Food Network Favorites: Chocolate Date Pudding Cake
Next up in Food Network Favorites: Tyler Florence, host of Food 911. This chocolate cake is a version of the popular molten chocolate cake. The end result is very good, but I have to say that for the host of show that addresses cooking problems, Florence's instructions are oddly bare-bones.
This kind of cake is very similar to a soufflé, which requires delicate handling of the egg whites so as not to deflate the batter. Tyler Florence doesn't give any special instructions on how to handle this cake batter, however. His original instruction for how to mix the egg whites with the chocolate-date mixture reads: "Fold the egg whites into the date mixture." And that's it. No indication of what the batter will look like or how thoroughly it should be mixed. I've added more detailed instructions to the recipe below. Essentially, you want to combine the two elements of the cake very gently, but thoroughly, so that the egg whites are fully incorporated but the batter is still light and fluffy.
Also unclear is whether or not the dates AND their cooking water should both be puréed together (or if the cooking water should be drained off). The natural assumption is that they should indeed both go into the food processor to make a date paste, but Florence's instructions should clearly state this. It's never good when you have to make assumptions, particularly in a dessert such as this, where mistakes will ruin the end result. I've clarified the instructions, below.
Florence's instructions are also rather stark when it comes to doneness, stating merely "Cook until the outside is just set." Further information about the cake's final consistency would have been helpful, since the center of the cake will still be very runny, but a novice cook might not realize that this is the intended result. The original recipe states that the cake should be cooled to room temperature before serving, but I believe that a molten-type cake should still be warm when served. I've modified the instructions so that the cake will still be warm in the center when you serve it.
The flavors are very good. The dates are quite noticeable in the cake, so if you're not a fan of the combination of chocolate and dates, this cake might not work for you. It's an intensely chocolately dessert, and a simple sprinkling of powdered sugar is all the embellishment it needs.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 to 25 minutes
Yield: 8 servings
6 oz. pitted dates, about 2 cups
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 large egg whites
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 1 1/2 quart soufflé dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Put the dates and the water in a pot over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, until dates are very soft. Transfer the softened dates and their cooking water to a food processor and purée until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla; purée again until well blended.
Scoop the purée out into a mixing bowl. Sift together the cocoa powder and flour, and add to the date mixture. Fold in using a rubber spatula; combine gently until well mixed.
In a mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Scoop one-quarter of the stiff egg whites into the chocolate mixture, and combine until there are no streaks and the chocolate is fluffy. Fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining egg whites and combine gently until there are no white streaks in the batter. Pour the batter into the soufflé dish, spreading evenly with a spatula. Bake on the middle rack for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outside is just set (the center will still appear wobbly). Cool for about 45 minutes. When ready to serve, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Cut the cake into wedges and serve on dessert plates.