How To Make The Perfect Decadent Chocolate Lava Cake From Scratch

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How to Make the Perfect Decadent Chocolate Lava Cake From Scratch

There was a time when a molten or lava cake with a half-baked center just wasn't a thing. The year was 1966, and the dessert that changed it all was the Tunnel of Fudge Cake; a second-place winner at a Pillsbury Bake-Off contest. Ella Helfrich, a Texan housewife, used Pillsbury's powdered chocolate frosting that liquefied when baked to create her Bundt cake with a runny center.

By 1997, the cake is part of the cannon of classic desserts, earning a coveted recipe slot in the Joy of Cooking, one of the best-selling cookbooks of all time. The elegant dessert spread across America showing up everywhere from fine dining to fast casual restaurants.

While the technique may have been perfected by master chefs like Jacques Torres, Tom Colicchio, and of course, Vongerichten, the recipe doesn't require a culinary heavy-weight belt to produce. This gooey, rich cake made from scratch will add a taste of chocolate decadence to the end of dinner parties and romantic dinners for two. Not to mention, one taste of the homemade version and you will forever be ruined from enjoying the pre-packaged, microwave variety again.

Round up the ingredients you need

Mise en place is perhaps one of the most important steps in baking, so round up your ingredients for these two individually portioned cakes before doing anything else. For the cakes, you will need: 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 large eggs, 2 tablespoons flour, a pinch of salt, and non-stick cooking spray. 

Next, assemble the kitchen tools necessary

You will need: an electric mixer (handheld or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment), baking sheet, two 6-ounce ramekins, medium to large mixing bowl, microwave-safe bowl, and a rubber spatula.

Preheat the oven and prepare the ramekins

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. While the oven is preheating, prepare your ramekins by generously spraying the inside of the cups with the non-stick cooking spray. Then, sprinkle a small spoonful of sugar in the cups, move the cups around to coat the sides and bottom with the sugar. Flip the ramekins over to remove any excess sugar.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave

In the microwave-safe bowl, melt the 4 ounces of chocolate by heating on high at 30-second intervals, stirring in between to ensure the chocolate melts evenly, and does not burn. This should take about a minute to melt.

Dice the butter and combine with the sugar

Cut the room temperature butter into ¼-inch cubes, and combine with the sugar in the mixing bowl. 

Cream the butter

Cream the butter and sugar together using your electric mixer. The creamed butter will look like a smooth paste, free of lumps, when you are done.

Add the eggs

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating with your electric mixer to incorporate the eggs. The batter should be smooth and foaming slightly.

Add the flour and salt

Add the 2 tablespoons of flour and pinch of salt at the same time. Once the flour is added, the gluten bonds that give the cake its structure will start to form, so you want to be careful not to over mix this delicate cake or the final product might turn out tough.

Beat to combine

Beat with your electric mixer to combine the ingredients. Make sure there aren't any pockets of flour in the batter.

Add the melted chocolate

Temper the batter with the warm chocolate by adding just a third of the melted chocolate to start. Stir to incorporate the chocolate — it is OK is streaks are visible at this point. 

Fold the batter

Add the remaining chocolate to the batter. Using your rubber spatula, gently fold the batter, starting at 12 o'clock, dragging your spatula down the center of batter, finally folding half the batter onto the other half. Repeat this step until there are no visible streaks.

Fill the ramekins

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared ramekins. The cups should be 3/4 full with batter.

Bake the cakes until

Place the cakes on the baking sheet and carefully transfer the cakes to the center rack of your pre-heated oven. Bake them until the edges just start to pull away from sides of the ramekin, about 10 minutes.

Unmold the lava cakes with a smack

Let the chocolate lava cakes sit in their ramekins for another 5 minutes after they are removed from the oven to finish cooking. Then, flip the molds over onto your serving plate in one motion. Tap the bottom of the mold with your hand to encourage the cakes to release from the ramekins. 

Garnish and serve the cake immediately

Garnish your unmolded lava cake with fresh berries, whipped cream, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream just as chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten served his Chocolate Valrhona Cake at JoJo, putting this elegant dessert "on-the-map."