Ever wanted to cook something special just so you can show off your pretty new kitchen accessories? I know I have!
After recently experiencing some complex & draining weeks, filled with family and other dramas, I
wanted needed to get back in the kitchen to make something comforting & satisfying that wasn’t complicated or fiddle-y – just simple & delicious. Trouble was I wasn’t feeling it, I just couldn’t get ‘my cook on’ no matter what I tried! I was in survival mode – you know – cooking as a ‘must do’, rather than as a ‘want to’ – tasty & nutritious, but uninspired & well, a little dull – a place I try not to get to if I can manage it.
It was on a shopping trip with my babies, an … under sufferance, the kids are tired & grumpy, mum’s tired & impatient, but we’re running out of food staples & have a birthday party tomorrow & no present, so just get in the car & let’s go … kind of shopping trip, that I was stopped in my tracks by the most wonderful & wise little man I know.
With my mind & feet on the job at hand, I was motoring along the footpath, children clinging tightly to their place in the pram, when my three year old Seth started, “Mum, mum, mum, mum, mummy, muuuuummmmm …”. With a snappy, “WHAT!”, about to leave my frazzled lips, I looked at him and he pointed, “Look mum, it’s your favourite.” Following the direction of his hand, I slowed & saw he was motioning to a shop just up the street, “See mum, it’s your favourite shop!”, he smiled brilliantly. Taking a slow breath, I began to say, “I know sweetheart but we don’t have time …”. “But mum, it’s your favourite & maybe if we have a look inside you won’t be so grumpy anymore!” Well … ‘out of the mouths of babes’, as they say.
The aforementioned ‘favourite shop’ is one of my local home wares stores. It is the kind of place where every nook & cranny, every shelf, every bit of floor space is crammed full with anything and everything ‘home-y & kitchen-y’ you can conceive of. From bone china, to stainless steel, electrical gadgets, cookware, glassware & utensils in every colour of the rainbow, you name it, they have it! It is a joy for me to wander through & fossick in, albeit with a lot more vigilance when I have little grabby hands reaching from the pram, but a joy none-the-less. And if you can’t find what you’re after – often the case as there is just so much to look through – just ask one of the lovely ladies who work there & quick as a flash, you’re being handed three of this & five of that & oh, there’s this one too if you prefer. Just the thought of the place makes me smile. What … you don’t have a favourite shop you will find any excuse to visit?? No … oh you LIE!! 🙂
With both children looking at me expectantly, their little cherub faces smiling at me so adorably, I almost cried with love (& just a little mother guilt). It was then that our shopping trip turned into an expedition & ultimately an inspiration. It was also Seth who spotted the ramekins used in this recipe, yelling across the shop, (even though I was right beside him), “Woooow mum, look at these, the spots are so cool – we could put little cakes in them!” I was eyeing off the more basic white ones, but when I saw them I knew he was right & they were destined to come home to our little kitchen haven. All I can say is thank you Seth, thank you for being you & knowing me so well even though you are still so young & thank you for reminding me that stopping & spending time with your favourite things makes all the grumpy go away. It goes without saying that you are one of my very favourite things … but you are also my little hero!
Ok, ok, enough of the warm & fuzzy stuff I hear you say, what’s this cake & why are you talking about it two ways? Well, that’s what I imagine I’d say & I’m just hoping you’re still with me on this one!
I have a huge weakness for all things chocolate & in particular dark chocolate, so when I think comfort food, that’s where my mind goes. It then wanders to chocolate that is all warm & gooey with just a little bit of crunchy, crumbly to finish. Add a little ice cream & I’m in chocolate comfort food heaven! It is rich & decadent, with the bitter-sweetness only dark chocolate can impart so more-ish-ly. It will leave you feeling full & satisfied. It might also leave you feeling a little guilty if you are of the calorie conscious variety.
Now, I won’t pretend that I am a super health nut, or have to concern myself with food allergies or other issues that people increasingly seem to be contending with, but I do like to educate myself about all sorts of foods & keep my family nutritiously fed. That said, I am not opposed to using things like butter & sugar, now touted as pure evil in any form, I just make sure they are used, like anything, in moderation & as part of our overall balanced diet. Some folks might argue that it is not balanced if those things are included, but I don’t agree.
Let me state clearly, I am NOT a nutritionist, I can’t quote you statistics, or name research papers, well I suppose I can, I do have mad Google-ing skills & watch more than my share of cooking & reality TV shows, but what I don’t feel is qualified to tell anyone how to eat.
My experience is this, good food makes me happy & good tasting food, even the “sometimes” kind is important when the occasion calls. When I feel deprived I make bad food choices more often, so allowing myself & my family occasional ‘treats’ gives me balance & leaves me happy to seek out healthy ways to eat most of the time.
When I decided to make this cake, I wanted to look at how I might bring it together using alternatives to butter & sugar, particularly, as I had my brother visiting & he prefers to avoid dairy products. Having recently become a huge fan of a range of natural coconut products & unrefined products like Rapadura sugar & Cacao, as well as natural sweeteners like Agave, I am always looking for ways to include them in any of my ‘standard’ recipes to make treats more natural, but still wonderful tasting.
The great attribute many of these products have, generally, is that they can be easily substituted into your much-loved recipes without compromising on flavour or altering the taste too dramatically. These Chocolate Lava Cakes are a fantastic example of this, where coconut oil replaces butter, & agave nectar replaces caster sugar, to make an equally decadent & lip smakingly good dish, rich in flavour, extra nutrition & for me, just a little less guilt.
To demonstrate how simple it can be, or for those who prefer not to seek out these alternative products & stick with tradition, I have included the recipe for Chocolate Lava Cakes … (2 ways), the method is the same, the only change is two ingredients. The choice is yours, both are rich, smooth & utterly divine to eat, both are going to impress you & your guests & both are easy-peasy to make.
The difference is in the taste, the coconut oil version is lighter on the palette & surprisingly subtle in the coconut flavour, where the butter recipe is dense & hearty, the sugary sweetness balanced beautifully against the bitterness of the dark chocolate.
Try it, taste it – either way, if you love chocolate, you’ll love this! Remember, the method is the same for either – only two ingredients are changed.
Here’s how it goes …
Chocolate Lava Cakes – (alternative)
180g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, chopped – you can use less cocoa based chocolate, but the flavour will be sweeter as they have more added sugar
250g Extra virgin coconut oil
4 large eggs
½ cup raw dark agave nectar
¼ cup plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt, sifted
extra flour for dusting
Chocolate Lava Cakes – (traditional)
180g dark chocolate, chopped
250g unsalted butter, chopped
½ cup caster sugar
¼ cup plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt, sifted
extra flour for dusting
Method for BOTH recipes
- Place chocolate and extra virgin coconut oil (or butter) in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Microwave on medium-high (75%) for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring about every 30 seconds, or until melted and combined.
- Allow to cool completely.
- Grease & lightly flour 4 x 175ml capacity ramekins.
- Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and agave (or sugar) until thick and creamy (at least 5 minutes).
- Fold in chocolate mixture until just combined.
- Fold in the flour mix.
- Spoon mixture evenly into prepared dishes – about 3/4 full.
- Preheat oven to 200°C (non fan-forced).
- Place the ramekins on a baking tray.
- Bake for about 15 minutes or until just set – cakes will wobble when touched.
- Stand dishes for 1 minute.
- Turn onto plates – serve with fresh berries & ice cream, or cream or however you prefer
Suggestions / Tips: You can serve these cakes in the ramekins – it’s makes life a little easier & looks great! I would suggest that you clean them up a little better than I did before baking though! Just allow them to cool to a touchable temperature, or give fair warning before serving.
Adapted from the following –
Healthier Chocolate Lava Cakes – Good Chef, Bad Chef (TV)
Don’t forget to let me know what you think – I look forward to your thoughts & feedback!
Cook! Eat! Enjoy!