bittersweet chocolate

Salted Cocoa Caramel Cake Bites

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There are two things I love about this recipe:

1) It can sort of be made all in one pot so there are fewer dishes for all my fellow chocolate-craving, backache-ridden mommas-to-be.
2) If you get tired halfway through and decide to quit, you still have delicious homemade salted caramel to snack on. I won’t lie, I will probably make just the caramel part of this recipe at some point and eat all of it. It’s that good.

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I was originally working from a Smitten Kitchen brownie recipe, but I decided to change all of the ratios of dry-to-wet ingredients (because we all know that’s a smart thing to do when baking) and I ended up making some awesome cake bites instead. I was careful to keep track of the exact measurements, but I will be testing these again in the near future to be sure that I didn’t just get lucky with some magical baking chemistry the first time around!

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I will be the first to admit that there are times when you crave the fudgy, richness of a brownie. I recently posted some caramel brownies that will do just the trick, but these aren’t going to satisfy that craving. These are for the times when you want something a bit lighter. These cake bites aren’t too rich or sweet, so they are an awesome option when you’re looking for a less decadent, less heavy dessert. The only downside to this is that, if you’re anything like me, you and your household (… or mostly just you) will destroy an entire pan in a matter of days. 🙂

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Salted Cocoa Caramel Cake Bites
(makes one 8×8 pan– i.e. probably more than a single human should eat in two days, whoops)

Ingredients

for the caramel:
4 tablespoons salted butter [I used good, European-style butter for this to give the caramel the creamiest flavor possible]
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt [I used a local, vanilla-infused sea salt]

for the cake batter:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 stick salted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2/3 cup flour [warning: I used White Lily AP flour, which can sometimes behave differently than other AP flours]

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Begin by making the caramel. This process is surprisingly simple, but it can get dangerous so be careful! Caramel is notorious for giving people serious burns. As long as you are conscientious of this and stay mindful of the splattering, you will be fine.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together over medium-high heat. The butter and sugar will likely stay somewhat separated, but you want to get them as mixed as possible while the sugar is melting. Once the sugar is largely integrated and simmering, watch for color changes. You are looking for a golden color if you prefer a mild butter flavor, and a light brown color for a richer, nuttier flavor.

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This process may take a few minutes. Just be sure not to let the butter get too dark. I like mine a bit burnt, but you don’t want it getting too brown in color, and when you begin to smell a nuttiness, you know you need to remove it from heat because it can quickly turn too burnt and become bitter. There is a sweet spot to butter-browning, and it can take some practice to know when that point comes. You’re better off leaving it a bit underdone rather than burning it. I mean- it’s butter and sugar, it’s going to taste great either way.

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While you’re waiting for the sugar to melt and the butter to darken, prepare a plate for the caramel. Cover it in parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.

When the sugar is well integrated and the butter has changed colors, take the mixture off of the heat and add in the salt and milk. When you add in the milk, be careful. The mixture will sputter a bit, but quickly begin to look like a beautiful, traditional caramel! Stir everything together with a rubber spatula and return to medium heat.

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Let the mixture simmer for several minutes. Stir your caramel until the last bits of sugar are melted. [Note: if you are planning to eat the caramel straight and forego the cake part, I would recommend leaving some whole sugar because it will give a beautiful, crunchy texture to your finished caramel.] Pour the mixture onto the parchment paper covered plate and place it in the freezer.

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If your freezer is kept very cold, like mine (0°F), it will not take much time for the caramel to cool, and you can begin making the batter. If you have a warmer temp freezer, you may want to wait twenty minutes or so before starting up on the batter.

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To make the batter- cover an 8×8 pan in parchment paper and butter! Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Set up a double boiler. I reused the caramel pot and filled a much larger pot with boiling water. Over the double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter- yes more butter! It helps to cut the butter and chocolate up beforehand. Stir with your rubber spatula until the mixture has melted completely.

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Take it off of the heat and add in the sugar, salt, and vanilla extract.

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Before you add in the eggs, you may want to crack them in a separate bowl and prepare yourself to quickly stir! The mixture won’t be boiling hot, but I’m always nervous about curdling eggs, so I try to add them in quickly. Finally, mix in the flour.

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Pour the batter into the prepared dish.

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Take the salted caramel from the freezer and chop it into bits. Mine was like a soft caramel and I could NOT resist snacking on some of it, I highly recommend doing so! Again- if you get tired and don’t feel like making the cake batter, these homemade soft caramels alone are good enough to satisfy a sweet tooth!

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At this point you can really do whatever you want- toss the pieces on top of the batter, mix them into the batter, do a little of both! It’s completely up to you. Next time I make these cake bites, I will probably mix the caramel in to make for prettier pictures, but it will be delicious either way. The caramel will melt in the oven and sink into the cake, so do be aware of that if you decide to put them all on top.

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Bake the cake at 350°F for 30 minutes.

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Enjoy!

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Caramel Fudge Brownies

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The term fudge in the title here is key. These are chewy brownies, not cakey brownies.

I don’t have any problems with boxed brownie mixes, I usually enjoy them. We didn’t have any boxed brownie mix around the house, but we did have the ingredients for these! To be completely honest, it didn’t take too much longer than boxed brownies, but the texture and flavor is much better!

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This makes one 9×9 pan, and for us that’s about 9 brownies (of course, many people cut them smaller, but we like big serving sizes 🙂 ).

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Caramel Fudge Brownies

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup sugar
11 tablespoons salted butter [yes, really. this is not a typo.]
1/2 cup cake flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup caramels (we used Werther’s soft caramels)
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

Parchment paper

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First, melt the butter in the microwave for a minute or two. You want to get it fairly hot (we usually do 1:30- 2 minutes). Combine the sugar with the melted butter and stir. The sugar won’t dissolve completely, but it also shouldn’t separate out.

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In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

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Add the sugar-butter mixture to the flour mixture. Combine with the eggs and vanilla to create your batter base.

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If you are using larger caramels (like we did) chop them up. We also used a bittersweet chocolate bar and chopped that into chunks.

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Stir the caramel and chocolate chunks into the batter.

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Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Cut out a small, square piece of parchment paper and place it in the bottom of the 9 x 9 pan.

Pour the batter into the pan. If necessary, you can use a rubber spatula to spread the batter out, allowing it to cook more evenly.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean!

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If you can resist, let them cool for a good 30 minutes and then enjoy! The caramel especially needs to cool before you really want to eat it!

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Dark Chocolate, Espresso Cookies with Sea Salt

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These cookies are my new favorite. They are not very child-friendly or pregnant-person friendly, because they do in fact contain espresso powder. However, they are soft and chewy and sweet and salty and even a little bitter to the taste! They have a kick of caffeine and they stay nice and soft for at least a week or two after being made!!

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They are the answer to every craving (excepting, perhaps, the late-nite snack run). Truth be told, you also have the option of using decaf instant espresso for an all-day treat, accessible to anyone with a penchant for that delicious mocha flavor.

To top it all off, they are incredibly easy to make. The actual mixing time is about fifteen minutes, and baking time is ten to fifteen. Be aware, though, you must let the batter chill for an hour or two after being made, otherwise, these cookies will melt all over your oven. However, they stay so delicious and yummy even a week after being made, that you can always prep the dough ahead of time and bake ahead of time or prep the dough and let it chill for a day or two before you actually need to bake them! Either way- you’ve got plenty of options, and no excuse not to let yourself enjoy these fabulous cookies.

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Dark Chocolate, Espresso Cookies with Sea Salt

(makes about 18-20 cookies)

Ingredients

1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon finely-ground sea salt

2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure, vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons espresso powder

2 ounces chocolate chips (any cocoa percentage is fine)
coarsely-ground sea salt for dusting

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First, mix the flour, baking powder, and finely-ground sea salt in a large bowl.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and sugar.

Over a pot of boiling water, in a medium-sized metal bowl, melt together the bittersweet chocolate, butter, and espresso powder. Stir continuously. For faster melting, chop all of the ingredients before putting them together over heat.

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Let the melted chocolate mixture cool for about five minutes. Combine it with the egg mixture and whisk. Add in the dry ingredients and mix. Finally, add in the chocolate chips (we used dark chocolate) to create the dough!

Chill the dough for an hour or two at least. If you are making it ahead of time, you can chill it for up to two days.

To bake- cover a pan in parchment paper and place the dough in rounded tablespoons. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 325° F. The cookies are done when the tops begin to crackle!

Take them out of the oven and let them cool for about five minutes.

 

Dust with coarse sea salt and enjoy!

 

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

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Let me just say that this is my favorite cake ever. A week after I made it and it had been sitting on the counter, I took another bite- still my favorite cake ever. Even two weeks later, when the last bite was taken- this cake was moist, dense, rich, and satisfying. I cannot recommend it enough!!

I based the recipe off of a Nigella Lawson creation, which you can find here. Mine is not vegan friendly, but it’s still delicious! It was fun and EASY! You do need a springform pan to bake it in, but other than that- nothing too fancy or special.

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients
1 heaping cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup olive oil
1 heaping cup sugar (caster sugar, if you do not have a coffee grinder)
2 tablespoons almond flour
5 eggs
kosher salt
parchment paper

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Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the bottom and sides.

If you are using regular sugar, grind it down in a coffee grinder so that it looks almost like powdered sugar but not quite as compact. Measure out a heaping cup. [If you are using caster sugar, simply measure out a cup.]

Melt the chocolate in a pot over low heat, being really careful not to let it burn. If you are nervous about potentially burning it, just set up a double boiler and melt it over boiling water. Stir continuously until it is completely melted, then add in the olive oil.

Keep stirring the mixture over heat, and add in 2/3 cup of the ground sugar. Stir over heat until that sugar is dissolved.

Remove the chocolate mixture from heat and set it aside. Take a moment to separate the eggs into two, small bowls. Add the almond flour, egg yolks, and a few pinches of salt to the chocolate mixture. Stir it all together until it looks smooth and silky.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup ground sugar and the egg whites. This will take some time and having a partner to help you out is nice. You want to whisk the eggs and sugar fervently  until you see fairly stiff peaks.

Next, carefully fold the fluffed egg whites into the chocolate.

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Pour the batter into the greased springform pan.

Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes. The top will crack and a knife will come out clean when the cake is done.

Sprinkle with sugar and serve with whipped cream and fresh herbs!

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Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Miniature S’mores Tarts

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It seems as though the United States is on a bit of a s’mores kick, and William is more than happy to jump onto that bandwagon. He is obsessed with all things s’mores: candies, frapps, chocolate, cakes, pies, etc. It is amazing what a variety of treats can be made with graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows!

For my part, I am obsessed with tiny things- not an uncommon obsession, to be sure! Recently I saw a picture of a miniature pie made out of the lid of a mason jar, and I knew that we had to do something like that. We have been doing a smoothie cleanse for the past week (more on that later) and we happen to be knee deep in mason jar lids! We decided to put them to good use and make a delicious– albeit cleanse-ruining– dessert out of them. (It was totally worth it.)

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Enjoy!

Miniature S’mores Tarts

makes 14 miniature tarts

 

Ingredients

for the crust
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons salted butter
1/3 cup sugar

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for the chocolate filling
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons salted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons AP flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 whole egg
1 1/2 egg yolks*
1 tablespoon Kahlua
marshmallows and sea salt to top

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other materials
parchment paper
mason jar lids (If you have 14 of these- this will be easy– but if you only have four, it’s not a problem! You will just have to bake these in batches.)

*If you double this recipe, it obviously makes the ratios easier to deal with, but for 1 1/2 egg yolks, simply throw one egg yolk into your bowl, whisk another into a separate container, and measure out half. The remaining yolk and whites can be reused for a yummy breakfast!

 

First, prepare the crust in a bowl. Melt the butter and mix in it with the graham cracker crumbs and sugar.

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Next, make the filling! In a microwave safe bowl combine the whipping cream, salted butter, and chopped chocolate.

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Microwave this mixture for two minutes, and then stir it all together to create a velvety chocolate cream.

 

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, cocoa powder, flour, and salt.

 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir in the egg, egg yolks, and Kahlua.

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Preheat the oven to 350°F. Next, assemble the tarts.

Press about 3 teaspoons of graham cracker crust into the mason jar lids. You want to build a thin layer of crust up into the rim of the lid, but be careful when pressing it into the middle. The crust is loose and dry-feeling before it has been baked.

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Bake the bare crust for ten minutes on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. After this first baking process, carefully drop 1 1/2 tablespoons of the chocolate filling into each lid. You do not need to spread it out much, it will cook out on its own. If you try to spread it out, you risk weakening the crust on the bottom as it is not yet solidified!

 

Bake the tarts for another ten minutes. After this baking, transfer the tarts to the fridge for ten minutes of cooling.

 

After the lids are cool enough to handle, you can carefully pop the tarts out of their “molds”!

 

Put the oven on broil and move a rack up to the top third. Carefully place marshmallows on top of each tart. This part is fun because any design you make will hold, so you can get creative with the marshmallows!

Put the tarts in the oven and watch them carefully. The marshmallows will toast very quickly, so you want to pay attention and take them out right when they get to your preferred level of toastedness! Personally, I’m the girl who sets her marshmallows on fire for the charred flavor, but everyone has a different preference.

 

Slice them up and enjoy!

Chocolate Pie

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I must confess– I have never made a pie before. Actually, I’ve never even finished a whole slice of pie. Pie is not really my favorite thing to eat. I have always found the crusts too dry and the fillings too sugary. But, when I woke up on the morning of Thanksgiving and realized that we had not a single dessert planned, I got to work on fixing this.

I taught myself a little bit about how to make the crust and what options there are for the fillings. As it turned out, I still wasn’t that enthused by my options. So, I took a pie crust recipe from inspired taste and changed it up a bit. I used Italian tipo 00 flour, and salted butter. I really wanted the crust to stand out in contrast to the filling.

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I actually used a chocolate pudding recipe for the filling- whoops. The recipe was inspired from this one, but I used less sugar and, again, salted butter. I knew I wanted something that wasn’t cloyingly sweet and I knew I needed a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture to contrast with the crisp, flakiness of the crust.

I also gave in and just used cool whip for the topping. I know, I know, it’s such a cop out! But homemade pie crusts are time consuming, and all of the recipes are strangely written and confusing! I was so done with the pie at this point- and I do not have any mixer other than my own two hands, so homemade whipped cream was not about to happen.

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To be honest, after tasting this pie, I will probably just use cool whip again! It was pretty darn good! The BF loves pie, so he just ate it cold. I had to heat mine up because, well, it turns out I’m just not that into pie! He tells me that this one is a winner, though, so I’m posting it! (Also, it made for some really pretty pictures, and that was encouraging.)

I tried to simplify the pie crust instructions as much as possible, to make this recipe really accessible to beginners. If you’re an expert with pies, I would love to hear about any helpful hints or tips you have! I’m sure they will prove useful, as I will probably be making this again, since it was such a big hit!

Though it may be time consuming, I promise that the end result is worth it and this is the kind of pie that could work for any nice dinner, not just a holiday. Next time, I am considering decorating the top with some fruit, to give it some color and freshness!

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One last note- since I used two separate recipes, there was extra pudding. I just left it in my fridge and I’ve been snacking on it since Thanksgiving. This has worked out well, and I have no complaints! 🙂

Chocolate Pie
serves about 15 (one 8″ pie, and 6 minis)

Ingredients

for the crust
2 1/2 cups Tipo 00 flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 sticks chilled, salted butter
7 tablespoons ice water

for the filling
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons salted butter

optional:
whipped cream and berries for topping

 

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First, prepare a cup of ice water and set it aside to chill.

For the next part, I used a food processor, but you could just as easily make the crust by hand (you might need to soften the butter a bit). Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the salt, and the sugar to a food processor. Mix everything together just a few times. Cube the chilled butter.

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Add the butter to the food processor and pulse until it becomes grainy, and the butter is mixed throughout. It will look  a little like crumbled feta.

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Next, add the contents of the food processor into a medium bowl. Add the rest of the flour (1 cup) and mix together with a rubber spatula until there is no dry flour left and the “dough” becomes less grainy.

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Add the ice water to the bowl and mix together until the dough forms a ball.

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Using a sharp knife, cut it in half and flatten each half to form two discs. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

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While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling. In a saucepan, mix together the sugar, cornstarch,  and salt.

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Using a whisk, combine everything. Next, measure out your milk and separate the egg yolks. I know that it is super annoying when a recipe calls for just egg yolks, but whenever this happens I use it as an excuse to make a delicious egg-white omelette for breakfast the next morning! If you pour the whites into tupperware and seal it, they will keep fine in the fridge overnight, and you don’t need to feel like they are going to waste!

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Add the milk and egg yolks to the sugar mixture and whisk together over medium heat. Stir the mixture with a rubber spatula, paying close attention to the consistency. You will need to remove the mixture from heat the minute it begins to boil or become thick (and trust me, you will know when this happens).

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Continue stirring occasionally, and keeping an eye out for the boiling. Prepare the chocolate by chopping it finely.

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After the sugar and milk mixture has become thick, take it off of the heat and mix in the chocolate, vanilla, and butter.

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You can really see how thick it has become by the way the chocolate is swirled into the sugar-milk mixture!

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After you have added in the butter and vanilla, continue to stir!

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You are done once the mixture has become thick and smooth.

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Set this aside to cool in its pot. Now that the filling is done, return your attention to the crust!

Start by preheating the oven to 425°F and placing a baking sheet on the middle rack. This is important, as you are preheating the pan as well as the oven.

Roll out one of the circles of the dough onto a floured surface, so that it is 1″ wider in diameter than your pan. I used an 8″ pie pan, and also made six individual, mini pies. But this makes enough dough for two bigger pies if you prefer.

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Press the dough into your pie (or muffin) tin and prick the crust with a fork.

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chocolate pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I used this muffin tin to make my mini pies, and they are so precious, I’ll definitely do that again!)

 

Now, normally at this point you would insert a pie weight or dried beans into the pie to keep the dough from shrinking. This sounded really weird to me as a novice, so I just didn’t do it. Everything turned out totally fine, and I will probably ignore those instructions again. BUT if you want your pie crust to stay as big as it is and to wrap around the filling fully, I would suggest weighing it down. After you have weighed it down (or not, if you’re like me, and too lazy) put the crust in the freezer for 10 minutes.

After the crust is firm, place it into the preheated oven, on the preheated baking sheet. Turn the temperature down to 400. Bake it for half an hour, and do not be alarmed if it shrinks. It will look so weird, but it turns out fine in the end!

Give the crust some time to cool before you put the pudding inside of it.

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You do not need much to fill them up, as they will be topped with whipped cream later!

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Now comes the fun part- the waiting game. Place your pies in the freezer uncovered for at least 4 hours. They can keep in the freezer for much longer, but will need to be covered to prevent freezer burn. Find something good on Netflix, and start your marathon!

 

After they have chilled and completely solidified, take them out and give them about five minutes to defrost. Using a rubber spatula, spread the whipped cream over the top and cut the slices, just before serving!

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You can even have them without whipped cream, and heated!

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chocolate pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will warn you, the pie can “melt” pretty fast, so it is in your best interest to use your sharpest knife and cut it into slices before the pudding becomes sticky and goopy again. You can also pre-slice it and refreeze it for easy serving!

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Enjoy!

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Miniature Chocolate Lava Cakes

lava cakesThis amazing recipe is adapted from the Junior League cookbook from my hometown, Birmingham, AL. It’s called Tables of Content and it is full of great local recipes. Birmingham has a foodie culture that started thriving a few years back when local chefs like Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings began gaining national recognition. Anyways, this recipe is the bomb!

A quick note on chocolate types: this recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate. After several trips to the grocery store, I confirmed that I was extremely confused when it comes to different types of chocolate and cocoa percentages. According to most of what I have read, the term “bittersweet” seems to refer to a massive range of cocoa percentages (from about 30-90%). What most of us have in our pantries is milk chocolate for snacking or unsweetened chocolate for baking.

Both of those are big no-nos for this recipe! If milk or white chocolate is used (cocoa percentages below 30) the fat and high sugar content in the chocolate will not melt properly and not only will the resulting cakes be way too sweet, but they may not even have that delicious, liquid lava center! The ubiquitous semi-sweet chips, while confusingly named, are within the range of good cocoa percentages.

To sum up: Do use chocolate labelled bittersweet, semi-sweet, or dark, and anything with a cocoa percentage above 35. Don’t use unsweetened chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate.

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Mini Chocolate Lava Cakes
Serves about 8, in mini ramekins

Ingredients
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 sticks salted butter
3 eggs
3 egg yolks (save the whites, they’ll make a super healthy omelette!)
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons AP flour
extra butter and cocoa powder for greasing ramekins

Ingredients

Ingredients

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat. Stir it with a rubber spatula to keep the chocolate from burning.

lava cakesIt helps to let the butter melt a bit first before putting the chocolate in, that way the chocolate does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring it over low heat until all is melted and you basically have a giant amazing pot of liquid chocolate. Then, set this pot aside to cool.

lava cakesIn a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar thoroughly with a whisk or fork. This will take a while (it took me a little under 5 minutes to do it manually), but keep stirring until they get whiter in color and foamy on top. Add in the vanilla and salt and stir it up again.

lava cakesAdd in the flour and then the chocolate mixture, as long as it is cool enough not to cook the eggs. Fold it all slowly together with the rubber spatula until it gets thick and glossy.

Coat six small ramekins with butter and cocoa powder. If you don’t have ramekins, you can definitely use any other oven-proof dish. I like the small ramekins because they are perfect for individually sized servings and I use them all the time for serving fruit and for sauces (hint hint if you don’t have them you want them).

lava cakesPlace the ramekins on a baking sheet, and fill them with the batter about 3/4 of the way full.

lava cakesBake them in the oven for 10-15 minutes. You want to take them out while the centers are still jiggly but the edges are cooked and seem to have detached from the side of the ramekins. It will seem like they are not all the way cooked, but if you leave them in longer, they won’t have any ‘lava’ inside!

Garnish them with whipped cream, raspberries, or mint and enjoy!

What happens if you let it cook too much! (still delicious)

What happens if you let it cook too much! (still delicious)

P.S. I know it is super annoying to let 3 egg whites go to waste, so put them in an air-tight container and save them for a delicious egg white omelette or scramble! If you’re in the mood for a good, 1-serving scramble, try this!