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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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' Tips

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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  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!

    1. They ought to work just fine, Ruth. The recipe mentions custard cups as an option. Bear in mind, the recipe makes four cakes, so as long as you divide the batter evenly among 4–and exactly 4–cups, the baking time ought to remain the same as the recipe states. Let us know how it goes. I am now craving these myself…

  5. I was wondering if you can serve these in the 4 oz ramekins instead of inverting them onto a plate? These sound very similar to the warm chocolate melting cakes served on carnival cruise lines that were soooo good but I can’t seem to get them to come out quite right when I make at home, so I wanted to try your recipe instead.

    1. You certainly can, Denise. Just be sure to serve them soon after they come out of the oven, otherwise the residual heat from the ramekins may cause the center of the cakes to continue to bake, eliminating that coveted molten part! Thanks for your vote of confidence in our recipe and let us know how it goes…

  6. Hi. I’m a beginner at baking so I have a number of questions to ask for advice:

    1. Is it all right to melt the butter together with the chocolate in the microwave than placing them on top of a double boiler set over simmering water?

    2. I’m just wondering whether it is necessary to bake the cakes in a ramekin or will it be just fine and the same by just using normal aluminium molds?

    Thank you for sharing a detailed recipe. =)

    1. Hi, Schnuffel. Baking is a precise art and requires precision in ingredients and technique. But it’s so worth it!

      Regarding your questions, I’d follow the directions for melting the chocolate exactly. Melting butter in the microwave can be tricky sometimes. It’s easy to burn it or have it melt unevenly. It’ll take no time in the double boiler. Plus you eliminate a step.

      Using aluminum mold should work. I’ve seen caterers do it. You need to make sure that the molds are sufficiently buttered and floured. And check them a minute or two earlier. Ramekins are thicker and take longer to heat up.

  7. hi david,

    just curious….does it work if you make the batter ahead of time, or does it need to go straight into the oven?


  8. Hi David,

    Thanks for your quick reply … Haha ya, am unfamiliar with the ounce coz we use the metric system ; ) no worries. I understand now. I will try on the individual muffin tins rather than the tray ones ; ) I also hv silicon cupcake molds but they may be too small.

        1. Hi David,

          I played safe and used the 4-ounce individual tins. They turned out great! Thanks for the great recipe! I served them with vanilla ice cream.

          One more question: Does it matter if I add the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture instead of the other way around? Based on your instruction, I added the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture.

          1. Pamela, so happy they turned out well! It’s always best to follow a recipe–especially a baking recipe–exactly. Science, chemical reactions, and all sorts of things come into play in baking.

  9. Hi. Sorry, I thought molds are usually measured by their diameter or capacity. How do I convert a 4-ounce ramekins to an equivalent muffin cup? And can I use muffin cups instead for this recipe?

    1. Hi, Pamela. These are measured by their capacity, which is 4 liquid ounces. All you have to do is pour four ounces of water into your muffin tin and see how far up the well it goes. I would suggest making sure the water goes at least three-quarters of the way up the muffin well. If it does, you can try to use it. The hardest part will be releasing them because with individual molds, you can center them on a plate and turn. With a muffin tin, they all will come out at the same time. Tell us how you make out.

  10. I need 16 of these…seems like it could be dangerous to quadruple the recipe… What adjustments should I make? Thanks!

    1. Amy, unless a recipe has weights, which few do, I never more than double it. So to be on the safe side, have the ingredients read for all 16 desserts, then double the recipe, making two batches of eight. You can pour the batter from the first batch into half the prepared ramekins and hold them while you make the second batch.

      1. THANK YOU! How far in advance can I do this? I read somewhere that it can be done far in advance and put in the fridge and then brought to room temp for baking – that would be ideal since I’m doing them for a b’day party…

        1. In the recipe you’ll see it says you can refrigerate it up to several hours. (I’d say maximum three.) And make sure it comes to room temperature before baking. Very important. Write back and tell us how it goes.

          1. David – I’m obviously perusing all your deserts tonight. :) I make an almost identical chocolate molten cake recipe—complete with Chambord and raspberries in the center. FYI: I prepare them ahead—the morning of a dinner party—and have even prepared them the night before. The batter keeps well in the refrigerator and they bake up perfectly. There’s only one thing: Dinner conversation will totally stop. The only thing you’ll hear from your guests is: Ummmmmmm. :)

  11. Thanks, Linda. I called this company and was able to talk with someone who held and measured these molds for me. I ordered 16 of them to use for myself and for a birthday gift (with above recipe) for my daughter. Thanks for your prompt replies and good research.

  12. Linda,

    Thanks for your reply and link to Amazon. When I made the individual cakes this past weekend, I used 4-ounce molds as the recipe calls for. I have looked on the web and can’t find any 4 oz sized molds. The ones you suggested are 3 ounces. Would these work as well? Also, the ones I used aren’t non stick. I just sprayed them with PAM and brushed it into the fluted areas before pouring in the batter. Does your baking team use non stick?


  13. I made this recipe on Sat. I borrowed the molds (4-ounce, 12-flutes, brioche tins) from a French friend. The recipe worked beautifully even at our high altitude in Colorado. My problem is that I can’t seem to find 4 oz tins to buy for myself. Any suggestions?



  14. I was wondering after beating the eggs, yolk, and sugar, what do you mean by light and thick? Is is suppose to be as foamy as when you beat egg whites?

    1. Hi, Ashley. When you are making this recipe and begin beating eggs, yolk, and sugar, you will actually see the color of your mixture lighten as it is aerated. It’s unfortunate that no specific time is given to guide you but my guess is 2-3 minutes of beating. The mixture will be pale yellow but not “foamy” due to the yolks. Hope that helps.

  15. Will it work with oval shape 4-ounce ramekins or does it have to be the round ones? Because I only have the oval ones at home. Thank you.

  16. Hi. I want to ask why the cake that I made was very oily and there was no fudge at the center. It was just like a normal oily chocolate cake. i tried to decrease the baking time, but the same result occurred. Did I do something wrong? Please kindly advise.

    1. Hi Vivien, Did you use 4-ounce molds? What brand chocolate did you use? While I’m waiting for your reply, I’ll ask Robyn Rice-Foster, one of our senior testers and a pastry and chocolate specialist. Stay tuned.

    2. I believe the problem may have arisen because of the chocolate. A good-quality baking brand of chocolate must be used in making molten cakes. (Plus the correct mold size is important as well. ) The recipes states to use Valrhona. Some of the chocolate chips brands have extra oil added to them for longer shelf life.

      Chocolate normally doesn’t have a long shelf life, and it can have two forms of bloom: fat bloom and sugar bloom. A fat bloom is the visible accumulation of large cocoa butter crystals on the chocolate’s surface; it usually has cracks and dulls its appearance. A sugar bloom is the crystallization of sugar, which is caused by high humidity. The product will start to sweat when brought into a warm area. Fat bloom will feel oily and melt when touched, whereas sugar bloom will feel grainy to the touch. Bloomed chocolate is fine to eat, but the results won’t be the same as fresh chocolate.

  17. I have added this to my list of crowd pleasers! Ne’er a complaint, only groans of pleasure. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe.

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