For some reason, I’m always associated with chocolate. Whenever my birthday rolls around, I go on a chocolate binge because I have friends who would treat me to chocolate cakes, bring me to chocolate cafes, and yes, even chocolate buffets. This year my hubby surprised me by bringing me to a cheese and chocolate buffet at MBS. I’m not a big fan of all-you-can-eat type things, but this buffet certainly had my name on it. When I first walked in, I thought I was in paradise. There was chocolate everywhere, and in every form imaginable – from truffles to donuts, mousse cakes to brioche. Needless to say, I had to try everything. By the end of the night, I could barely walk out of the restaurant standing straight!
When it comes to chocolate desserts, there are few that can compare to the molten chocolate cake, or chocolate lava cake, or chocolate fondant or chocolate moelleux. Whatever you like to call it, the thick warm rich chocolate that oozes out of the centre when you first dig into it has captured our hearts. US-based French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten of the famous Jean-Georges restaurants claims he invented the cake one day when he pulled out a chocolate cake too early. Jacques Torres, Mr Chocolate himself, begs to differ, arguing such a dish already existed in France. Whoever invented it we’re not absolutely sure, but Jean-Georges deserves the credit for introducing it and popularizing it in the US. So when I came across his recipe online, I decided I had to give it a try.
Honestly, I have had little success with chocolate lava cake. It is one of the simplest things to put together, but the precision needed to get the exterior cooked enough so it maintains it shape, yet not cooked too much so most of the centre remains molten, has baffled me for years. So I hesitated about posting this until I had tried it out enough times (four different times, to be exact) to be confident of passing it on. The trick? There is no trick with this one. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Because everyone’s oven is different, the exact baking time varies and the best advice I can give you is to try it out before trying to impress your guests. Bake one off first as a trial to determine how long it takes in your oven. It’s better to have one undercooked/overcooked chocolate cake, than to end up with an entire batch of chocolate lava cake you aren’t proud of. That said, presentation aside, I have found both undercooked and overcooked chocolate lava cake to be extremely delicious still. So whatever happens, your guests and your tummy are still going to thank you.
Jean-Georges’ Molten Chocolate Cake
(Recipe from Food & Wine Magazine)
Yields: Four 6oz ramekins
120g unsalted butter
170g bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona
2 egg yolks
60g cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons flour
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C and prepare the ramekins by rubbing the insides with butter and then coating with sugar.
2. Over a simmering bain-marie, melt the butter with the chocolate.
3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the egg yolks, sugar and salt at high speed until thickened and pale.
4. Whisk the chocolate until smooth. Quickly fold it into the egg mixture along with the flour.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins. If making ahead, refrigerate and bring to room temperature before baking.
6. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until the sides of the cakes are firm but the centers are soft. Let the cakes cool in the ramekins for 1 minute, then cover each with an inverted dessert plate. Carefully turn each one over, let stand for 10 seconds and then lift ramekin off plate.
7. Serve immediately.