Centre of Attention: Remastering the Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

Always thought you could go one better than your favourite dessert? So did we. Our molten chocolate lava cake proves that a new take on a classic can go a long way…

There are recipes that are risky, unpredictable and polarising, and then there are molten chocolate lava cakes – must-have dishes that find their way to the heart of diners and menus alike. The good news? Your creation is already in demand. The tricky bit? Surpassing all that expectation.

“We had to have a molten chocolate lava cake,” says our resident culinary genius, David Demaison, of the day in 2011 when he sat down to draw up our first-ever list of desserts, for our first-ever restaurant at Boucan, Saint Lucia. “It’s become an essential, people look for it.”

At the time, the now-iconic dessert had been growing steadily in popularity since the Eighties, when a French chef in New York brought it to the fore, and was now firmly established in diners’ minds. But so often the beloved dish is done badly: made with low-quality chocolate or, worse, cocoa powder, and heaped with cheap ingredients such as vanilla in an attempt to cover the inferior flavour.

As chocolatiers and cocoa growers, we knew we could do better. And the attention – and scrutiny – that our puddings were likely to draw once they launched meant that we had to. No pressure, then. We only had to update a modern-day classic…

Food artistry

A cross between a chocolate cake and a soufflé, a good molten chocolate lava cake demands precision; it’s a delicate balance of sweetness and sturdiness, of flavour and practicality. The crucial first decision was one we were perfectly placed to make: the ideal chocolate.

“Cocoa mass helps the dessert to hold its shape, and since there isn’t any in white chocolate it would be very fragile and likely to collapse,” David explains. “Milk chocolate would work, but chocolate tastes sweeter the warmer it is, so with a dessert that has a liquid centre you have to be careful that you don’t have a sponge that tastes just right and a hot middle that’s cloying.”

Surely any dark chocolate, with its high cocoa mass, would be a simple solution then?

“Something like a 90% would be too strong and not very enjoyable,” says David. “We needed to find a balance: an excellent flavour that would be maintained, even when combined with butter, sugar and eggs, but wouldn’t be too strong or too sweet.”

The solution: our 70% dark chocolate. Its elegant balance of deep, earthy aromas and smooth, rich roasted cocoa notes makes it ideally suited to the rigours of a molten chocolate lava cake.

Now all we needed was something to lift and showcase those flavours.

lava-cake

Perfect partners

“Part of the beauty of our molten chocolate lava cake is its simplicity,” says David. “We didn’t want to detract from this particular dish with fruit or a sauce; we needed an accompaniment that would lift the dessert and not take away from its simple nature.”

Out in Saint Lucia, where our cocoa grows in the shade of swaying coconut trees, the freshness of the local fruit made coconut sorbet our first choice – a kind of palate cleanser that meant diners could experience the rich flavours of the cake anew with each bite. But by the time the dessert made the journey from the Caribbean to Britain years later, something had changed.

“We’ve moved on from the coconut sorbet, and now we serve the cake with our own cocoa-nib ice cream,” says David. “It’s so good we used to serve it by itself, and then we realised how perfectly the two dishes would complement each other.”

The subtle flavour of the ice cream retains the light, refreshing sensation that we love about the sorbet, while adding another dimension to the molten chocolate lava cake: experiencing cocoa from beginning to end.

“We grind down cocoa nibs to make chocolate,” explains David. “Whole, they lend a crunch and a not-too-sweet nuttiness to the flavour profile, before you get to the soft texture of the sponge and the full richness of the melted centre. With our molten chocolate lava cake, you experience chocolate in three different modes.”

Long-term love

The molten chocolate lava cake has become a fixture of the menu at all our restaurants, and its immovability is a testament to its success.

“It’s one of our most popular dishes by far,” enthuses David, and you can join its legions of fans when you book a table at Rabot 1745, London or Roast+Conch, Leeds

Alternatively, if all this talk of culinary creativity has given you itchy baking fingers, take matters into your own hands and try our molten chocolate lava cake recipe at home. We’d love to see your creations on Twitter at @HotelChocolat as well as Instagram and Facebook

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake Recipe

The quality of your cake depends entirely on the quality of your chocolate, so choose wisely – we recommend a 65–80% dark. Why not try our 70% dark chocolate drops, or something from our Rabot range if you’re a true connoisseur.

Ingredients Instructions
Serves 6
– 75g butter, plus extra for greasing
– 65g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
– 2 large eggs
– 80g caster sugar
– 30g plain flour, plus extra for dredging
You will need 6 x 150ml dariole moulds. If you don’t have dariole moulds then use ramekins of a similar size.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the broken chocolate and stir until melted. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until combined. Mix the melted chocolate and butter into the beaten egg mixture. Sift the flour into the chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Put the mixture into an airtight container with a lid and leave in the fridge for 8 hours. This will allow the mixture to harden a little and develop its flavours.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5. Lightly butter the insides of the dariole moulds then dust them with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Place in the fridge for about 10 minutes so the butter sets.

Half-fill each mould with the chocolate mixture then place on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for about 8 minutes. The lava cakes should be soft in the middle but the edges of the cake should have started to form a wall of cooked sponge about 5mm thick. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for a minute.

Gently loosen the edges of the lava cakes by running just the tip of a small knife around the inside rim of the mould. Carefully tip the mould upside down into the middle of a serving plate, then gently pull it up to reveal a fragile, light chocolate lava. Serve with whipped cream or your favourite ice cream.

Create Your Chocolate Masterpiece competition

Baking on the brain? Find great cake recipes and more in our cookbook, A New Way of Cooking with Chocolate, £20.

Got a recipe for a cocoa dish that’s in the league of our molten chocolate lava cake? Enter our Create Your Chocolate Masterpiece competition and yours could be our next success story…

Mixologist in the making? Take inspiration from our innovative Cacao Bellini in A True Original.

Ready and raring to submit your entry? Download your entry form and fill it in, then either scan it and email it to us or print and post it back.

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