These rich, delicious Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes are sort of like a cross between a soufflé and a flourless chocolate cake, except much easier. They have a deep chocolate flavor with a molten, liquid inside that oozes out once you cut into each individually plated cake.
When it comes to decadent, rich desserts, I don’t think anything quite fits the bill like these chocolatey, warm chocolate molten lava cakes. The outside edges of the cake cook into a perfectly tender chocolate cake while the inside stays gooey soft and starts to ooze out once you cut into each cake. This happens because you cook the cakes in a very hot oven (much hotter than the temperature you normally use for cakes or cupcakes) so the outside cooks faster than the inside, creating that amazing lava effect. No need to worry about the insides being undercooked: by baking these in a 425 degree oven the eggs in the batter will definitely be over 160 degrees, even in the gooey center, which is safe to eat.
Our good friends, Jason & Ginny, introduced us to these cakes years ago when both our families were living in San Jose, California and just starting out careers before the kids came along and we used to get together and have epic game & dessert nights together at their house or ours. Since these were our pre-kiddo days and and this recipe makes 4 individual cakes, it was perfect for us. They take hardly any time at all to whip up and then they bake really fast in the hot oven. It’s practically instant chocolate gratification.
We have all moved away and had kids and grown up (maybe a little) since those days, but we still get together with the Millers whenever we can even though we live a few hours apart. And I think of Ginny whenever I make these chocolate molten lava cakes. It’s perfect for sharing with friends or you can actually even halve the recipe really easily and make just two cakes for you and your sweetie if you are looking for a special dessert for Valentine’s Day or an anniversary or other celebration. Or just a date night in once the kids are in bed! I mean, I’m all for a huge pan of Mississippi Mud Brownies when I need a chocolate fix but sometimes it’s just a lot more special to do something a little fancier or romantic, you know?
I actually made this particular batch of chocolate molten lava cakes in the morning last Friday for the sole purpose of taking pictures of them in decent lighting and I totally texted my friend Maggie to see if she wanted to come over and make really terrible life choices with me by eating chocolate cake at 10:00 a.m. on a school day while our oldest kids were in school. We both rationalized that since we had already had healthy breakfasts and it was Friday we were okay to have cake. Sometimes adulting is pretty awesome like that.
A couple of things to keep in mind when making chocolate molten lava cakes:
1. Spray your ramekins with cooking spray and dust with cocoa powder
It’s so sad when you go to invert these cakes and they stick to the ramekins. I have found that the best way to avoid this is by both spraying each ramekin with cooking spray and then dusting them with a little cocoa powder, shaking it around the bottom and side and then tapping out any excess over the sink. This dusting of cocoa powder both prevents the cake from sticking and also blends in with the cake itself, whereas just using flour to dust the ramekins would be visible on the finished cakes.
2. Use high quality chocolate
Get a couple of bars of Ghiradelli or Baker’s or Lindt or Nestle semisweet chocolate and chop them up for this recipe. They are in the baking aisle and they are totally necessary for the best lava effect and chocolate flavor. I have tried using chocolate chips instead and the cakes never turn out as well. It’s because chocolate chips are designed not to melt (even though you CAN melt them down) and when you use them in these cakes they don’t create that lava effect that you are going for. I mean, you would still end up with a chocolatey cake, but it would have way, way less lava and the overall texture of the cake itself wouldn’t be as tender.
3. Don’t overcook your chocolate molten lava cakes
The top of the cakes don’t have to look completely set before you remove these from the oven. The very centers should still look a little soft actually. Just keep telling yourself that this is a MOLTEN LAVA cake and it is supposed to look that way. If it helps, bear in mind that the ramekin itself gets really hot and will continue cooking the cake for another minute or two once you remove the cakes from the oven before you flip them onto the serving plates. It’s always disappointing to cut into a lava cake that doesn’t have much lava inside because it was cooked too long.
Since we never, ever go out on Valentine’s Day (seriously, getting reservations, let alone babysitters, is impossible for the actual holiday itself) I always try to just make something special at home and these little babies fit the bill perfectly when it comes to a romantic but easy and quick dessert. What are you planning to make for Valentine’s Day? I would love to hear in the comments below!
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