When I was a restaurant pastry chef, we always had at least one chocolate dessert on the menu, and it was usually one of the more popular items. My rule about chocolate dessert is that it should be intensely chocolately – otherwise, there’s no point to it. This dessert combines two of my favourite, most-used components: a delicate soufflé cake with an ethereal texture (as long as it hasn’t been refrigerated), and salted caramel, which is a staple in my fridge.

CHOCOLATE SOUFFLÉ CAKES WITH CARAMEL-MASCARPONE GANACHE

The caramel recipe gives you much more than you will need for this dessert but it’s a great thing to have on hand: you can warm it (I do it in the microwave), dilute it with cream (and a shot or two of brandy, if you’re serving adults) into pouring consistency, then drizzle it over ice cream; or use it as a filling for tarts or truffles. You’ll also have leftover caramel-mascarpone ganache, which makes delicious truffles. Pipe out blobs of the excess ganache onto a parch­ment-lined baking tray, then chill slightly, or until firm enough to handle. Roll the piped-out ganache between the palms of your hands to shape the blobs into spheres, then chill until firm. Put the truffles into an airtight container and refrigerate. Dust with cocoa powder just before serving.

For the caramel:
200 grams sugar
40 grams corn syrup
60 grams salted butter, chilled
60ml cream
¼ tsp fine sea salt

For the ganache:
150 grams bittersweet chocolate with a cacao content of about 75 per cent, chopped into small pieces
75 grams caramel
100 grams mascarpone

For the soufflé cakes:
2 large eggs
60 grams sugar, divided
60 grams unsalted butter
120 grams bittersweet chocolate with a cacao content of about 75 per cent, chopped
¼ tsp fine sea salt
Icing sugar, for dusting
Fresh fruit and mint leaves, for decorating

Make the caramel first, so it has time to cool slightly. Put the sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan and add about 60ml of hot water. Place the pan over a medium flame and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved. Use a pastry brush dipped into hot water to wash the sugar crystals from the sides of the pan. Cook the mixture without stirring until the sugar begins to caramelise around the edges. Swirl the pan so the sugar caramelises evenly. Continue to cook without stirring until the caramel turns a medium amber then turn off the flame. Immediately add the cold butter – the mixture will bubble furiously and send off steam, so take care that you don’t get burned. Stir until the butter is melted and incorporated into the caramel, then add the cream and mix it in.

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Cool the caramel until it’s about 90 degrees Celsius, then pour it over the chocolate in a bowl. Whisk to combine thoroughly, then whisk in the mascarpone. Set the mixture aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally; it should firm up to a pipeable consistency.

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Make the cakes. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Use pan coating to spray eight small pans that hold about 40ml each, and place them on a baking tray. Melt the butter and pour it over the chocolate in a bowl. Stir until the chocolate is melted then set it aside to cool until tepid.

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Separate the eggs, putting the yolks into one mixing bowl and the whites in another. Use an electric mixer on medium speed to whip the whites until frothy. Add the salt and half the sugar and whip until they form medium peaks. Set the whites aside. Use the same electric mixer (no need to wash the beaters) to whip the yolks with the remaining sugar. Whip on high speed until the yolks are pale yellow. Turn the mixer speed to low then mix the chocolate and butter into the yolks. Add about one third of the whipped egg whites into the choc­olate/butter/egg yolk mixture and thor­oughly combine.

Add half the remaining whites and fold them in gently, trying to maintain as much volume as possible. Gently mix in the last of the whites then divide the mixture evenly between the eight pans. Bake for 15 minutes, or until done: the cakes will be fragrant, firm to the touch, and the surface will be matte instead of shiny. Take the cakes from the oven and let them cool to room temperature; they will collapse slightly in the centre.

When the cakes are cool, remove them from the pans. Lightly dust them with icing sugar. Put the ganache in a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip. Pipe a swirl of ganache on top of each cake, then decorate with fruit and mint before serving. Serves eight.