We're all well acquainted with the charms of a small, warm chocolate cake. The molten chocolate/lava cake is ubiquitous; it's in restaurants and on home cooks' dinner party menus all the time. So how about a change? These little gems are far from boring, with their souffle-like texture and warm vanilla scent. The added bonus is white chocolate, which makes them rich and sweet. For a double vanilla experience, garnish each cake with your best vanilla bean ice cream. Or simply drape a softly whipped spoonful of cream over the cakes. Now that the weather is cooling down, I could see these cakes paired with a seasonal fruit sauce, such as pear caramel or a tart cranberry syrup. The recipe is simple and quick to make, but it requires an overnight rest in the refrigerator before baking, so plan accordingly. Once prepared, the batter can be stored for up to five days in the refrigerator. This makes warm vanilla cakes a perfect choice for holiday entertaining. You will get about ten small cakes, so treat a group of friends or bake them as you need them for your family. Nobody will miss the chocolate!
Warm Vanilla Cakes
(makes 10 small cakes)
8 ounces chopped white chocolate (preferably Valrhona Ivoire or Green and Black's)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the molds
1/2 cup flour, sifted
5 large eggs, separated
1 generous tablespoon vanilla paste (or 4 vanilla beans, split and the seeds scraped out)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
Vanilla ice cream or softly whipped cream, for serving
In a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl) over simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring frequently. When smooth remove from the heat and whisk in the flour, then the egg yolks. Blend in the vanilla paste (or the seeds from the vanilla beans). Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Beat at medium speed until peaks just begin to form. Slowly sprinkle in the remaining sugar while beating to firm peaks (about 2 minutes). Stir a good sized dollop of the meringue into the white chocolate batter, to lighten it. Very gently fold in the rest of the meringue. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the insides of 10 ramekins or muffin cups, each with a capacity of about 1/2 cup. Line the bottom of each mold with a circle of parchment paper; butter the paper. Fill each mold 3/4 full and bake until golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool 1 minute. Run the tip of a knife around each cake to release it. Gently invert onto plates, discard the parchment. Sprinkle each cake with confectioner's sugar. Top with a scoop of ice cream or a spoonful of softly whipped cream and serve.
*The batter can be stored in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days; bake as many cakes as you need and keep the remainder of the batter for another day.
(from the New York Times, Jonathan Reynolds, adapted from Citarella Restaurant)