Monday, March 07, 2011

Salvaging the lemon cakes

I was complaining yesterday about how my little lemon lava cakes didn't turn out quite how I had planned. Well, I figured out how to make them uber-delicious! Instead of attempting to cook them in the custard cups, I poured the remaining batter into three of the six wells of a non-stick muffin tin, which I still buttered until it was greasier than a teenage boy. I refrigerated the muffin tin for a few hours, though I'm sure a half-hour would have sufficed. In addition to letting the cakes firm up, it also allowed the lemon flavor to perfuse the entire batter.

About 20 minutes before I wanted to put the cakes in the oven, I took them out of the fridge and heated the oven to 425 F. I put the muffin tin into a 13x9 Pyrex dish, poured water into the Pyrex until it almost reached the overhanging lip of the muffin tin, and put the whole contraption in the oven for 20 minutes.

When the timer finally beeped, I took the dish out of the oven. The tops of the cakes were nicely browned and there was a minimal amount of jiggle, much as I wish for in my everyday life. I let the muffin tin rest out of the water for about 5 minutes and then carefully inverted the tin onto a baking sheet. A few taps later, and two perfectly-formed, perfectly-cooked lemon lava cakes slid right out. What happened to the third, you may ask? It exploded. I had gotten a little bit of water in the batter when I was putting the tin into the Pyrex dish. When I tried to unmold it - BLAM - lemon goo everywhere. It was still very tasty, but it looked like if you've ever dropped a carton of eggs on the kitchen floor while putting away groceries.

The unmolded lemon cakes looked more like individual cheesecakes, since they were a pale yellow with a barely-visible browned bottom. To really amp up the lemon flavor, I made a simple syrup and imbued it with the juice of an entire lemon (the one I had zested the bejeebus out of earlier). My husband liked the syrup so much that he went back and put 3 more spoonfuls on his cake. Certainly, the cakes don't need the additional sugary calories, but it really does enhance the flavor. I have to say, too, that the colors in this dish were fab -- a soft maize-colored exterior giving way to a vivid lemon goo. I wanted to serve it with a molded spoonful of green tea ice cream (to look like a little leaf), but my husband pooh-poohed the idea. I ended up making a quick double cartwheel twist garnish instead. The cakes actually did look like the ones that Omaha Steaks sells (for $14.99 plus shipping!).

I think if I make these cakes again, I will

1. Reduce the amount of butter from a whole stick to 5-6 Tablespoons (the recipe's author claims it's "because you're worth it". I have to disagree; I'd rather preserve the integrity of my arteries);
2. Beat the sugar and eggs in a separate bowl and slowly whisk in the chocolate mixture;
3. Increase the amount of lemon zest from 1/2 tsp. to an entire lemon's worth;
4. Bake with the changes noted above.

That's a lot of revamping for a recipe that supposedly works as-is, especially when the author claims to have baked them four nights in a row. A dessert like this, with its huge amount of butter, sugar, and eggs, should be at most a once-a-month thing. I like to, you know, BE HEALTHY.

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