Friday, May 7, 2010

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

So I would bet that everyone reading this post has eaten a molten chocolate lava cake at one point or another.  Or at least, I certainly hope you have.  If you have never had one of these luscious, decadent, oh-so-sexy desserts you are missing out.  Really.  If you are one of those deprived people, go ahead and tell someone else you have not eaten one.  I can guarantee you they will be incredulous and respond with, "Whaaaat??!  You have never eaten a lava cake?  OMG.  They are soooooo good, you are crazy.  You need to eat one right now."  

Whether you are a lava cake newbie, or a certified chocolate connoisseur, you do need to eat this cake right now.  Because while it is likely to be featured on the dessert menu at your favorite fancy restaurant or the local Italian joint, this cake can just as easily be whipped up in your own kitchen.  In fact, I would argue that your kitchen is a better place to eat this dessert; only in the comfort of your own home can you fully appreciate its warm, intimate center that flows like molten gold.  At home, you can eat with abandon and lick your lips after each satisfying bite.  If you are doing it right, eating this kind of cake might even make you a little hot and bothered...  So grab your loved one and go into your kitchen and start making it.  Or be really naughty and make one just for yourself.

These would also be great to make for a dinner party, since they can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until needed.  Admittedly, enjoying the cakes with a group of six friends isn't really the same seductive experience I was describing above... but don't complain, you still get chocolate lava cake.    

I think the do-ahead aspect of this dessert is why so many restaurants feature it on their menu.  In fact, it might be fair to say that this has become one of the most quintessential dessert menu items of the last few decades.  So where did it originate??  

According to the information I could find, it seems there is a bit of a dispute.  Remember our friend Jacques Torres who gave us the perfect chocolate chip cookies?  Well he claims that such a dessert was served in France well before its "invention" in the United States.  On the other hand, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten says that he discovered the dessert in New York in the late eighties when he accidentally undercooked a souffle.  There are also a few other chefs who stake claim to this famous dessert.  Personally, I would tend to believe Jean-Georges based solely on his prestige, but it is up to you to decide who gets the credit.       

What is clear, is that this dessert is a cross between a flourless chocolate cake and a souffle.  The batter incorporates air similar to a souffle and gives it rise, but a meager amount of flour provides for a density similar to a flourless cake.

So if you love chocolate, move this recipe to the top of your "to-do" list for this weekend.  In fact, go to your local farmers market and get some ripe strawberries to pair with this cake for a real knock-your-socks-off dessert.  Just make sure you have enough time to properly enjoy it.  

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake
The recipe I was working from said this would make 8 molten cakes.  Well mine made a scant 5 cakes, and with a little more filling in each I think it is fair to say this will give you 4 perfect molten lava cakes.  I have also seen some sources that say it is best to refrigerate the cakes for only a few hours before serving, but I tested the baking at 24 hours as well and still got a perfect cake.   

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli chips)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Perugina
3/4 cup unsalted butter, plus an extra pat for buttering ramekins
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
extra flour, or cocoa powder, for dusting ramekins

Butter the bottom and sides of 4 six-ounce ramekins.  Dust with flour or cocoa powder (flour might leave a slight white residue, cocoa will blend in with the cake), and tap to remove excess.  

Melt all the chocolate and the butter in a double boiler, then set aside to cool.  Meanwhile, combine eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream together on medium-high speed.  The batter will become thickened and form ribbons when beating, and it will double in volume from incorporating air into the eggs (see photo above for a visual of the batter).  Add the flour to the egg batter, and blend for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Then add the chocolate and blend for an additional 2 minutes, scraping bowl once or twice to incorporate everything.  This is important because the chocolate is much more dense than the batter so it will sink to the bottom of the mixing bowl. 

Fill each ramekin with about 6 ounces of batter, and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.  (If you prefer, these can be prepared 24 hours in advance and refrigerated until serving.)  To bake, preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake ramekins on a baking sheet for about 11-13 minutes.  When they are done, they should be puffed up and the center of the top should look solid.  Importantly, they should pass the "jiggle test."  With an oven mitt, grab the edge of the baking sheet and shake it a little bit.  If the top jiggles a lot, they are not done.  Close the oven and check them again until the top jiggles ever so slightly, or not at all.    Remove ramekins from the oven and serve immediately.

Cakes can be served in the ramekins, or wait a few minutes and invert individual cakes onto a plate.  Serve with whipped cream, fresh berries, candied nuts, or whatever strikes your fancy.   


  1. Even if this dessert existed before Jean-Georges made his "mistake", he sure did make it popular :) And it is truly a wonderful dessert! Your cakes look just perfect!

  2. I really should make some meals this weekend so we can eat real food next week but I really want to make these instead! Think I could buil a dinner out of chocolate molten cakes? :)

  3. this has to be one of my favorite desserts...and yet I have never made it....your looks devine!!

  4. Well, I have eaten it and I think it's irresistible, I love yours!

  5. OMG! It looks so delicious I'm now fighting my brain that is screaming to me "MUST EAT LAVA CHOCOLATE CAKE" LOL.

  6. this looks awesome! I'm going to try soon.

  7. This is an absolute favorite of I'm dying for one...need to buy more chocolate!

  8. Saw your profile on fb. Look forward to following you here. Fantastic job with the molten lava cake. Michel Bras would be proud. Cheers!

  9. Love this dessert always gets rave reviews, great post

    I love your blog name...

  10. Of course I love molten cake, but would I make it? Not so sure! You look like you mastered it - very impressive. Heck maybe I will give it a try.

  11. What a lovely, sticky chocolate treat that seem to be. Sounds amazing.

  12. I really want one of these right now. mmmm. Chocolate. I bet that would rock with vanilla ice cream. Or fresh whipped cream.

  13. Um, your desserts look amazing. You're blog is awesome. I may never come back for fear of gaining 20 pounds :)

  14. this looks so decadent and rich and satisfying! I've always wanted to make a chocolate fondant (thats what we call that here in NZ but mind you molten choc lava cake sounds wayyy more exciting!) but I've never gotten around to it. I'll somehow attempt this very very soon

  15. Oh dear.. im one of those deprived people!!! ive bought teh ramekins, ive bought the chocolate etc but I haven't ever made them....or eaten them...i must musnt I? tq for reminding looks to die for. :)

  16. So your blog posts are wonderful...making me drool! I can't wait to give this recipe a try at my next dessert night. They look so decadent and delicious. Thank you again for sharing!

  17. This is one of my favorites, too -- yet I've never made it. I'm encouraged to do it now!

  18. molten lava cake!!!! wowwww love this :)) Thanks for sharing. I've never made this before... note to self... must make molten chocolate goodness...

  19. Wow these look amazing. I can't wait to try them.

  20. Okay so you invited me to look at the cookies and they look great but THIS... oh THIS looks amazing :) can't wait to start following you!!!


  21. This is one of those deserts you can make for company & it doesn't matter if you served them a peanut butter sandwich beforehand, they'll be yours for life. Like you I make them ahead and just keep them in a cool place until I'm ready to bake them. I use 8 oz bittersweet Valhrona or other good quality chocolate & make them in brioche tins, they cook much faster and more evenly (7-9 minutes)than ramekins. I like serving them with vanilla ice cream and raspberries, it's almost like the best hot fudge sundae.

  22. Mmmhhh, those look devilishly scrumptious! Baked to perfection.



  23. This cakes looks delicious. Thanks for sharing.

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