Molten Lava Cake

Molten Lava Cake on a plate with a spoon

The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 12 mins
Cool: 5 mins
Total: 37 mins
Servings: 4
Yield: 4 (6-ounce) ramekins
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
595 Calories
41g Fat
49g Carbs
8g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 595
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 41g 53%
Saturated Fat 24g 119%
Cholesterol 250mg 83%
Sodium 91mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 49g 18%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 37g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 57mg 4%
Iron 5mg 29%
Potassium 295mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

What could be better than a chocolate cake for dessert? How about a chocolate cake served warm with a river of chocolate running from it? Using dark chocolate produces a molten lava cake that's better than any you'll ever get in a restaurant.

The story of this molten chocolate cake begins with 80's nostalgia. As legend has it, in 1981, three-star French chef Michel Bras was inspired to create a cake that invoked the feelings of a warm cup of hot chocolate. The resulting recipe placed a ball of ganache in the center of chocolate cake; when the cake bakes, the ganache becomes a liquid center. Six years later, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten accidentally created the most common variation when he slightly under-baked chocolate cupcakes—the crowd and soon country gave a standing ovation for the dessert.

There is no right or wrong method here, but we like Vongerichten's ideation for its ease, fewer dirty dishes, and luxurious gooey center. We use a high oven temperature to set the outside of the cake, while leaving the inside slightly fluid. At the end of the bake, the internal temperature of the cakes should read 160 F to ensure the eggs are fully cooked. Much like a souffle, we whip the eggs and yolks to a thick consistency to give both tenderness and structure to the cake. Just a hint of flour is required to give the cakes the strength to stand up when inverted.

“Cutting into a moist, dark chocolate cake is heavenly enough, but when it starts oozing a thick chocolate sauce, it's worthy of a quiet squeal of delight. Delicious, not overly sweet, warm, and satisfying. Preparing the batter in advance is a convenient make-ahead option, which will keep this recipe in my rotation for years to come.” —Diana Andrews

Molten Lava Cake/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray or unsalted butter, for greasing ramekins

  • Cocoa powder, for dusting

  • 6 ounces high-quality semi-sweet or dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature

  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • Pinch of kosher salt

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • Whipped cream or ice cream, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Molten Lava Cake ingredients in bowls

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  2. Lightly grease 4 (6-ounce) ramekins, then dust with cocoa powder and tap out any excess. Ensure the ramekins are well coated in cocoa powder as this helps prevent the cake from sticking. Preheat oven to 450 F.

    Greased ramekins dusted with cocoa powder

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  3. In a double boiler set over simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth.

    Melted chocolate and butter mixture over a double boiler

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a medium bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat the eggs, yolks, sugar, and salt on medium speed until thickened, pale, and almost tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.

    Eggs, yolks, sugar, and salt mixture in a glass bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  5. With a silicone spatula, fold the chocolate mixture and flour into the eggs, continuing to fold until smooth and completely combined, making sure to incorporate any chocolate from the bottom of the bowl.

    Lava cake batter in a large glass bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  6. Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Divide the batter among the prepared ramekins.

    Lava cake batter in ramekins in a baking pan

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  7. Bake until the cakes are just set and starting to pull away from the sides of the ramekins, but the center is still soft, 12 minutes.

    Baked molten lava cakes in ramekins in a baking pan

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  8. Let the cakes cool for 4 minutes, then use a kitchen towel or oven mitt to invert the cakes onto serving plates and let stand for 1 minute more before unmolding. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

    Molten Lava Cake on a plate, and a ramekin on a plate

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

Tips

  • For chocolate flavor that really hits you in the feels, stir 1 tablespoon of espresso powder into the melted chocolate and butter before folding into the eggs.
  • Since chocolate is the star here, make sure you use the highest quality. We like to go for baking bars that are at least 60% cacao or more.
  • The baking time can vary depending on your oven and how molten you would like your cakes to be. If you insert a thermometer in the middle of the cakes, the batter should reach 160 F to ensure the eggs in the batter are cooked. This will help you determine when the cakes are ready and avoid overbaking.

Make Ahead

You can prepare the batter ahead of time and portion into the ramekins, then cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Allow to come to room temperature before baking.

Recipe Variations

Dusting the ramekins with cocoa powder helps the cakes release when inverted, but you can dust them with sugar, flour, or even freeze-dried fruit that's been blitzed in a food processor until fine.


You can add a number of different flavorings to the batter, including:

  • Orange zest
  • Vanilla extract
  • Bourbon or bourbon extract
  • Caramel
  • Ground freeze-dried fruit
  • Spices like cardamom, cinnamon, or even chili pepper

How to Store

  • You can store baked and cooled lava cakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Reheat cakes in the microwave in 30-second bursts until warm.
Article Sources
The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. How the hottest dessert of the ’90s lost its cool. (n.d.). Thrillist.