National Chocolate Day recipe: How to make chocolate molten lava cake

There are few desserts more iconic, yet so underappreciated by foodies, than the humble chocolate lava cake. In honor of National Chocolate Day, this recipe will have you licking your lips.

Lava cake is quick and easy to make, and will make the whole family happy.
Lava cake is quick and easy to make, and will make the whole family happy.  © Unsplash/Jennifer Schmidt

When you bite into a chocolate lava cake, the mixture of textures is exquisite. The light, fluffy, slightly crunchy cake contrasts with the molten chocolate that coats your pallet, perfectly complemented by the custard or freezing cold ice cream that you've had served alongside it.

Now imagine if you could make such a wonderful dessert at home. It may not be as tough as you think.

If you're a fan of chocolate, you will be a fan of this lava cake recipe. How do you make chocolate molten lava cake, what are the ingredients and equipment you need, and what should you serve with it?

Let's take a look.

How to make lava cake: Recipe

There are few desserts easier to make than the humble lava cake. It's quick, it's delicious, and it'll never fail to impress an audience. While you won't need many ingredients, you will need a few pieces of equipment to help you get the job done. Don't worry, it's nothing expensive, but it is important.

Here's the equipment you'll need to make chocolate lava cake:

  • A medium-sized pot
  • Metal heat-proof bowl
  • Ramekins
  • Spoon
  • Oven
  • Paper towel
  • Whisk

This is a small amount of equipment, but it's vital that you use ramekins and not a larger tray to cook your lava cake. If you don't, you'll lose the lava experience.

Lava cake's defining feature is the molten chocolate core that spills out when the cake is broken.
Lava cake's defining feature is the molten chocolate core that spills out when the cake is broken.  © IMAGO/Pond5 Images

Chocolate lava cake recipe | Ingredients

This is the crux of the matter: A proper French lava cake doesn't require many ingredients, but it does require high-quality ingredients. In fact, the list below only contains five things, but each of those things - especially the chocolate and the eggs - need to be of a high standard if you want the best flavor out of your dessert. Sorry, guys, no Hershey's chocolate, please!

Here are the ingredients for chocolate lava cake:

  • Dark chocolate, 9 ounces
  • Salted butter, 4 oz
  • Sugar, 4 oz
  • Flour, 3 tablespoons
  • 4 eggs

On the proportions: This recipe should make around 3-4 small lava cakes, each a perfect portion for a single person. If you want to serve more or less people, adjust the ingredient quantities proportionally.

Chocolate lava cake recipe | Instructions

Putting together the chocolate lava cake is an experience in itself, though not particularly different from the process of making an ordinary cake. Don't worry either; there are no complicated or difficult processes here that you need to attend to, just some pretty basic baking techniques.

Here's how to make a chocolate lava cake

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 400-410°F. Grease your ramekins with butter by using a paper towel, putting butter on it, and rubbing the butter around the inside of each small cup.

Step 2: Make a double boiler by putting some water into your medium-sized pot and bringing the water to a boil on the stovetop. Once it is at a rolling boil, place your metal bowl over the top so that it sits above the water and gets heated by the steam.

Step 3: Crack your chocolate into the bowl and, with the spoon, mix the chocolate around, keeping it moving until it has completely melted. The benefit of using this method is that there is no direct heat and, therefore, you aren't going to burn the chocolate by raising it above the boiling temperature of water (steam, 212°F).

Step 4: Once the chocolate is all melted, take it off the heat and add your eggs to the melted chocolate. Whisk it all together so that it is completely combined, and then add the butter and do the same.

Step 5: Add your sugar and flour together and mix thoroughly until completely combined and very creamy but not too thick.

Step 6: Pour your mixture into the ramekins, taking care to leave at least half an inch of space around the top to avoid spillage. Place the ramekins in the oven for 15–20 minutes.

Step 7: Remove your lava cakes from the oven and allow them to rest for at least 3–5 minutes before removing them from the ramekins and serving.

Serve your beautiful little lava cakes alongside something selected from the list below, and present it to your loved ones with pride. It may have been easy, but it won't fail to impress!

What is a lava cake?

There's something great about the humble lava cake, as it's so warm and comforting.
There's something great about the humble lava cake, as it's so warm and comforting.  © Unsplash/Luna Hu

Lava cake, otherwise known as molten chocolate cake, is a French dessert thought to have been invented by Michel Bras in the early 1980s. The original inspiration for the recipe was apparently the idea of a family warming themselves up by drinking hot chocolate on a skiing trip. While this is the most widely accepted origin story, it is by no means definitively true.

The dessert itself, though, is a pretty simple one. Lava cake is, at its core (pun intended), a chocolate cake with a molten chocolate center that spills out when cut into. It's about providing a little bit of spectacle to your dessert-eating experience, creating a mini chocolate volcano on the plate.

Often served with a bit of ice cream or some custard (outside of France), it has been made popular across the world by its inclusion on the menus of fast food restaurants. This is because it is easy to mass-produce a low-quality version of the dish that can be heated up in the microwave to replicate the molten center.

It should only, however, include five basic ingredients - butter, eggs, chocolate, sugar, and flour - and should be kept as simple as possible. Like most French cooking, it's about good ingredients, skill, and simplicity.

Can you make a non-chocolate lava cake?

The basic concept, a cake with a liquid core, is possible without chocolate. It is not, however, a lava cake if you do this, and certainly not of the French tradition. You can try it out with lemon-themed cakes, pumping lemon curd into the center, but again, this is replicating the end result in a very disingenuous way.

If you're going to have a lava cake, have a real lava cake! It doesn't need to be fancy, it doesn't need to be sophisticated, it just needs to be a chocolate lava cake. It really is that simple.

Lava cakes can be served with a variety of delicious fruits and other condiments.
Lava cakes can be served with a variety of delicious fruits and other condiments.  © IMAGO/Pond5 Images

What to serve with lava cake

There are many great options for things that you can serve with a good chocolate lava cake. While you shouldn't change the recipe of the cake itself (except, perhaps, by mixing coffee into the chocolate), there are plenty of condiments you can add to the exterior of your creation. These may include fruits, additional sauces, or something else.

Here's what we would recommend serving with your lava cake:

  • An espresso/coffee
  • Red currants
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberry
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Custard
  • Ice cream
  • Cream (whipped or double cream)
  • Limoncello
  • Bailey's

Don't over-complicate it. Simply add one, maybe two things to your lava cake, and no more. We'd personally recommend a coffee and a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Lava cake is the perfect dessert

Rich and delicious, lava cake is hard to beat when it comes to a cold night's dessert. It's incredibly easy to make, doesn't require many ingredients, and is something so completely indulgent that you'll be lounging around for hours afterward. It's worth it, though, because the chocolate hit with this one is absolutely to die for.

Chuck some ice cream on there, have a couple spoonfuls of custard and enjoy it after a long day of work and a good hearty meal. There are few things better than a good ol' fashioned lava cake, and you will never regret giving it a go.

Cover photo: Unsplash/Jennifer Schmidt

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