Jean George’s Chocolate Lava Cake
I love chocolate lava cakes. Who wouldn’t? Warm, soft, chocolate cake, with gooey chocolate oozing out the the middle, paired with whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream. SO GOOD.
On our last two half-anniversaries, Filip and I found ourselves in Trump Tower NYC, celebrating with delicious food at Jean-Georges. Apparently Mr. Trump is a fan of the place too; he even gets a special menu whenever he goes.
Anyway, if there is one person who knows how to make a great chocolate lava cake, it is Jean-Georges Vongerichten. (He also makes an amazing frog leg and garlic soup dish, but let’s save that for a different time.)
I found his recipe and tried it out last night, but before I go into that, I’ll start by defining what I think are the 3 tenets of a truly amazing chocolate lava cake:
- High quality chocolate — The basis of this cake is the rich, decadent, chocolate flavor that hits you with every bite. DO NOT be cheap with your chocolate selection, or you will regret it. Jean-Georges recommends Valrhona, but if you can’t get your hands on that, just get the best quality chocolate you can find.
- Perfect cake texture — I like my chocolate lava cakes a little dense. Not quite at brownie consistency, but definitely not as fluffy as a chocolate cake. The reason for this is that the cake is paired with molten chocolate goop and whipped cream. If the cake is too soft, it can easily get drowned out by all the semi liquid stuff surrounding it. The cake needs to have enough chew that when you take a bite, you’re able to taste the cake, the molten chocolate, and the cold vanilla ice cream all at the same time. Heaven.
- Toppings — If you manage to get your hands on a truly amazing chocolate lava cake, the toppings for the cake are key. You absolutely do not want your toppings to drown out the flavor of the cake. Go for some really good vanilla ice cream, or if you want to keep it simple like I did, whip up some heavy whipping cream and top it with that. The cream will help to balance out the decadence of the chocolate.
- (Optional) Alcohol pairing — To really, truly, enjoy a chocolate cake this rich, alcohol is a must. Try it with a good port for chocolates, or a sweet red wine. You can also go big and drink some good whisky with it. You’ll know if you manage to pick the perfect pairing, because the flavors will POP. If you can get your hands on Yamazaki Whiskey 21yr, you will have a good time. I also tried this with the Francis Coppola Cabernet Savignon (2013 Black Label Claret) and that was delicious.
Jean-Georges Chocolate Lava Cake
Makes ~4 servings in 4oz ramekins, filled halfway.
- 4oz, or 114g Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped into small pieces. Use the best chocolate you can find! For this recipe I used Guittard.
- 2 large eggs
- 2 yolks
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces.
- 50g sugar
- 2 teaspoons flour
- Butter and lightly flour your ramekins. You want to make sure they’re really well buttered, or the cakes will stick and not fall out!! To flour them, sprinkle a little flour all over the ramekin, and tap out the excess. Avoid leaving large chunks of flour behind.
- Prepare a bain marie (a hot water bath). Fill a saucepan with an inch and a half of water, and find a heat-proof bowl slightly larger than the lip of your saucepan. Heat the water till it boils, then turn it down till it’s at a really gentle simmer.
- Place the butter and the chocolate into your heat-proof bowl, and put that on top of the barely simmering water. Stir occasionally for even heating.
- When melted, remove from heat while you prepare the egg mixture.
- Combine eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk until light and thick and foamy. The mixture will become a lighter yellow when it is ready.
- Add the egg mixture and the flour to the melted chocolate. Stir to combine.
- Divide the batter into your 4 ramekins. You’ll want to make sure there’s an even distribution of batter in each ramekin, so that the bake times will be the same.
- You can bake them immediately, or cover and keep in your refrigerator for up to 3 hours. Bring them back to room temperature just before baking.
- To bake, heat oven to 450F. Put the molds onto a baking sheet or a tray (this makes them easier to transport), and bake for 7–9 minutes.
- The tops of the cake will still look wet when you remove them, but this is expected (it’s how you get the lava).
- Place on a cooling rack when done, and let sit for one minute.
- Taking great care not to burn yourself (the ramekins are HOT!), place a small plate on top of the ramekin and invert the cake onto the plate. If well buttered, the cake should fall gently onto the plate. If not, carefully run a knife along the edge of the cake to loosen, and then try again.
- Serve immediately with ice cream or whipped cream, and a glass of whiskey or port. Add a couple of raspberries for garnish.