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Day 16: When Cake Imitates Life

This post marks Day 16 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

I don't know about you, but I enjoy the notion of novelty cakes. I've always been entertained by the idea of the Coca-Cola Cake, the Orange Dreamsicle Cake, the Daim Cake and the Wacky Cake.

My boss loves to talk about his girlfriend's orange cake, which is actually pretty tasty. Whenever he explains this cake of wonders to someone, he inevitably exclaims, "It's got pudding in it!" as if the notion of pudding mix in a cake brings some kind of magic to the whole enterprise.

One of my dad's favorite cakes is simply a dark chocolate boxed cake mix that he pours into the pan over a 14oz can's worth of pitted dark cherries (and the syrup, presumably). It's then frosted like a standard chocolate cake. Dad's chocolate-cherry cake is fruity and gooey at the bottom... I suppose it's sort of a lazy man's German Chocolate Cake. A bit rich for my taste, but people always rave and ask him for the recipe.

Maybe it's some kind of kitchen alchemy, this combination of manufactured items and home-cooked goods. Or maybe the use of grocery products offers an element of adventure (will it work?) and an aspect of surprise (you'll never guess what's in it!).

Perhaps we've all just been brainwashed by generations of recipes produced and published by food manufacturers. (Try these easy, delicious Spamwiches!)

hot chocolate cake

Regardless of the psychology burbling in the brain, I found myself taken with a Hot Chocolate Cake I recently found through the aid of Real Simple magazine.

The Hot Chocolate Cake is essentially a (nearly) flourless chocolate cake that's topped with marshmallows and browned to perfection just before serving. You can do individual portions in teacups or cocoa mugs with mini-marshmallows (a terrific presentation) or one larger round cake with the big marshmallows (as seen herein).

I think I'd recommend the individual cakes in oven-safe teacups. Presentation is key for a novelty cake. You want to hear the round of "oohs" and "aahs" as the desserts are presented. They'd be fab for cold-weather entertaining (Christmas dinner, anyone?)

The cakes (or cake, if you're doing an individual one) are truly tastiest if they're still a bit soft and underdone in the middle, so take care not to overbake.
Hot Chocolate Cake (Makes 8 servings)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for coating
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for dusting
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup mini marshmallows (Or 1 bag large marshmallows for a full-size cake)

Heat oven to 375°F. Generously butter, flour, and sugar eight 6-ounce ramekins or ovenproof coffee cups or mugs, tapping out any excess coatings. Wipe the rims clean and place on a baking sheet.

Place the butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water). Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high, beat the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, salt, and sugar until the mixture doubles in volume, about 5 minutes; set aside. Stir the flour into the chocolate mixture.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Fill each ramekin or cup with batter until it's 1/2 inch from the rim.

Bake until the cakes puff and crack on the surface but are still slightly liquid in the center, 13 to 17 minutes, depending on the size of the cups. Remove from oven.

Sprinkle with the marshmallows. Return to oven until the marshmallows begin to crisp, 2 to 4 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tip: You could make a single hot chocolate cake instead of individual ones. To do this, you'll need a 10-inch springform pan and enough regular-size marshmallows to cover the surface. You'll also need to increase the initial baking time to 22 to 25 minutes or, if you prefer a more gooey center, to 17 to 20 minutes.

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12.16.2007

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Previously: Day 15: To Blog the Nog » Previously: Day 14: Brittle charms » Previously: Day 13: Name that Cookie » Previously: Day 12: What, me bitter? » Previously: Day 11: Rice + Sock = Comfort » Previously: Day 10: Lunch for Elijah » Previously: Menu for Hope 2007 » Previously: Day 9: Introducing... Your Own Vinaigrette » Previously: Day 8: Care for a Spot of Chai? » Previously: Day 7: Pain, Protection and the Pomander »