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The Elusive Warm Chocolate Cake

You KNOW you do it. You go out for a fantastic meal and finally it’s time to look over the dessert menu. You are looking for that one dessert, the only one which will satisfy your decadent craving, and it HAS to come with any of the following adjectives: “warm”, “gooey”, “fondant”, “lava”, “molten”, “pudding”, “moist”, “decadence”, or “flourless” and they all have to either begin or end with “chocolate.” To titillate us even further, we are made to wait an additional 20 minutes while the pastry chef works his or her chocolatey magic.

So why, with all the fuss surrounding this dessert, and the additional time put into it, is it so hard to get a really good warm chocolate cake? As recently as last week (honeymooning with my new husband in Hawaii!) I was presented with what was described as a “warm chocolate molten cake” in what is notably Kaui’s top restaurant. Nevertheless, the dessert was dry, lacked chocolate flavor and the only thing molten about it was the purchased ice cream that was mounded on top (my poor hubby, I am not easy person to partake in dessert with!). I was disappointed to say the very least – this woman needed her chocolate fix! While I can’t go around complaining to waiters that their pastry chef’s version of molten simply is not molten enough for me, I can, at the very least, talk about how to go about achieving success with this mysterious dessert.

There are two ways to get a gooey center. One way is to simply underbake, what is basically a flourless, or nearly flourless chocolate cake so that a crust forms on the outside and the interior cooks just enough so the eggs, sugar and chocolate become a sort of custard or liquidy pudding. The second method, and perhaps the best method for those who worry about over or under-baking, if to insert a ball of ganache (infused cream and chocolate) or some chopped chocolate into the center of the unbaked cake so the center remains soft and molten. Personally, I like this second method as it takes out some of the guess work during baking and it means adding MORE chocolate to an already chocolatey dessert – I’m all over that! The following recipe does include flour. That said, you could reduce the amount of flour if desired and, while the recipe is large, it can easily be divided.

Warm Chocolate Molten Cake


  • 11 ounces butter (2 3/4 sticks)
  • 10 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate (cut into 1/2 ounce chunks) – you may also use ganache balls here if you prefer
  • 6 eggs
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Brush 12 ramekins with butter – swirl sugar around in each ramekin so that the sugar sticks to the butter – make sure you tap out any excess sugar. This will help create a sweet, crunchy crust on the outside of your cakes.

In a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, using a beater or mixer, whisk together the eggs, yolks, and sugar until light and frothy. Fold the egg mixture into chocolate mixture; then mix in the flour.

Fill the ramekins with the batter. Into the center of each filled ramekin insert the chocolate chunks or ganache balls. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes. (Alternatively, refrigerate the cakes until ready to bake, up to a day in advance. If baking cold, do so for 5 to 6 minutes.) Using an offset spatula or sharp paring knife, run along the edges of the cake before tipping it onto the plate for service. Or, alternatively, serve the cake in the ramekin with your topping of choice.

By: Elizabeth Goel -- Sep 20, 2007
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