Lava CakesBen, my son-in-law, doesn’t like sweets. One day while in our store, he somehow got left with an orphaned lava cake, a strawberry white chocolate one.  Rather than let it go to waste, he tried a bite.  He ended up eating the whole thing.  When Ben eats a whole dessert, it must be good.

When we started our lava cake project, we were looking for not only the best tasting lava cake but the most practical recipe.  We would then use that recipe as a template to create variations on the type.  So we gathered promising recipes and started baking.

Types of Lava Cakes

Lava cakes come in two forms.  The most common are little pudding cakes. They’re dense chocolaty cakes with the centers still molten and oozing—unless you bake them too long, which we did on several occasions.  Then you just have dense chocolate cakes.

The second type of lava cake has a chocolate center instead of a batter center.  Quality chocolate is nestled in the batter to melt during baking. The centers are real chocolate and the baking time is not as critical.   Our lava cake mix is this type with fine chocolate for the centers.
Pudding cake-type lava cakes are simple and very good.  You just have to watch the bake time carefully.  Very quickly you’ll learn to tell when they are done but here are the signs that they are baked.

Baking Times

Pudding cake-type lava cakes are simple and very good.  You just have to watch the bake time carefully.  Very quickly you’ll learn to tell when they are done but here are the signs that they are baked.

  • The edges of the cakes become firm while the center is jiggly.
  • A toothpick stuck in the cake a half inch from the edge comes out clean.
  • Some of the cakes start to rise above the pan with sharp edges protruding.  (See the picture.)  The edges don’t always protrude, but if they do, the cakes are done.

If, after examining the cakes, you decide they are not quite done, you can put them back in the oven for another minute or two.

Most of our cakes were baked in eight to nine minutes.  The exception was the strawberry white chocolate cakes.  Because the batter included partially frozen strawberry pieces, these took longer to bake.

Getting the Cakes from the Pan

Warm lava cakes are somewhat fragile since the centers are molten.  A good nonstick muffin pan is essential.  The easiest way to remove the cakes is to cover the pan with a cutting board, invert the pan and board together, hold them horizontally, and drop them on the counter.  (See the pictures.)  Before doing this, run a thin-bladed silicone spatula around the edges.  Wait three to five minutes before dropping the pan.

Before putting the cake batter into the muffin tin, wipe softened butter into each cup with a paper towel or basting brush until each cup is entirely covered with butter. Then sprinkle granulated sugar over the pan covering each cup completely, shaking the pan if needed to distribute. Shake out excess sugar.

Once they finish baking and cooling for 5 minutes (see above). Place a cutting board or cookie sheet over your muffin tin.

Hold the cutting board and the muffin tin together and flip it over.

Hold the upside-down muffin tin and cutting board 6″-8″ above the counter and drop it abruptly.

Slowly lift the muffin tin off the cutting board slightly jiggling it if necessary. If you see some cakes sticking, put the muffin tin back over them and drop it again.

Wa-la! Perfect lava cakes!

Developing the Recipes

What follows is the basic recipe, a dark chocolate lava cake.  Once we had this mastered, we moved on to variations.  We made orange white chocolate lava cakes.  (We served both dark chocolate and the orange lava cakes to a class we were teaching.  The class preferred the orange.)

We made raspberry white chocolate lava cakes using our raspberry tidbits.  They were a bust.  They tasted great but the tidbits sunk to the bottom, melted, and stuck to the pan.  But they tasted great.  (We should have known that would happen.  We have tried tidbits in cheesecakes and they sank to the bottom then too.)

We made strawberry white chocolate lava cakes with frozen strawberries.  They were absolutely delightful though with chunks of fruit in the center, there wasn’t a lot of oozing.  We considered that a small price to pay for something so delectable.

Sauces and toppings

Traditionally, lava cakes are topped with whipped cream or ice cream.  We made three sauces to go with the three recipes: a raspberry sauce for the dark chocolate cakes, an orange marmalade sauce for the orange white chocolate cakes, and a strawberry sauce for the strawberry cakes.  We have included recipes for the sauces with the cake recipes.

More Lava Cakes to Come

Molten lava cakes make scrumptious, impressive desserts without a lot of work.  These recipes open the door for more to come. Merri Ann, my wife, can’t eat wheat.  There is not much flour in these recipes.  I think we can substitute rice flour and the recipes will work just fine.  And we certainly need a raspberry white chocolate lava cake recipe.  I’m also envisioning a South Seas lava cake with mango pieces and coconut syrup.

What kind of lava cakes can you dream up?