and a measuring cup to get your wet ingredients together. Comes together in about 5 minutes and then you can eat warm cake within an hour. What could be better?

This cake is light, not super sweet, and is perfect by itself with some powdered sugar and fresh fruit. You’re welcome to frost it if you’d like, but we’re in quarantine times and I’d prefer to save my butter and heavy cream for other baking projects. Feel free to use your favorite frosting if you so desire!

A Brief History of Chocolate Cake

Once cacao processing made chocolate much more readily available and less expensive, American cooks began adding chocolate to cake batter to make the first chocolate cakes around 1886. The first chocolate cake was called Mahogany Cake, and it was very pale compared to the chocolate cakes of today. The Duff Company of Pittsburgh, a molasses manufacturer, introduced Devil’s food chocolate cake mixes in the mid-1930s, which are still popular to this date.

Easy Quarantine Chocolate Cake Recipe

Adapted from Serious Eats

  • 4 ounces brown sugar or regular sugar (1/2 cup, firmly packed)
  • 1 1/2 ounces cocoa powder (1/2 cup), Dutch process if you have it
  • 1 teaspoon ground coffee or espresso powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 1/2 ounces oil (2/3 cup)
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all purpose flour

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F. Line an 8″ cake pan with parchment and grease, or line a cupcake tin with 12 liners.

2. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, coffee, and baking soda. Whisk until homogeneous, with no visible clumps of cocoa or baking soda (although a few lumps of brown sugar may remain), about 1 minute. Under-mixing will give the cake an uneven texture and rise, so don’t rush this step.

3. Whisk together olive oil, water, eggs, and vanilla then pour into the dry ingredients. Mix only until combined. Scrape into prepared pan. Bake until cake is firm but your finger can still leave an impression in the puffy crust, about 20-25 minutes. (A toothpick inserted into the center should come away with a few crumbs still attached.) Check cupcakes at 15 minutes.

4. Cool cake directly in pan until cool enough to handle, then run a butter knife around the edges to loosen. Invert onto a wire rack and place cake right side up on a serving platter. Serve plain, with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, or with fresh fruit. Or frost once totally cooled to room temperature.

GF Variation: Substitute flour with teff flour or your favorite GF flour blend.

Vegan Variation: Same process, but some different ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coffee/espresso powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Beet Red Velvet Cake

Red velvet cake is my guilty pleasure. Which is always interesting to me and most people because I’m a huge advocate for natural things…which red velvet is most certainly not. Every time I make traditional red velvet, I shudder at the entire bottle of red dye going into it. But something about the luxurious color and flavor (probably from the food dye lol) makes it so enticing for me.

I’ve been trying (with not much success) to naturally dye red velvet or leave the dye out. Natural dyes don’t do much and I end up with a strange brown color that’s not “chocolate” enough to look normal. Leaving the dye out somehow changes the experience and the flavor.

Enter in, BEET red velvet cake. I finally had a leftover beet to use to make this cake that I’ve been wanting to try for forever. It has a lovely, moist crumb and a tangy and earthy flavor. This will probably be my go-to red velvet now that I know I can leave out the food dye!

P.S. Roast the beets in the oven, even though it takes forever. I tried to microwave them and I almost set my microwave on fire, all the while making my entire kitchen smell like awful smoke for hours. The microwave still has a lingering smoky smell to this day…whoops.

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Ingredients

  • 3 medium beets
  • ¾ cup (170 grams) butter, softened
  • ¾ cup (180 milliliters) buttermilk, room temperature
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (200 grams) cake flour (sift before measuring)
  • 3 tablespoons (24 grams) Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 ⅛ teaspoon (6 grams) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt
  • ½ teaspoon (3 grams) baking soda
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 3 eggs

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Wash beets and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake until the tip of a knife slides easily into the largest beet, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool until beets can be handled, then peel. (This may be done up to a day ahead.)
  2. Butter and flour two 8 inch or 9 inch cake pans.
  3. In a food processor, chop beets to pieces about the size of finely diced onions. Measure 1 cup and set aside (remaining beets can be reserved for another purpose). Return cup of beets to the food processor. Purée with buttermilk, lemon juice, vinegar and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until soft. Slowly add sugar and beat until creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  6. Alternate adding flour mixture and beet mixture to butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and beating for 10 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the bowl after each addition of the wet ingredients.
  7. Divide batter between prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove pans from oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
  8. To assemble, place cake layer flat side down on a serving platter. Drop icing onto cake and, using a flat spatula, spread evenly over top. Place second layer flat side down on top of first layer. Use remaining frosting to cover top and sides of cake.

Adapted from NYT Cooking.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

The buttercream to ruin all buttercreams. It’ll make you rethink what “a lot of butter” means. And leave you with several egg yolks that you won’t know what to do with. It’s so light like air, slightly sweet, and very buttery. I use this buttercream for frosting almost all of my cakes and cupcakes and also for macaron fillings.

It’s incredibly versatile and can be kept frozen until you need it.

Ingredients

  • 10 oz (283.5g) egg whites (it’s okay to go a tad over)
  • 150g sugar, you can add more to taste if you wish
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • the scrapings from 1 vanilla bean or 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 pounds unsalted butter, cut into 2” chunks and softened to a spreadable state

Instructions

  1. Combine the egg whites, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean together in an clean bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of water and turn the heat on medium low. You don’t need the water to even simmer, you just want it hot enough to steam, since steam is what actually heats the whites.
  2. Whisk frequently to prevent an egg white omelet forming on the sides, but continual mixing isn’t necessary. Aim to get the mixture to at least a 145° for food safety reasons, but reaching 150° would make for a nice margin of error. If your egg whites are at room temperature, this won’t take very long, maybe just a few minutes. Whites straight from the fridge will take longer.
  3. When the mixture is sufficiently hot, remove from the heat and use the whisk attachment to whip on medium high speed until the mixture has doubled in volume and turned snowy white. Continue whipping until the meringue is cool. Use your hands to feel the bowl itself, rather than simply testing the temperature of the meringue. You want it to feel perfectly cool to the touch with no trace of warmth. Note: if you are using a glass or ceramic bowl, even if the meringue has cooled, the bowl itself may still be quite warm and continue conducting heat into the buttercream over time. If you are using a glass or ceramic bowl, transfer the meringue to a new bowl before proceeding or continue mixing until the bowl itself is cool.
  4. Turn the mixer down to medium-low and begin adding in the butter, one chunk at a time. By the time you’ve added all the butter, you may need to scrape down the bowl to fully incorporate any butter or meringue that’s stuck at the sides.
  5. Finally, splash in some vanilla bean extract or whatever you desire. Just keep adding a 1/4 teaspoon at a time until it suits your tastes.

Adapted from BraveTart.