Get ‘em while they’re hot! The phrase originally coined when Autumn Martin’s sweet experiment was just a farmer’s market phenom, the advice is more applicable than ever in Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery’s quaint permanent location in Ballard.
Achieving piping hot chocolate nirvana has earned Hot Cakes its name and an impressive line of customers spilling out its doors at 5427 Ballard Avenue, a storefront that’s been open a little less than a year but has already made a mouthwatering name for itself.
Reclaimed pine tables and bar, wrought iron and white seating, and an old-fashioned chalkboard set the authentic stage for Hot Cakes’ signature small-batch creations. Martin’s innovative molten cakes are baked to order in miniature Mason jars and served steaming on rustic wooden boards with a generous scoop of Bluebird vanilla ice cream.
The cakes come in five variations, but the favorite by far is house specialty Dark Decadence. Its batter boasts nearly an entire Theo 70% dark chocolate bar in a four-ounce serving; flash-baked, a plunging spoon reveals it’s cakey on the outside but irresistibly fudgy in the middle. Paired with vanilla ice cream topped with salted caramel and toffee nibs, this tiny dessert packs a seriously rich punch.
But so does nearly every item on Hot Cakes’ menu. They’re committed to an “oh, wow!” reaction that leaves no room for safe or traditional options. Other hot cake combos include the Peanut Butter Cup – think a liquid Reese’s of Theo milk chocolate filled with peanut butter fudge and ganache – and the divinely-Girl Scouts-inspired S’mores – chocolate cake from five-hour house-smoked chocolate chips, a golden home-made marshmallow and home-made graham.
Hot Cakes’ creativity is backed by hefty experience. Martin began selling her molten cakes hot and to-go as a side venture at the Fremont Market while holding down the fort as Theo Chocolate’s Head Chocolatier from 2005-2009. A long-time Ballard resident, she’d previously served as Pastry Chef at the world-renowned Seattle restaurant Canlis from 2002-2004 before discovering her love of chocolate.
So Martin’s had years of practice developing unique flavor profiles and pairings, a talent which has won her numerous awards and an avid following. When the idea of Hot Cakes really began to take off, she left Theo’s for a four-month jaunt through Spain and an education in rock-climbing and organic farming.
The result: a Hot Cakes brand committed to local and organic ingredients sourced from Northwest sustainable agriculture farmers. Not to mention an almost completely gluten-free and vegan friendly menu, though rest assured there’s no skimping on flavors here.
Hot Cakes is also creative when it comes to libations, offering quirky concoctions such as the Drunken Sailor – a boozy shake swirling peanut butter, caramel and whiskey, the Chocolate Hanky Panky and the smooth Smoked Old Fashioned.
And while Martin’s choice to go rogue—both in business and in flavor—might seem risky, there’s no doubt it’s paid off. Seasonal cake toppings of saffron salted caramel, lavender jalapeno caramel, and rhubarb have been wildly successful. Her bacon, oatmeal and raisin cookies – the epitome of southern breakfast comfort – were featured in prominent food mag Bon Appetit and her innovations have topped the lists of Seattle best’s.
It’s not just the hot cakes that please either – there’s not an item on Martin’s menu that doesn’t induce a satisfied cocoa coma. Grilled chocolate sandwiches drip milk chocolate and homemade hazelnut butter over warm potato bread and warm maple dipping sauce. Oozing hand-crafted s’mores look straight off the campfire and even a warm chocolate chip cookie crowned with ice cream yields exultant sighs.
The dessert café—open 4-10p.m. weekdays and til 11p.m. on the weekends—is crowded at happy hour (4-6p.m.) and the evenings, but don’t let the line turn you away. It’s a resounding stamp of approval for this cakery that serves up indulgence well worth the wait. And for the truly desperate, Hot Cakes sells Dark Decadence batter in Mason jars to-go, leaving us with no excuse no to jump on this hot and gooey new trend.
Published 1 May 2013 in The Falcon as “Cake served up in a mason jar”