These classic molten chocolate cakes (also called chocolate lava cakes) from Jean-Georges Vongerichten are made with flour, sugar, chocolate, egg, and butter. When baked, the cake doesn’t cook through, creating a lava flow of chocolate when cut into. If that weren’t enough, the batter can be made ahead of time.
This ambrosial mini cake is absolute chocolate in two forms: a warm, molten center surrounded by a tender, protective shell. Despite its intensity, however, it has nothing of the heaviness of Mississippi Mud Pie or the ubiquitous flourless chocolate cake. Perhaps that’s why it’s one of the most copied desserts in American restaurants.–Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Classic Molten Chocolate Cakes FAQs
Where were molten chocolate cakes invented?
A little molten chocolate cake trivia for you. As the story goes, these cakes were reputedly created when Vongerichten was creating a new dessert recipe and pulled these chocolate cakes out of the oven too soon. When he cut into one, he found that instead of the dense crumb he expected, a center of molten chocolate oozed out. Vongerichten knew a good thing when he saw—and tasted—it. And so do you. Behold, your new signature dessert.
What do you serve with molten cakes?
While these cakes easily stand-alone, they’re over-the-top delicious when served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream; the combination of warm chocolate and cool cream is an absolute delight. As for dessert wine, chocolate is too intense and bitter for many sweet wines, but not port. Sounds like perfection to us.
Classic Molten Chocolate Cakes
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter plus more to butter the molds
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons flour plus more for dusting
- In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, heat the butter and chocolate together until the chocolate is almost completely melted. While that's heating, beat together the eggs, yolks, and sugar with a whisk or electric beater until light and thick.
- Beat together the melted chocolate and butter; it should be quite warm. Pour in the egg mixture, then quickly beat in the flour, just until combined.
- Generously butter and lightly flour four 4-ounce molds, custard cups, or ramekins. Tap out the excess flour, then butter and flour them again. Divide the batter among the molds. (At this point you can refrigerate the desserts until you are ready to eat for up to several hours. Bring them back to room temperature before baking.)
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Bake the molds on a tray for 6 to 7 minutes; the center will still be quite soft, but the sides will be set.
- Invert each mold onto a plate and let sit for about 10 seconds. Unmold by lifting up one corner of the mold; the cake will fall out onto the plate. Serve immediately.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Originally published July 23, 1998
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
So what’s great about older recipes is that they are often just classic and should be in everyone’s recipe box. This molten chocolate cake is one of those recipes. Not only can it be whipped up at a moment’s notice with what’s on hand, but it tastes great.
Of course, there are caveats. First, you need to make sure you have good-quality chocolate. Second, you need to take the method for preparing the molds or cups or ramekins seriously. (Even though I buttered and floured each one twice, one of the cakes didn’t come out of the mold when turned over.) Third, you need to keep an eye on the cakes and not leave them in the oven too long or you’ll just have a regular chocolate cake—albeit a great-tasting one.
I’m guessing, but I’d say that you could sub a gluten-free flour here because so little is used. What I really liked is how easy this recipe was to execute. I loved how quickly everything was to throw together and how quickly things baked. The taste was also quite good. A very winning recipe.
What I didn’t like is that you do have to pay attention to the cakes because they were not done at 6 minutes. This is the very fussy part of the recipe where you just guess after 6 minutes how much more time it will take.