Ah..molten chocolate cake. Or chocolate lava cake as it is fondly known as. Remember that scene in the move, Chef, where Jon Favreau screams his head off at a food critic, saying “chocolate lava cake isn’t just undercooked chocolate cake…you take a frozen cylinder of ganache and set it in a ramekin so that as the outside cooks fully, the inside becomes molten”?
Yeah, I don’t think he’s going to be too happy with the countless molten chocolate cake recipes online, most of which are primarily undercooked chocolate cake!
Even Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who is widely credited for popularizing the dessert, and whom some say (re)invented the molten chocolate cake in 1987, says that it resulted from him pulling the cake out too early when the inside had not set yet.
(I say “reinvented” because in 1981, Michel Bras patented the chocolat coulant. I suppose this is what got Jon Favreau’s knickers in a knot, because this was the original recipe that had a chilled ganache, tucked into cake batter and frozen overnight. When in the oven, the inside slowly melts while the batter bakes away, resulting in a runny chocolate middle).
Well, whatever the case may be, this unctuous dessert is easy to make and I can’t imagine any of your guests being disappointed with it. Unless they hate chocolate. In which case…pass them some (sour) grapes.
Recipe for Molten Chocolate Cake from Jean-Georges Vongerichten:
½ Cup softened butter
4 ounces of chocolate (70% cocoa)
¼ Cup Sugar
2 Eggs + 2 Egg Yolks
2 Tsp Plain Flour
A pinch of Salt
1.Preheat oven to 220°C.
2. Butter and dust the 4 ramekins with some flour, tapping out excess flour. Set aside.
3. Melt the chocolate with the butter. I do this by placing the chocolate and the butter into a heatproof bowl, which I then set over a pan with a little simmering water. The gentle heat from the simmering water will melt the butter and chocolate.1 Stir occasionally till chocolate is nice and smoothly combined with the butter.
4. Meanwhile, add the sugar and eggs into a bowl, and whisk till pale and thickened. I use my mixer, you can use a handheld too.
5. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg/sugar mix and combine.
6. Gently but quickly fold in the flour.
7. Pour batter into ramekins and bake for 7-9 minutes.2
8. Let the cakes cool in the ramekins for about a minute, then invert them out onto your serving plates.
Always pretty with fresh berries and ice-cream of your choice!
- For an easy option, some people microwave the chocolate and butter. The classic way is to do as I mentioned. How much water to put in your saucepan depends – but the idea is to put a small amount, enough for it to simmer and generate steam. Also, the bowl you place on top should not touch the water in the saucepan.
- Unlike regular cakes where you can stick a toothpick in the centre to check for done-ness, here you obviously can’t. So you kind of have to watch your cakes like a hawk, probably from 7 minutes. If you see the sides pulling away from the ramekin, you can take the cakes out. Better to be undercooked in this case, rather than overcook, because that’s the beauty of this gorgeous dessert!
- If in the unfortunate situation where there’s no lava oozing out, well, just pretend and say you made a delish, moist chocolate cake!