These are the acceptable face of culinary cute: their intensity guarantees the triumph of chic over prettiness. And, what’s more, they’re easy to make. You can make the mixture up a few hours in advance and put it ready and waiting in the prepared cups in the refrigerator until you want to cook them, which must be at the moment you’re ready to eat them. You might think that preparing the cups sounds difficult, but in fact, the job is just demanding enough to make one feel uncharacteristically competent, but not so much that any actual dexterity is required.
Molten Chocolate Babycakes
Scant ¼ cup soft unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
12 ounces best bittersweet chocolate
½ cup sugar
4 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Unless you are making these up in advance, preheat the oven to 400°, putting in a baking sheet at the same time. Lay 3 of the custard cups on a sheet of doubled baking parchment. Draw round them, remove, and then cut out the discs as marked. Press them all into the base of the cups.
Melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly. Cream together the butter and sugar, and gradually beat in the eggs and salt, then the vanilla. Now add the flour, and when all is smoothly combined scrape in the cooled chocolate, blending it to a smooth batter.
Divide the batter between the 6 custard cups, quickly whip the baking sheet out of the oven, arrange the little cups on it and replace in the oven. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes (the extra 2 minutes will be needed if the puddings are refrigerator-cold when you start) and as soon as you take them out of the oven, tip out these luscious babycakes onto small plates or shallow bowls. Serve these with whipped cream, crème fraîche, custard or ice cream.