The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Melting manners with molten marshmallow

Rachael Conlin Levy
A Woman Asleep at Table by Vermeer, 1657

The time had come to proclaim our family officially and properly settled. There were still boxes to unpack and the whereabouts of a battery charger remained a mystery, but the house was decent enough for friends.

If we had any.

So I started looking in parks, down grocery store aisles, along the sidelines of soccer fields. They’ve been hard to find and I blame it on the Seattle Freeze, that tendency for people to be polite, yet distant, friendly to all, but friends with few.

“Seattle is like that popular girl in high school,” Julia Summerfeld wrote in Pacific Northwest magazine. “The one who gets your vote for homecoming queen because she always smiles and says hello. But she doesn’t know your name and doesn’t care to. She doesn’t want to be your friend. She’s just being nice.”

After much searching, the targeted family was identified, an invitation extended — accepted (!) — and I began to plan. I simmered beef, mushrooms, carrots and baby onions in red wine, poured in Cognac and ignited the stew. For dessert, I planned individual chocolate cakes with a crackly exterior and an interior that oozed molten marshmallow. It was a meal designed to melt manners.

These cakes need just seven ingredients (most likely already in your cupboard), can be whipped up hours in advance and popped into the oven as dinner ends. They are crowd-pleasers, show-stoppers — and I over baked them.

They didn’t burn, but the marshmallow disappeared, leaving a hollow and dry cupcake. I served them because I had no back up, and, as it turned out, the evening was still a success. Maybe because the family didn’t need to be unfrozen after all. Turned out they’re not natives, but expats from Europe.


A week later, I made the cupcakes again, this time shortening the time and keeping a sharp eye on the oven. It made all the difference.

Joe’s Molten Marshmallow-Chocolate Cakes
by 13-year-old Joe Kozal, published in Sunset, October 2004

Serves 6
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 large marshmallows
Powdered sugar, optional

In a sauce pan over low heat, stir chocolate chips and butter until melted and smooth. Remove from head and whisk in sugar, eggs and vanilla until well blended. Stir in flour.

Butter and flour six ramekins or a cupcake tin. Fill about halfway. Press a marshmallow into the center of the batter. Spoon remaining batter equally over marshmallows, completely covering.

Bake at 350-degrees until tops are puffed up and crackly, 10 to 15 minutes. Do not over bake. Let cool, then run a knife along the inside of the ramekins or pan and invert to release cakes. Place right side up on plates. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

5 responses to “Melting manners with molten marshmallow”

  1. Wow! I've got to try that out, it looks so yummy! Glad to hear you had a fun dinner with your friends.

  2. Rachael Levy says:

    Yes, do! I know you like milk chocolate and I've seen successful versions of this recipe where the bittersweet is swapped with milk, resulting in a sweeter cupcake.

  3. Linda says:

    I am at Cheyenne's home and she made the molten marshmallows with milk chocolate….Yummy! Thanks for sharing the recipe.
    Love, Mom

  4. anno says:

    Mmmm…. these look like something I need to have right NOW!

    But, first, I need to have a stern word with my Reader, which for some reason is not updating me with your posts. To think I could have missed this one…

    About that spiked cranberry juice.

    Here's a link to the recipe I started with:

    Which, to my mind, was way too sweet and way too strong, so along the way, I made adjustments. My current version is more freeform, but goes something like this:

    1) Combine the following ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil:

    1 32-ounce jar of cranberry juice "cocktail" or fruit blend. I use Lakewood's organic 100% juice blend because that's my bent.

    32 ounces of water (because I always water down all my juices)

    1/3 – 1/2 cup of sugar

    5 or 6 cinnamon sticks
    10-15 whole cloves (wrapped in cheese cloth, or contained in a tea strainer)
    a pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg

    2) Stir, reduce heat, and simmer the mixture for 20 minutes.

    3) Remove from heat and add 1/2-3/4 cup of orange juice and 1/4 cup of freshly-squezed lemon juice.

    Strain, and serve hot, with cinnamon sticks. Or, chill in the refrigerator and either re-heat it later or add to sparkling water for a refreshing, low-calorie drink that goes surprisingly well with cheese curls or nachos and salsa.

  5. Rachael Levy says:

    Anno, thanks for the recipe. It looks like just the thing to beat back the gray.

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