A Chocolate Lava Cake Recipe for two that’s decadent and straightforward to make
I’m not ashamed to say I am enjoying a personal chocolate cake that comes with a built-in sauce that can be whipped on the table in under an hour. And made with pantry staples. And is great for a special home date (this is a bountiful, occasional treat, but you can stretch each cake to 2 servings if you happen to have four people eating it!).
For a story of the dessert, I recommend this excellent piece on Thrillist by Khushbu Shah who is now the restaurant editor at Food & Wine. She traces how chocolate lava cakes seem to have evolved in two slightly different variations, one by French chef Michel Bras, which contains a frozen ganache center that melts when baked, and one by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, which is undercooked in the middle to create the flowing sauce.
The former is the kind that became infamous in the 2014 film Chef, in which a restaurant critic portrayed by Oliver Platt pans the dessert and causes the chef played by Jon Favreau to vehemently defend his version with the frozen ganache that culminates reached in the line: “It is being melted!” Indeed, and after trying a recipe that Favreau and Chef Roy Choi, an advisor to the film, demonstrated in a video on the Binging With Babish website, I can say it’s a thing of beauty! However, I ended up going for the pre-dishes recipe because you don’t have to make a separate ganache and it was just as satisfying.
If you can melt chocolate and use a hand mixer then you can make this formidable, but shockingly simple dessert. One of the biggest potential sticking points is literally getting the cakes out of the baking molds or molds. Make sure you grease it abundantly with butter and then sprinkle it with cocoa powder (of course, it gives the outside of the cake a lighter, reddish hue, while the Dutch process, as seen here, creates a dramatically darker exterior). You don’t want to see a single patch of uncoated ceramic. So if you do get a stained coating don’t be afraid to clean it up and start over. It is so important.
Given the speed at which these cook and the variability of the ovens, it’s especially important to stay close and pay attention. The outside edge of the cakes should be a bit bouncy, although the center looks slightly wobbly and dipped in the center. About a minute after taking them out of the oven, quickly and safely get them out and prepare to amaze yourself and your meal companion. Any insult you’ve heard about chocolate lava cake will melt away in an instant.
Recipe Notes: This recipe doubles slightly. Serve with a pinch of whipped cream and berries or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Store the casserole molds with the unbaked dough in the refrigerator for several hours. Bring back to room temperature before baking.
Add up to 1 tablespoon of your favorite liqueur to stir in after combining the chocolate and egg mixes. For an orange-flavored cake, rub the peel of 1 orange into the sugar before combining it with the eggs. To make this recipe gluten-free, you can substitute a gluten-free flour mixture.
If you are concerned about undercooked batter, you can use pasteurized eggs. Or you can add ganache and cook the dessert completely. For the ganache, add 1/4 cup of heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, add 2 ounces of dark chocolate. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Place the ganache in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes until set. Half fill the baking dish with batter, add 1 tablespoon of ganache and cover with the rest of the batter. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces / 57 grams) of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus more for greasing the molds
- Cocoa powder for dusting (natural or Dutch process)
- 2 ounces (57 grams) of bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
Place the grid in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees.
Brush two 4-ounce molds, pudding cups, or casserole dishes generously with cocoa powder and knock out the excess.
Combine the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan with a few inches of boiling water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water and stir until the chocolate is almost completely melted. (Alternatively, you can microwave them together starting at 1 minute on HIGH, then stir and finish in short bursts at 50 percent power as needed until they are almost melted. Stir them together until thoroughly mixed.) Take the bowl out of the pan.
While the chocolate and butter melt, in a medium bowl with a whisk or hand mixer on medium height, beat the egg, yolks, and sugar together until light, thick, and pale yellow.
Stir chocolate and butter until done; it should be pretty warm. Gradually stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, then quickly stir in the flour by hand until everything is well mixed.
Spread the dough between the molds. (At this point, you can keep the desserts in the refrigerator for up to several hours. Bring them back to room temperature before baking.)
Transfer the shapes to a baking sheet so that they are easy to move in and out of the oven (and contain a possible overflow). Bake for 8 to 10 minutes – the longer you bake, the less “sauce” there will be. The center is still pretty soft and slightly submerged, but the sides are set. Let rest for about a minute.
Place an overturned plate on top of the mold and flip the plate and shape over by holding the shape in one hand with a pot holder, glove, or tea towel. (If you have a light pan rest or trivet, you can put the baking dish over it and use it to invert too.) Let it sit for about 10 seconds. Demolding by lifting one side of the mold; The cake falls on the plate. It’s okay if you have to tap the baking dish or gently shake it to poke it out. Serve immediately.
Calories: 470; Total fat: 40 g; Saturated fat: 24 g; Cholesterol: 245 mg; Sodium: 40 mg; Carbohydrates: 28 g; Dietary fiber: 3 g; Sugar: 19 g; Protein: 7 g.
Adapted from “Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef” by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman (Broadway Books, 1998, published on leitesculinaria.com).
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