September 9, 2005
Lava Cake

And now we come to the dessert. Oh my. There was lots and lots of praise at the dinner for this dish.

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. I make plenty of mistakes when I cook, but just occasionally, those mistakes lead to something great. That's what happened here.

A traditional volcano cake is a chocolaty mess that is baked in a ramekin but not baked all the way through. When the fork hits the cake, the unfinished but hot center oozes out like lava from a volcano.

It's always seemed like a misnomer to call this a volcano cake. Volcanos don't just ooze, they go boom! and spray magma and ash all over the place, setting stuff on fire. Sure, I've had dinner parties like that, but setting one's apartment alight is generally to be avoided. For that reason, I think "lava cake" is a much better descriptor of the dish.

America's Test Kitchen is the father/mother of this recipe. I follow their recipe almost exactly except for the two mistakes I made that turned out to be good luck.

When doubling their recipe, I accidentally didn't double the butter or the eggs. The resulting cakes were fabulous so I don't see that you need so much butter in these cakes, and I suspect the extra butter and eggs might even reduce the chocolate flavor.

So here's my sort of doubled take on America's Test Kitchen's recipe for volcano lava cake. Note that with the eggs and extra butter missing we only get 12 instead of 16 servings out of the doubled recipe.

Lava Cake serves 12

10 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for greasing ramekins
3 cups granulated sugar plus more for dusting ramekins
16 oz. bittersweet chocolate
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
4 tablespoons cornstarch
3 large eggs
4 egg yolks
4 teaspoons Grand Marnier
powdered sugar, for dusting
espresso ice cream, for eating

Prepare your 12 4 oz. ramekins by buttering them heavily, making sure to get the corners. Roll granulated sugar in the ramekins to coat, tapping out any excess.

For the cake, use chocolate bars, not chips. The chips have extra ingredients in them to stop them from sticking together. Chop the chocolate finely, and cut the butter into small chickpea-sized nuggets.

Put the butter and chocolate into a metal bowl that will fit snugly over a saucepan filled halfway up with water. Bring the water to a simmer and place bowl filled with chocolate and butter on top. Stir to melt and combine the chocolate and butter. Stir together until smooth and uniform

In a large bowl, combine the flour and cornstarch and mix well. In a separate small bowl, combine the eggs egg yolks, and grand marnier and beat the eggs until well scrambled.

Add the melted chocolate/butter mix to the bowl with the flour/cornstarch and stir to combine. Add the egg mix and stir to combine well. Keep stirring until you have a deep dark mostly uniform mixture.

Scoop out about 1/2 cup of the batter into each ramekin. You may have to adjust the amounts as you get to the last ramekins.

At this stage you may cover these with plastic and store for 24 hours before baking.

When you want to bake them, preheat an oven to 375 F. Place the ramekins in the oven and bake until the tops have set and show cracks - about 15-20 minutes. Don't overcook. You want a liquidy center.

Remove the ramekins and set them on a cooling rack for 2-3 minutes. To unmold, first run a knife between the cake and the ramekin walls to loosen. The ramekins will still be hot. Use a glove and grip the ramekin. Turn the ramekin over quickly just off-center on the serving dish and dust with powdered sugar.

Pair with a scoop of coffee or espresso ice cream. I used Ciao Bella's espresso ice cream (though known for their gelatos I think this was an ice cream), and can recommend it highly.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at September 9, 2005 9:36 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

Looks delicious. Have to try this some day. Ofcourse, I shouldn't forget to let the chocolate cool before adding the egg mixture, otherwise we *really* have scrambled eggs. Obviously, I know that, but I've forgotten before ;-)

Posted by Nico on September 15, 2005 at 11:09 PM

Lava cake isn't actually a cake that is only half cooked. Otherwise the cake would be like eating raw dough *uckie* actual lava cake is a fully cooked cake that has a hidden ganache center that melts during cooking releasing an ooze of chocolate when it is cut into. There are pudding cakes out there that were popular in the 50's and 60's that have a raw bit to them that never sets up therefore creating a pudding like layer. When looking for lava cake recipes be weary of those doughy half-cooked cakes and stick with the ganache filled style cakes; they are much better.

Posted by Corrinie on February 18, 2006 at 6:14 PM

QUOTE:In a large bowl, combine the flour and cornstarch and mix well.

Doesn't say how much flour.

Posted by Eric on July 8, 2006 at 2:51 PM

Eric, you make a good point. Let me see if I can locate my notes and fix that.

I think it was something like a half cup of flour. It's not much.

Posted by barrett on July 10, 2006 at 1:10 PM

I, too, wondered about how much flour. Can't wait to try this.

Posted by donna on August 20, 2006 at 12:07 PM

I have a stupid question. This recipe (as does the America's Test Kitchen recipe) asks for 3 eggs and 4 egg yolks. Maybe I'm looking to much into this, but does this mean 3 eggs + 4 yolks (7 total eggs)? Or 3 eggs + 1 yolk (4 total eggs)?

Posted by Dave on September 2, 2006 at 12:17 PM

Please add the flour amount. I'm trying the cake now and I'm going to have to wing it. I hope the half cup estimate was close.

Posted by Kim on September 16, 2006 at 8:16 PM

All, I just made this and its very delicious, a few comments:

1) You do not add flour, this is an error. It should say combine cornstarch with the sugar (not flour)

2) It is 7 total eggs, 3 full eggs and 4 yolks.

3) The final mixture will be very sugary (not completely smooth), this is due to the lack of eggs, don't be concerned, it works very well, but very rich, if you want it less rich add more eggs, but I thought as is this is great.

4) I topped it with a cardamom whipped cream combo and that really complimented it well, with a bit of ice cream on the side.

Happy cooking!

Posted by Aram on November 23, 2006 at 3:57 PM

hmph. America's Test Kitchen moved the recipe over to a 'premium content' sister site...too many hits not to make a profit, eh?

Posted by bornyesterday on March 11, 2007 at 9:35 AM


Posted by DEBRA L PONS on January 20, 2008 at 8:24 PM

Deb I would love the cruise ship recipe.
Thank You Cecelia Jobe

Posted by Cecelia Jobe on March 1, 2008 at 10:41 PM

Do you know if you have to use the Grand Marnier and if not do you need to replace it with something for added moisture?

Posted by Sarah on July 11, 2008 at 1:59 PM
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