This may be my favorite dessert. What’s not to like about an individual dessert with a rich, cakey exterior hiding a warm, gooey, pudding-like chocolate center? This cake is perfect for a romantic dinner, to serve for a holiday dessert, or to impress guests during a dinner party.
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I was introduced to this dessert while on vacation in Belize. I may or may not have eaten one each evening during a week-long trip. I was on a mission to recreate it at home. After many attempts, I finally came up with a version that was not too sweet, had a deep, rich and complex chocolate flavor, and the perfect, thick pudding inside. Everyone who came to visit was treated to this wonderful cake (or used as a guinea pig).
Apparently, I was not the only one obsessed with a molten lava cake. The dessert has become so popular that not only did high-end restaurants offer it, but many chain restaurants also included it on their menus. The cake became so ubiquitous that food critics started referring to it as the “Big Mac” of desserts and it was the reason Chef Carl in the movie, “Chef” flipped out on the food critic who accused him of serving an undercooked dessert. “It’s Molten!” I hear him screaming that line every time I pull one from my oven. The movie is a definite must see.
There is some controversy over where the cake originated. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten claims to have introduced the dessert to the world in the late 1980s when he undercooked a sponge cake but served it anyway to great applause.
Now for the drama. Enter the famous French chocolatier, Jacques Torres who claimed that the cake was already “de rigueur” in France. He maintains that in 1981, Chef Michel Bras was inspired by the sight of his children sipping drinking chocolate on a ski trip and created his “Chocolate Coulant” or ‘runny cake’ at his restaurant in Laguiole, France.
Who knows what the truth is? What is known is that the cake is delicious and surprisingly easy to make.
These incredible molten lava cakes are similar to a flourless chocolate cake in that there is very little flour in the batter. The short baking time allows the “lava” inside to remain pudding-like and retain its intense chocolate flavor without a hint of a raw flour taste.
TIPS FOR MAKING AN INCREDIBLE MOLTEN LAVA CAKE
- Use the best baking chocolate that you can afford. I have found that 60% or below in cacao has the right amount of richness without being too bitter. My favorite brands include:
- Scharffen Berger 62% semi-sweet dark chocolate baking bar
- Ghirardelli 60% cacao baking bar
- Callebaut 45.3% dark chocolate baking bar
- I like using 6-ounce ramekins. However, you can get 5 or 6 smaller cakes by using 4-ounce ramekins. Reduce the cooking time by about 4-5 minutes.
- These can be made ahead and refrigerated for several hours or even overnight. Simply bring the cake batter to room temperature before baking.
A lovely individual chocolate cake with a warm, pudding-like center. An impressive, yet easy dessert.
- Baking spray, such as PAM
- 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 6 ounces very good quality semi-sweet, 60% or less cacao baking chocolate
- ½ cup butter (I used unsalted)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons flour
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
- ⅛ teaspoon good quality instant espresso powder
- Pinch salt
- Ice cream, strawberries, and chocolate syrup for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Liberally grease 4 ramekins and sprinkle each ramekin with 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar. Swirl the sugar around the ramekin to lightly coat all sides. Dump out any remaining sugar. Set the ramekins aside.
- In a double boiler or a bowl set over a simmering pot of water, melt together the chocolate and butter until the chocolate is smooth and the butter has melted. Whisk the chocolate mixture until it looks smooth and glossy. Remove from the heat.
- Whisk in the powdered sugar, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and espresso powder until the batter is smooth. Lastly, add in the flour and pinch of salt. Mix well. The batter will be thick.
- Portion the batter evenly among the ramekins and bake for approx. 13-15 minutes or until the edges are firm and set but the center is still soft. Let the cakes stand for about 2 minutes before carefully running a knife along the edge of the ramekin and inverting the cake gently onto a plate. If the cake doesn’t release on its own, gently tap the bottom of the ramekin to release.
- Top with ice cream and chocolate sauce, if desired. Serve immediately.
- Serving Size: Serves 4
RECIPES TO COMPLETE YOUR ROMANTIC DINNER
- Cool Lychee Martini Cocktail
- Classic Wedge Salad
- The Ultimate Tomahawk Steak
- Roasted Garlic Horseradish Mashed Potatoes