I know what you're thinking—Seattle needs another sugar-shop like it needs another bearded folk band in twill pants and bowler hats (please, no more!). But Ballard's Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery, opened less than a month ago by former Theo head chocolatier Autumn Martin, is a dessert destination worthy of your attention.
The shop's cozy decor is like a Pinterest board come to life. There's exposed brick, and tables and stools made out of reclaimed wood. Menus are neatly written out on large chalkboards, and little milk bottles serve as candleholders. Some desserts—the molten cake and crème brûlée—are served in small mason jars, while the grilled chocolate sandwich (which comes with salted caramel dipping sauce) comes wrapped in parchment paper and string.
Hot Cakes' menu, created by Martin and kitchen manager Lucy Damkoehler (the talented pastry chef formerly of Mistral Kitchen), though, is more along the lines of what you'd find at an upscale restaurant. And with the higher concepts and higher quality come higher prices.
"That's actually a challenge we're having right now with our customers—getting them to see the difference between Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery and Cupcake Royale, for instance," says Martin. "People come in here expecting the price of a scoop shop, or a cupcake shop, without thinking this is a place to come sit down and enjoy restaurant-quality organic desserts. We have somebody back here preparing desserts to order. That's really unique.
"They may be similar in size, but [Hot Cakes' desserts] are different," she continues. "A cupcake is mostly flour, some egg and sugar, and some kind of liquid. In the molten cake, it's all chocolate, egg, and sugar. There's no cheap filler in there. Flour, organic or not, is cheap. It's much more cheap than sugar. But our dark decadence has no flour in it—it's pure chocolate and organic local eggs and organic sugar."
Hot Cakes' original molten cake is the dark decadence ($7.50), made with Theo chocolate and served with your choice of salted caramel or melted ganache, whipped cream, and cocoa nib brittle. It hardly feels fair to even call it a cake. It's more like a dark chocolate cloud with a gooey center—every spoonful instantly pools in your mouth, mixing with the fresh whipped cream and crunchy bits of toffee. It's a little jar of chocolate ecstasy.
The s'mores molten cake ($8.50) is even better. It's the same cloud of chocolate filled with more chocolate, served with two rectangles of crunchy homemade graham crackers and a freshly toasted homemade marshmallow that's melted all over the top of the cake. The s'mores cookie ($3.29) is equally tasty—it's made with their smoked chocolate chips, so it's like an ooey gooey campfire in your mouth.
If you want something slightly lighter—"lighter" here is definitely relative—the crème brûlée ($6.75) is a creamy vanilla bomb that manages to be both thick and refreshing. It's served with rhubarb jam, which brings a nice, tart complement to the crunchy caramelized sugar top.
If you ask Martin which is her favorite, she'll recommend their featured ice cream sundae. "It's amazing," she says. "It's vanilla ice cream with lots of bourbon salted caramel—I put a whole bottle of Bulleit into two gallons of caramel sauce, so it's pretty strong. Then we top it with this delicious oatmeal crumble, whipped cream, and vanilla sugar sprinkled on top."
As impressive as the offerings at Hot Cakes are now, this is only the beginning.
"We opened with a limited menu, so we could get an idea of what customers are interested in and make sure we could handle everything," she explains. "We're expanding our menu, adding four new molten cakes. And we just finally got our liquor license in our hand, so we're going to spend a week or two putting together our cocktail program; the first of July will be our cocktail and milk shake debut."
Yup, soon Hot Cakes will be home to cold, boozy milk shakes in flavors like smoked chocolate and Scotch, tequila jalapeño, cold buttered rum, and White Russian. (Martin just finished writing her first cookbook, a collection of 60 malted milk shake recipes that will be published by St. Martin's Press this winter.) They also plan on making their own ice cream; meanwhile, they serve locally made Bluebird.
"Now that we're getting our feet on the ground, we feel like we can start getting into some really fun menu-developing," says Martin. "[Lucy] just made roasted strawberry ice cream sandwiches, which are amazing. We're definitely about to do some really awesome stuff."