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Molten Lava Cakes

Hearts will melt for this molten chocolate classic.

The easy molten lava cake recipe you’ve been waiting for. Rich chocolate cake, oozing with dark molten chocolate lava cake centers, may have been trendiest in the ’90s. But I say the best time to enjoy them is right now, warm from your oven.

molten chocolate cake on plate served with berries

Meet this Molten Lava Cake Recipe

This chocolate lava cake recipe is based on the one and only chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s recipe for molten chocolate cake, with a couple of ingredient adaptations and notes for success. This lava cake recipe launched a million iterations in restaurants (and homes . . . and published chocolate cake recipes) worldwide. And for good reason!

This molten lava cake recipe serves four, and makes an epic dark chocolate dessert that’s just baked on the outside, and gooey and warm on the inside. Best of all? No one needs to know how easy it is. Here’s how to make it.

butter and chocolate in bowl
The first step is to melt the dark chocolate and butter together in a bowl.

How to Make Lava Cakes

Molten chocolate lava cakes are actually quite easy to make, but look a little fancy. Technically, you could use muffin tins, but this will be harder to unmold and cook evenly, so I strongly recommend buying a few inexpensive six-ounce ramekins. Grease them well.

melted butter and chocolate for lava cakes
The chocolate and butter, melted together over a bain marie.

Here are the steps to molten chocolate cake success:

  1. Grease the ramekins very well. I do not dust them with flour because I want to avoid a white sheen on the dark chocolate finish, but you could do this if you like, or dust with cocoa powder.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Why? The high temperature is essential for baking the outsides quickly while leaving the insides soft and underbaked.
  3. Melt together the butter and dark chocolate. Separately, beat the eggs, yolks, sugar, salt, espresso powder, and vanilla until the batter is thick and pale.
  4. Whisk the chocolate and butter into the batter, along with the flour, until smooth.
  5. Bake for exactly 12 minutes. Cool for one minute, then invert each ramekin onto a plate and unmold.
  6. Serve warm, maybe with some fresh whipped cream, ice cream, berries, or even a simple dusting of powdered sugar.
chocolate lava cakes in ramekins before baking
The individual chocolate lava cakes, ready to bake!

How to Serve Chocolate Lava Cake

Such a decadent little dessert does not need much served with it. But since this falls into the category of an individual plated dessert (as it’s known in pastry chef parlance), you can certainly dress it up a little.

You can serve these warm molten cakes on their own on small dessert plates. If you want to add a little oomph, here are a few accompaniment suggestions:

  • Fresh whipped cream
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Fresh raspberries or strawberries
  • A simple dusting of powdered sugar
baked molten lava cakes
Baked molten lava cakes look like baked soufflé cakes, but are gooey in the center.

Is molten chocolate cake raw in the middle?

This is a tricky one. The technical answer is no, molten lava cake is not raw in the middle. However, the centers of molten lava cakes are under-baked, in the sense that the centers are not fully set. The molten chocolate centers get hot enough to “cook” the eggs to a food-safe temperature, without hardening the batter. Kind-of like a fried egg cooked over easy, where the yolk is hot but still runny.

lava cake recipe step invert ramekin on plate
Invert the warm ramekin onto the plate. Let stand 10 seconds before unmolding.

What is the filling of the molten lava cake recipe?

There are actually two ways to do the filling of a molten lava cake. One version uses a separate, small round of chocolate ganache in the cake center. This lava cake version, however, is easier. The molten center filling of the cake is the actual batter itself. But the high baking temperature allows the outside to fully bake before the center hardens. This way, you can get two completely different textures.

molten lava cake on plate

Now that you’ve mastered dark chocolate molten lava cake, check out these dessert recipes:

molten chocolate cake

Rich Molten Lava Cakes

An easy dark chocolate molten lava cake recipe that will always be in style. Delicate chocolate cake oozing with a rich, gooey center and served warm. Here's how to make it.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time12 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, French
Keywords:: baking, chocolate, dessert, easy, lava cake, molten cake, valentine's day
Servings: 4 individual lava cakes
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Ingredients

  • 1 stick (4 ounces; 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (I like Guittard and Valrhona)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Vanilla ice cream, powdered sugar, whipped cream, or berries to garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F and position the rack in the center. Grease four 6-ounce ramekins very well.
    PRO TIP: The high temperature is essential to the finished texture. The high temperature bakes the lava cake fully on the outside, but not the centers.
    PRO TIP: I recommend setting the ramekins on a baking sheet for ease of getting them in and out of the oven.
  • Over a double boiler, melt together the butter and chocolate. Stir to emulsify.
    PRO TIPS: Double boilers are easy, but you want to get it right. 1) Don't let the water touch the bottom of the bowl; you want the steam to heat the bowl, not water. 2) Keep the water at a simmer, never a boil. 3) Finally, don't let any water get into the bowl with the chocolate -- the chocolate could seize.
  • In a bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the egg yolks, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and espresso powder (if using). Beat for about five minutes, until the batter is thick and light, almost like very soft-peak whipped cream.
  • Quickly stir in the melted butter and chocolate, along with the flour. Mix just until fully incorporated. Don't forget to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl! Evenly divide the batter among the ramekins.
  • Bake the lava cakes for exactly 12 minutes. The sides and top will look firm and dry.
  • Remove the chocolate lava cakes from the oven. Cool for one minute. Run a paring knife around the edges if you like, to loosen the sides. Use a potholder or clean kitchen towel (they're hot!), to invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate. Leave for 10 seconds, then remove the ramekin.
  • Ta-da! Serve immediately with a dusting of powdered sugar, a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream, or a few fresh berries.

Notes

These chocolate lava cakes can be prepared up to a day in advance. Go through step five and refrigerate, covered. Bring to room temperature before baking; this will take about 45 minutes or so. Bake uncovered. 
Dark chocolate runs from 56% to 100% cacao. I recommend somewhere in the 60% to 72% range for this recipe, with the higher percentage being more bittersweet. Avoid chocolate chips, which contain emulsifiers and can mess with the final gooey texture.

 

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