No Bell Curve For Me!

In addition to this weekend’s Easter festivities, we also celebrated my sister-in-law’s birthday.  (I shall not mention how many candles were present.  Because, really, that isn’t the important part of a birthday – it’s the celebration part that matters!)  And since I don’t do things half-way (never one to be in the midst of the bell curve), I decided I would make something yummy for her birthday.  Yes, I could just pick up something from the store, but that would be too average.  And that’s not where I fall on the bell curve.

I think it might be best for all parties if I explain that bell curve statement.

I’m a bit of an over-achiever.  Like if you put all the overachievers together, I’m at the upper side of the bell curve.  I came out of the womb setting ridiculous goals for myself and haven’t slowed down yet.  If you think this peccadillo leads to a clean house and freshly pressed clothing on my children, think again.  It just means I twitch.  A lot.

So if you’re an overachiever and also need to find outlets for all your pent-up frustrations, you have a few options.  Many of the them legal.  Myself, I like to cook and bake.  I cook to de-stress and I bake to freak myself out.  See how nice and balanced I am?  Let me explain.  My husband can tell just how my day has progressed by the proximatity of three things:  the cutting board, the glass of wine, and my hands.  Any grey area is quickly cleared up by the size of the diced veggies (the smaller the dice, the crappier the day) and the number of wine refills.  For me, there is something quite calming about my 8″ Wusthof’s Chef’s knife, a cutting board and a bunch of carrots, onions and celery.  Got 30 people coming for Thanksgiving?  Just give me a bottle of good Cab and let me chop for a while.  I’ll be fine.

But baking can make me a bit un-fine.  If I were to mention that my first ever attempt at baking was a batch of sugar cookies (iced to look like daisies, at the age of 6) would that clear up just how un-fine I can make myself?  For the record, they were baked to perfection and iced oh-so-gorgeously, but whoa, what a time drain.  I was wiping my floured brow many a time before I got them finished, let me tell you.

So that’s the kind of baker I am.  I want every thing to come out of my kitchen to look like something off the cover of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine.  Because, frankly, if you are a bit insecure and needing positive affirmations, what beats hearing people “ooh” and “ahh” over some little thing you just whipped together?  (Which is why I make my Lemon Cake for Christmas, or my Rum Balls, or my coffee cake, or… well, you get the idea.)

Ever in pursuit of positive self-worth and my sister-in-law’s undying love, I scoured the internet planetary body of recipes until I found what looked to be the perfect foil for her special day:  Molten Lava Chocolate Cakes.

A few sticky-wickets to my plan.  I wasn’t exactly sure how many folks my mother-in-law had invited for Easter, nor who all in the extended family would attend.  Solution?  Double the recipe!  Also, not enough 4 ounce ramekins in my house.  (Because they all must match!) Solution?  Send husband to store with the ingredient list as well as the directive:  find sixteen 4 ounce baking dishes with which I shall rule the baking world.

All was going jolly until he phoned.  It seemed I had some options.  The most Martha Stewarty was also going to run us a very pretty penny (plus, where in my kitchen would I then store 16 $4.99 baking ramekins?), but there was this really awesome option.  He ran it by me and I gave it the green light.  But I have to admit I may have been sold more on his presentation model.

I am now the possessor of two muffin tins labelled “TEXAS SIZE.”  When he says it (and now so will myself and our children) he makes his voice get all radio-salesman-like, “TEXAS SIZE muffins!”

I mixed up the batter (which is delish, but how could it not with that much Ghirardelli chocolate and unsalted butter?), measured out 4 ounces and filled the first baking receptacle.

A few issues became apparent then and again yesterday when they were baked and ready to serve:

  1. If the recipe makes 8 servings and you double the recipe, it may seem likely to expect 16 lovely Molten Lava Cakes to serve to your guests.  Not so.  I got 13 servings and I even measured the amount I put in each baking dish.  What gives recipe gods?
  2. If a Molten Lava Cake is to be enjoyed in its complete grandeur, you must tip it out onto a serving dish, dust with powdered sugar, and toss a few raspberries artfully across the plate to make the presentation pop! (Pass the whipped cream to guests.)  First off, husband forgot raspberries and mother-in-law handed me a stack of red Solo plastic bowls.  Not to worry!  More powdered sugar flair!
  3. Except, just how does one turn out a single Molten Lava Cake from the TEXAS SIZE muffin tin?  Well, you get math/engineering/all-around whiz-bang husband into the kitchen and ponder.  Quick, bring in the whipped cream from the table, fill the cakes’ divots with whipped cream and turn the whole shooting match over with a cookie sheet, then use spatula to transfer.  (This, among other reasons, is why I keep this man around.  That and he likes me.)

Well, that baking crisis was solved – there are left-over Molten Lava Cakes in my freezer, my sister-in-law thought they were tasty and I now can make lots of TEXAS SIZED muffins.  And I’ll get right on that.  After I rustle up the wine opener and figure out what to do with this pile of diced veggies.

ps. If I’ve made you hungry, let me know and I’ll post the recipe.  🙂

Molten Lava Cake

8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used equal parts of each)

4 large eggs

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chopped

4 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg* (I suggest using half this amount)

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon—or for a mint version, substitute 1¼ teaspoons peppermint extract for the cinnamon (I also suggest using half this amount)

Whipped cream for garnish (1 pint heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract)

Raspberries and mint leaves for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease eight 4-ounce cake molds or ramekins.

2. Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring constantly. Once they are completely melted, set aside and cool.

3. Combine the sugar and eggs and whisk until pale and fluffy. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until completely blended. Whisk in the flour, nutmeg and cinnamon and mix well.

4. Pour the batter into the cake molds and bake for 14 minutes at 350°F.

5. While the cakes are baking you can whip the cream. To one pint heavy cream add 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar as the cream begins to thicken, plus 1 teaspoon vanilla and a few grains salt. Unsweetened or barely-sweetened whipped cream is also delicious, so feel free to reduce the sugar or add none at all.

6. Remove the lava cakes from the oven and cool for 2 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, invert the molds onto individual dessert plates, garnish with raspberries and mint leaves and serve immediately.

Can be made ahead through step 4 – just cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Left overs may be frozen – just put back in ramekin and microwave. In my microwave, I reheat it for 1 minute on high and it was a bit too liquid, although it still taste divine! ENJOY!!

4 thoughts on “No Bell Curve For Me!

  1. LOL! You had me laughing all the way through this (and that ain’t easy when a kitchen is involved). I MUST taste a molten lava cake someday!

  2. Mmm please do share recipe. Not quite in line with my diet either, but special occasions deem special treats. Yum!

  3. Linda – Come on over – I’ll even pick you up at the airport and serve a good dessert wine with it. LOL!

    Kate – here ya go! And remember, every thing in moderation dear. 🙂

  4. You lost me at “double boiler.” 😉

    The most complicated made-from-scratch recipe I do is this one for peanut butter cookies:

    1 c. peanut butter + 1 c. granulated sugar + 1 egg. Mix well, drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet, bake at 350 degrees for about 11 minutes.

    (If you want to get fancy with it, you can criss-cross the cookie-dough balls with a fork before you bake them.) Not nearly as delectable as Molten Lava Cake, but easy-peasy and remarkably tasty.

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