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To keep the fudgy centres runny, time the preparation of the cakes so they can be served hot from the oven.
- 12 ounces finest-quality bittersweet chocolate or 12 ounces finest-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2⁄3 cup granulated sugar
- 1⁄8 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 1⁄2 cup cake flour
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- powdered sugar (to garnish)
- Position oven racks so the cakes will bake in the middle of the oven; preheat oven to 400F.
- Grease and line six 6-ounce custard cups or souffle dishes.
- Here's how; using a pastry brush, lightly grease the bottom and sides of each pan with room-temperature solid shortening; place each pan on a sheet of parchment paper and trace around the bottom of the pan with a pencil, then cut out the traced shape with scissors; lay the parchment in the pan and use your hand to smooth out any wrinkles; if desired, lightly brush the paper with more solid shortening for easy removal of the paper after baking.
- Melt the chocolate and set aside to cool slightly.
- In a bowl or food processor, combine the butter, granulated sugar, salt and eggs and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed or process until well blended; add the flour and blend well.
- Add the vanilla and cooled chocolate and blend until smooth.
- Divide the batter evenly among the prepared baking dishes and smooth the surfaces with a small rubber spatula.
- Place on a baking sheet, transfer to the oven, and bake until the tops are well puffed, about 17 minutes.
- Remove the baking dishes to a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes, then run a thin knife blade around the sides of each cake and invert directly onto individual serving plates; peel off the parchment.
- Sift a little powdered sugar over the tops of the cakes.
- James McNair recommends serving by spooning custard sauce or creme anglaise around each cake, then add dollops of mango and raspberry purees and swirling with a wooden skewer; he also recommends using edible gold leaf as the garnish instead of powdered sugar.