Molten Chocolate Cakes

These 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.

A molten chocolate cake on a plate with the filling oozing out and a few pieces of dark chocolate on the side.

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. Originally published July 23, 1998.Jean-Georges Vongerichten

LC Molten Cake Trivia Note

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.

Video: How to Make Molten Chocolate Cakes
Video courtesy of New York Times

Molten Chocolate Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • (8)
  • 30 M
  • 40 M
  • Makes 4
5/5 - 8 reviews
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Ingredients


Directions

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. Originally published July 23, 1999.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

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 in 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 a 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 am 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.

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Comments

  1. Tried this recipe and it turned out great! I would love to make it for a larger crowd and was wondering if this works if I double or triple the recipe?

    1. Susan, I’ve doubled the recipe, and it was fine. Now, if you want to make more, you can refrigerate the batter for up to 12 hours, so making two double batches can yield a lot of groans of pleasure!

  2. I’ve never heard of buttering/flouring twice. Why not use a circle of parchment in the bottom of a ramekin? Anyway, trying this out in my DF version will report back. Requested by my Beginning Cooking students so I have to test it first. All in a day’s work.

      1. They’re delicious. I did show students how to use parchment, but at home skipped it and they were fine. They’re even tasty with the fake butter I must use. Posted pics on my FB page.

  3. Hi there, any suggested adjustments when using remekins in place of tins? I would expect that I’d need to bake closer to 7 minutes than 6 given the extra mass to heat. Any thoughts? thanks, chris

    1. Hi Chris, the recipe does state that ramekins can be used so I would follow the guidelines as to timing. Just check the sides after about 6 minutes. Once the sides are set, they should be done.

    1. Hi Frani,

      I would not recommend using a different capacity mold as it would impact the timing, the height of the cake and the lovely molten center. Do you have any muffin tins or small ramekins on hand? David makes some comments above about alternative molds.

  4. I would love to try this recipe. I am Gluten Free. Can I use corn starch instead of flour, or what adjustment should I make?

    1. Margie, baking tends to be so tricky in terms of substitutions, especially a chemical equation as delicate as this one that yields just the right amount of molten gooeyness. I’m hesitant to recommend anything without having tried it in my own kitchen, lest you have a flop on your hands. But because I know how it is to want desperately to try something, I think your safest bet would be to try making it with a gluten-free flour mix, such as the one made by Bob’s Red Mill, in place of the flour. Please do let us know what you tried and how it went!

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