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Citarella's Warm Vanilla Cakes

7 T. butter; more for molds
10 oz. top-quality white chocolate, divided use
5 eggs at room temperature, separated
3 vanilla beans, split in half lengthwise and seeds scraped (reserved for divided use)
1/4 C. plus 2 T. bread flour, sifted
One-sixteenth teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 C. plus 2 T. sugar
Vanilla ice cream

Melt, combine white chocolate mixture: Melt butter and 7 oz. white chocolate in a double boiler over water that is hot but not boiling. When mixture is melted, remove from heat and stir until smooth. Whisk in egg yolks and half the vanilla-bean seeds. Sift flour over mixture. Whisk until smooth.

Prepare the meringue:
In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Whisk until fluffy. Slowly add sugar a little at a time, until meringue is shiny and tight.

Assemble, refrigerate batter:
Fold a little of the chocolate mixture into meringue, then fold meringue into remaining chocolate mixture, until mixture is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 8 hours.

Fill the molds:
Heat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter 12 metal rings 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1 1/4 inches high. Place them on parchment paper. Using a spatula, spoon cool batter into a pastry bag with a tip opening of about 1/2 inch. Fill molds 1/2 full. Break remaining chocolate into pieces about 1 inch square and inch thick. Drop a piece in each mold. Sprinkle a little cluster of vanilla seeds from remaining beans. Cover chocolate with more batter so molds are barely 3/4 full.

Bake the cakes:
Set pan in center rack of preheated oven. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, until risen and still a bit jiggly in center. Remove from oven.

Unmold the cakes:
Have 12 plates ready. Slip tip of a knife under cake, and lift it a little; then slide a spatula underneath, and transfer to a serving plate. Holding mold in place with tongs, run a sharp knife around top edge of mold; then lift mold off cake with tongs. Repeat with other cakes.

Serve immediately with ice cream.

Cook's notes: Recipe requires 8 hours resting time for the batter.

Makes 12 servings.


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