Boy, those restaurants really make a killing off of us when they sell these luscious but simple to make desserts at an exorbitant price (ahem, I’m looking at you, Finale!) I saw the molten chocolate cake (a warm chocolate cake with a smooth liquid chocolate center) somewhere in the blogosphere a month ago and was not only wowed by how it easy it was to make, but also was immediately excited to make it for Valentine’s Day. In fact, I would honestly say that this dessert is easier than making chocolate chip cookies, and about on par with making one of those boxed cake or muffin mixes where you just add a couple of ingredients and mix. It’s also one of those great desserts that you can make ahead of time, keep in the fridge, and just bake them at the end of dinner for a stunning hot dessert that will impress. But hey, we can keep that between you and I… none of your guests have to know how easy it was ;)
The recipe I share with you is the original recipe from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a chef who created this dessert by accident when he under-baked a chocolate cake such that it was still liquid in the center. First published in 1999, this is the classic recipe, which I think is the perfect starting point for this dessert.
Molten Chocolate Cake (makes 2 cakes) original recipe at Food & Wine
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate (see note below for substitutions using other chocolates)
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1/8 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Butter and flour two 6 oz. ramekins.
2. In the microwave, melt chocolate and butter together in a bowl.
3. In a large bowl, beat together egg, egg yolk, and sugar until thick and pale. (I had no electric beater, so using a fork I was only able to get the eggs to be frothy at best. The dessert still came out perfectly fine, but I imagine if you want a fluffier cake then go for the pale thickness using electric beaters.)
4. Stir in melted chocolate and flour and mix well. Spoon into prepared ramekins, and set on a flat baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. The sides of the cake will rise and look cake-y, while the center remains liquid and batter-like in appearance. Remove from oven and let sit for 1 minute in ramekins.
5. Place an inverted plate on top of the ramekin and turn over. Wait 10 seconds before un-molding the ramekin. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve immediately, preferably with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy! :)
Note: I had no bittersweet baking chocolate on hand, so I made an improvisational substitution using 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate + 1.5 tbsp sugar + 1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate + 1/2 oz. milk chocolate. You are trying to achieve about a 60% cocoa content to 40% sugar content in the final chocolate. Unsweetened chocolate clearly has no sugar, so I added 1.5 tbsp, which is about 1.5 oz., thus making the chocolate approximately 60% cocoa to 40% sugar (1.5 oz. sugar out of 3.5 oz. total). Then throwing in the semi-sweet (50% cocoa) and milk chocolate (30% cocoa) gave me something probably similar to semi-sweet chocolate in the end, which was a very rich chocolate without too much sweetness. Feel free to experiment with chocolate here to suit your sweetness preference.
Having gotten this dessert before at Finale, both me and my boyfriend agreed that this version of the cake was better, as it had a deep rich chocolate flavor that wasn’t too sweet. He thought that the restaurant version tasted like a Hershey’s chocolate cake and the homemade one was more like a high end chocolate cake. It really emphasizes the cocoa, and the molten center was a perfect smooth and creamy consistency… not too liquid that it would be runny, and not too thick like custard. What was especially nice was the outer cake layer, which had a slightly crunchy crust on the outside that made each bite of cake plus molten center a texture and flavor sensation.
I would say one cake is enough to share between two people, especially as an after-dinner dessert. I was able to refrigerate the rest of the batter for a couple of days and then take it out to come to room temperature before baking, and it came out just fine. I would recommend, if you plan to make the batter ahead of time and refrigerate it, to spoon it into your ramekins before you refrigerate them, as the batter hardens when it gets cold, and can be hard to fill ramekins with until it gets soft again. I haven’t tried this myself, but I’m pretty sure you can also just bake these straight from the fridge and let them go a couple of minutes longer to get the same results. I’d just watch to make sure they have that cake ring appearance before taking them out of the oven. Now go forth and impress!!! :)