The chocolate lava cake has got to be one of the most popular desserts to ever hit American dessert menus. The story goes that Jean-George Vongerichten created it in New York, sometime in the 80s. Others claim it goes farther back in history and should be credited to the French. Whoever was the first to pull a chocolate cake from the oven too soon, to discover that it was thoroughly baked on the outside and still warm and gooey on the inside, was a genius. Since the 80s nearly all restaurants have created a version of this cake. Some of the recipes, including Vongerichten’s, are not actually flourless, but for Passover it must be. The version I have created is made with bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder, butter and egg whites. It is just a touch lighter in texture than many recipes, due to the whipped egg whites. If you need to make the dessert parve (no dairy), you can replace the butter with your favorite margarine or butter substitute, but not oil. These can be prepared a few days ahead, refrigerated and baked just before serving.
Flourless Chocolate Lava Cakes:
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup (1 ounce) cocoa powder (Dutched or Natural), sifted if very lumpy
5 ounces (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter (or margarine), plus extra for ramekins
2/3 cup (6 fl oz) egg whites (about 6 large egg whites)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) sugar, plus extra for dusting ramekins
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-ounce chunks for center of cake (optional)
Powdered sugar for top of cakes
Blackberries or raspberries for top of cakes
To make the cakes:
grease eight 6-Ounce Ramekins with butter and then coat with sugar, set aside.
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in the center of the oven.
Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl over a pot of simmering water to create a double boiler. Once the water is simmering, turn off the heat and allow the chocolate to melt.
Whisk in the cocoa powder, butter and salt.
It should be smooth, with no visible lumps.
Whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Reduce the speed and slowly add the sugar to the whites. Once it is all added turn the speed to medium-high and whip to medium-soft peaks.
Mix 1/3 of the whites into the chocolate to loosen it up.
Gently fold another 1/3 of the whites into the chocolate. Repeat with the last of the whites.
Put the batter into a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Divide evenly among the prepared ramekins.
it should go about 1/2 way up the sides. If it is more than 2/3 then use more ramekins.
The trick to getting a fluid center to these cakes is the timing in the oven. I usually bake just one to make sure I have the right timing. I break it open and see if the center is still gooey, if not, I reduce the time. If the cake just falls apart I add another minute to the baking.
As a bit of insurance you can add 1/2-ounce chunk of chocolate to the center of the cake, this will be nice and runny, no matter if you are a minute over. Just press it into the top of the cakes, just beneath the surface (a bit farther down than this picture shows).
Bake the cakes for about 8 minutes (if the batter is still warm) or 10 minutes if the batter has been refrigerated first. Don’t forget to do a test on just one cake to get the timing just right.
Remove from the oven and let the cake sit for about 3 minutes before inverting onto a plate. If the cake is stuck, run a thin paring knife around the edge.
Cover the top with berries and a dusting of powdered sugar.
When you cut into the center chocolate should run out onto the plate. Enjoy!
Here are some of my other favorite Passover desserts from past years:
(Click on the pictures for recipe)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte – Made with Matzo meal