And now we come to dessert. Oh my. There were 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 chocolate 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 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 a 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 it. 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 ice cream), and can recommend it highly.