Dinner guests are always thrilled when you serve them their own little warm chocolate cake. The molten mouthfuls never cease to bring smiles and praise. While not supersweet, this version has a deep chocolate flavor and is rich enough to share. Leave room on your palate for a dollop of whipped cream or other cool topping. The success of these cakes depends on two things: the best-quality chocolate and not overcooking them. You want the centers to be almost runny.
Soft Chocolate Mini Cakes
5 Tbs. (2 1/2 oz./75 g.) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, plus more for greasing
8 oz (250 g.) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g.) sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz./45 g.) unbleached all-purpose flour
Whipped cream, crème fraîche, or vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)
Position a rack on the lowest level in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly butter six 1/2-cup (4 fl.-oz./125-g.) ramekins.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat until thickened, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low. Gradually sprinkle the flour over the batter and continue beating just until combined. Using a spatula, fold the egg mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture until combined.
Divide the batter among the prepared ramekins. Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the tops are puffed and dry and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with some soft batter clinging to it, about 10 minutes.
Serve the cakes hot, in the ramekins, or inverted onto individual plates (below). Top with a dollop of whipped cream, if you like. Serves 6.
Dress it up: The small, dense chocolate cakes look especially beautiful when served unmolded. Line the bottom of each ramekin with a parchment-paper round, then pour in the batter. (This lining step is painstaking, but the cakes will unmold more easily.) Bake as directed, then remove from the oven. Immediately grasp a ramekin with a pot holder or thick towel, run a thin-bladed knife around the inside edge to loosen the cake, and invert the cake onto a small plate or into a small bowl. Peel off the parchment and serve.