Luckily, there is an impressive-looking yet super-easy dessert to pull out in this situation that I just happened to have ingredients on hand for: Chocolate Lava Cakes. Amanda also uses this as a go-to dessert, as does Gwyneth Paltrow, apparently. If you visit those two links, you will find two different but equally simple recipe for this dessert. However, if you want the easiest version possible - and the one that you might actually be able to make with stuff on hand (unless you keep raspberry liqueur and creme fraiche on hand) - try this version, an adaptation of the Jean-Georges Vongerichten version recently re-printed by Bitten, the food blog of the New York Times. I have cut this in half to make two rather than four cakes - it is easily halved or doubled:
Ingredients for Two
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, plus more to butter the molds
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used a Ghirardelli baking bar I had in the cupboard)
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoons flour, plus more for dusting
- Pour glass of delicious red wine with big fruity flavors, perhaps Don David Tanat. Sip while making cakes. *
- Heat oven to 450 degrees. Butter and flour two ramekins or cake molds (instead of flour, I use cocoa powder - no difference taste-wise but keeps there from being flour dust on the finished cakes). Tap out excess.
- Beat the egg, egg yolk, and sugar together with a whisk or electric hand mixer until it is yellow and thick (not very long at all).
- Using the double boiler method (see image below) heat the butter and chocolate together until melted. Stir together to fully combine.
- Pour the chocolate/butter combination into the egg mixture. Add the teaspoon of flour. Beat until combined.
- Divide the batter among the ramekins or molds and bake for 6 or 7 minutes (sides should be set but center should be very soft. Let sit ten or twenty seconds.
- Carefully invert the molds or ramekins to remove cakes. Serve immediately with whatever accompaniments you choose (I used strawberries and vanilla ice cream last night, but creme fraiche could be good, dust with powdered sugar, drizzle them with liqueur and more fruit...lots of possibilities!)
- Serve immediately (these can be mixed up ahead of time and baked right before serving). When guests cut in to the cake, the warm chocolate center will ooze out.
See how easy that was? The cakes cook so fast that you could do this dessert made-to-order at a dinner party. Does anyone else have any good impressive-looking but easy-to-make food suggestions?