Menu Development
This dessert is a chocolate lover’s dream
By Pasquale “Pat” Bruno, Jr.

Molten lava cake –– you gotta love the name. But to shower even more love on that name, put the word “chocolate” in front of it. This beauty of this cake has been kicking around for a while, but it hasn’t lost any of its appeal. How could it? The very idea of chocolate on chocolate is hard to resist.

I am going to offer two recipes for your consideration. Both are quite easy to make, and both can be made well ahead. You will note that the first recipe makes eight individual servings. Should it happen that you don’t use all of them the day they are made, simply put those left in an airtight container in the cooler. Then simply reheat and garnish as needed — but I wouldn’t push the shelf life past three days.

Also, in the first recipe I give you a shortcut — instead of making the cake batter the long way, I use a boxed cake mix. The mix I prefer is Pillsbury “Moist Supreme Devil’s Food” Mix. One box (consumer sized at 18.25 ounces) is sufficient to make eight individual molten lava cakes.

Here is how it goes. Equipment needs are minimal. You will need eight 4-ounce porcelain ramekins. These ramekins are readily available and are very inexpensive (around a buck or less each). A hand mixer helps speed things along, but most of the time I use a whisk or a heavy spoon to beat the cake batter. Then it’s simply a two-step process, and both steps can be done ahead if necessary.

Having said that, and knowing how delicious these cakes are, it is now up to you and your wait staff to romance the goods. By romancing I mean bringing this decadent dessert to the attention of the customer and noting –– through table cards or menu highlights –– that the chocolate molten lava cakes are made in house. Add “made fresh daily” if that’s the case.

When it comes to presentation, place a cake on a dessert plate (top up). Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar or cocoa powder. Add some sliced strawberries or a fresh raspberry or two, even whip cream to gild this tasty lily even more.

Once you taste the ganache used in the first recipe, you will want to double the batch and drop a dollop on top of each cake just before serving. Or warm the ganache enough to allow some casual drips of the ganache over and around the plate. Yes, more romance, but it’s just these kind of extra touches that you will need to up your check average (especially as customers continue to pull back from spending).

Chocolate Molten Lava Cake
Makes 8 servings

Ganache Filling

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped (or use chocolate morsels)

Combine the whipping cream and the corn syrup in a saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to combine. Put the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl. Pour the simmering cream mixture over the chocolate and stir to combine and smooth out. Let sit for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in the freezer for 25 minutes (stir occasionally) until the ganache is firm and can be scooped with a spoon.

Butter and flour (shake out the excess) eight 4-ounce ramekins. Set the ramekins on a sheet pan. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Make the cake batter. Follow the package instruction (you will need vegetable oil, eggs, water) on the chosen cake mix box.

To assemble: Fill each ramekin with about 3 tablespoons of the cake batter. Make a well in the center by pushing the batter up the sides (the bottom of the ramekin should not be visible however).
Scoop 1 tablespoon of the ganache into the center of the batter of each ramekin.

Spoon another 2 tablespoons (about) of the cake batter on top of the ganache, the point being to “seal” the ganache between two layers of the cake batter. The batter should come up to about 1/4-inch from the top of the ramekin.

Bake the cakes in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until tested clean or the cakes spring back lightly to the touch. Let cool for a minute or two.

You can serve at once, by removing the cake from the ramekin (run a knife around the edges to loosen) and then plating and garnishing it. Or leave the cakes in the ramekin for later use (you will need to reheat the cakes a bit before serving). Unmold and garnish as needed.

Molten Lava Cakes

This recipe does not use a ganache center, so the “molten” aspect is not as impressive. On the other hand, the serving portion is slightly larger. These cakes will not hold as long as in the previous recipe, so I would advise making them the same day of service.

Makes 6 servings

8 1-ounce squares semisweet chocolate
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks

Butter and flour six 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Melt the chocolate with the butter over low heat or in a microwave. Add the flour and the sugar to the chocolate mixture. Combine the eggs and egg yolks and add to the chocolate mixture. Beat until smooth.

Put the custard cups on a baking sheet. Divide the batter evenly among the custard cups. Bake for about 15 minutes. The edges should be firm and the center just a bit runny.

To serve, run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake. Invert onto a dessert plate dusted with powdered sugar or cocoa powder. Garnish with whipped cream or fresh fruit.

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