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February 13, 2008

More Chocolate, This Time of the Warm Molten Variety


I have a secret to share: you know the sexy, ubiquitous warm molten chocolate cakes that appear on many a Valentine’s Day menu? I’ve never made them before. At least, not until last weekend, when I decided this was an omission in my repertoire I needed to rectify. After going through several recipes, I decided that the version where you place a ball of ganache in the middle of the batter was the way to go. This ensures that the while the cake bakes up light and delicately souffléd, the center melts into a sensual liquid flow. Making ganache truffles also gave me the opportunity to play around with recipe and create two versions – one for each of the fabulous presents I received last week!


The wonderfully talented and thoughtful Ivonne sent me a box full of sweet surprises, which included a jar of her own vibrant blood orange syrup. I knew it would make a lovely accompaniment to a chocolate cake, and so Molten Chocolate-Chipotle Cake with Blood Orange Sauce and Cinnamon-Cardamom Crumbles was created. A bit of ground chipotle pepper added to the chocolate ganache gives it a smoky heat that leaves a pleasantly warming tingle on your tongue.  The subtle spiciness actually seems to boost the rich chocolatey-ness of the cake, giving it a lingering, smooth finish. The blood orange syrup adds a gorgeous sweet-tart note to the dessert – it’s like framing the cake in a bright, citrusy sunburst. As a final touch, the buttery cinnamon-cardamom crumbles (I actually just made a spiced cookie and pulverized it in the food processor) provide crunchy contrast. Together, all the components combine into a bold symphony of flavors.


If the first version is an effervescent modern painting, the second, Molten Chocolate Matcha Cake with Tonka Bean Crème Anglaise - is a serene Zen garden. Although matcha is often combined with white chocolate so its verdant hue may be preserved, I found that matching it with dark chocolate made for an austerely sophisticated flavor. The smooth, slightly bitter taste resonated like a stone dropped in still, dark pool.  As for the tonka beans, the uber-fabulous Helen surprised me with a packet of those suddenly trendy little seeds; I’d been eager to get some since I’d seen them on her blog. In their little wax paper bag, they gave off the most mysterious, compelling fragrance: almond, apricot, vanilla, cloves. It’s unfortunate that the potentially dangerous properties of tonka beans have made them an exotic oddity; perhaps, however, like the Japanese blowfish, the thrill of knowingly flirting with danger can add an extra frisson of enjoyment to the act of consumption. Grated into a classic crème anglaise  as a substitute for the traditional vanilla extract, the tonka bean gave the sauce a nutty, floral sweetness.  Combined with the cake, it’s a haiku of a dessert.

Two different takes on the same delectable cake; just two of the myriad of variations that can be spun out of this recipe. I like to think of it like those paper valentines you gave and received as a child; remember working with red paper and lace and glue, trying to create the perfect valentine for each of your friends? I’d like to dedicate these cakes to my lovely friends Ivonne and Helen. And to all the rest of you, I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

Molten Chocolate Cake Two Ways

adapted from Pichet Ong's The Sweet Spot

Makes 8 cakes


4 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, 62% to 70%

2 Tablespoons (28 g) butter

3 Tablespoons (45 g) heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon salt

Either: 1 ½ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper or 3 teaspoons matcha powder

Blood Orange Sauce: I was lucky enough to receive some as a gift: if you’d like to make your own, here is a similar recipe for Blood Orange Caramel Sauce that is also delicious.

Tonka Bean Crème Anglaise

¾ cup (183 g) milk

¼ cup (60 g) heavy cream

1 tonka bean

3 egg yolks

¼ cup (50 g) sugar


5 ½ oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, 62% to 70%

5 ½ Tablespoons (84 g) butter

4 large eggs, separated

¼ teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons sugar

To make the ganache, combine the chocolate, butter, cream, and salt in a bowl and melt over a saucepan of simmering water on the stove. Stir occasionally to make sure it melts evenly.

Stir in the ground chipotle pepper or matcha powder. You can add more or less to your taste.

Pour the ganache into a container and place in refrigerator for about an hour until it starts to set up. You can also place it in the freezer to speed up the process.

When the ganache is firm enough to scoop, use a spoon or cookie scoop to make ¾” round balls. Place in a container and store in freezer to keep them firm while you make the cake.

To make the crème anglaise, combine milk and cream in a small heavy saucepan. Grate the tonka bean into the milk mixture.

Heat on medium until it just starts to bubble. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl.

Pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and place back on the stove. Cook on low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon.

Remove and strain into a bowl. You can chill in an ice bath or in the refrigerator until ready to use. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. This makes about 1 cup.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper. Take eight 2 ½” diameter metal rings and butter and sugar the insides well. Arrange rings on the baking sheets.

Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl and melt over a saucepan of simmering water on the stove, stirring occasionally.

When chocolate and butter are fully melted and combined remove from heat and let cool until warm.

Whisk egg yolks, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Pour about a third of the melted chocolate into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.

Pour in the rest of the chocolate and whisk to combine.

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until medium peaks form – do not overwhip.

Carefully fold in about half of the egg whites into the chocolate batter to lighten it. Then fold in the rest of the egg whites, taking care not to deflate them too much.

Fill the rings a little less than halfway up with the batter. Place a ball of ganache in the center of the batter. Cover with more batter, filling the rings about ¾ full – the cakes will rise when baking like a soufflé so don’t fill them too high or they will spill over.

Bake cakes for 10 to 12 minutes. The cakes should be done – a tester inserted in the side should come out with a few crumbs, but the centers should have melted. You may want to test with one cake first to gauge how long the right baking time will be.

Remove cakes and let cool on racks for a couple minutes. Use a wide metal spatula to move the cakes onto serving plates, and then carefully remove the rings. Drizzle sauce around the cakes and serve immediately.

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Positively sinful. I actually never made them either until last year. Ate the at a restaurant, just didn't make at home.
Yours are devine.

Woow it looks delicious. And this combination of matcha and dark chocolate...mmmmmm... I can't wait for the recipe itself, although a picture speaks louder than words :-)

Oh yeah! I'll be back!! I have always wondered how to make this.

Both variations look marvelous. I really love the idea of pulverizing a crunchy cookie for a garnish!

Can't wait to compare your recipe to mine. I love molten chocolate cakes they are just too yummy!

I have never made a molten chocolate cake before. The two versions both sound delightful!

Aah! Make it stop! It's flowing it's chocolatey goodness straight into my soul!

Happy Valentine's to you too!:)
A souffle-like chocolate cake with warm ganache filling flowing everywhere...I need some of that. Never tried filling cakes with ganache like that, but I'm very interested in trying:)

OMG Anita.. I think I could die a happy woman after indulging in these lil cakes! And as always, what a gorgeous presentation you've created.. so beautiful!

Aren't those two gals just the bestest? :)


what a beautiful cake! oozy goodness! and wonderful gifts, enjoy!

oh wow, chocolate with chili, citrus, exotic spices, matcha ... they're all combos that i really like and u're just making me drool. ur molten chocolate cakes look awesome!

i've tried making them with a ganache center and by slightly underbaking them, and the former method definitely turned out better.

anyway, did u enjoy eating the cakes as much as making them? and are u gonna make them for ur significant other tomorrow? all the same, HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! :D

i LOVE molten chocolate cakes! i love how easy they are too :)

you've been tagged! :)

I will take one of those no matter which way you make it, they both sound fabulous and look wonderful!

Looks like a lot of work there,
But the end results look awesome!

Those look amazing! Just look at the liquid chocolate centers spilling out...mmm...

That is the tiniest fork I have seen. Can you even eat with it :D

I have tried before in one of the restaurant. I can imagine the tasty chocolate drain out from the cake and the chocolate melt in mouth. Yummy...

The photograph of this is so seductive! It's perfect for the Valentines theme. This is one dish that I'm scared to try because I'm afraid it will just fall FLAT! You did a great job!

Wow. Need I say more? Chocolate lava cakes have to be on of my favorite things out there - yours looks amazingly decadent.

Oh wow, this is just one of my favorite desserts. I just had this the other night at a restaurant for my husband's birthday and I was licking the plate. Classy huh? You did an amazing job with this.

Hi Anita, those are my favourite cakes. I've tried the underbaking method and it wasn't great. Quite floury.
Your quantities make the recipe worthwhile.
I usually buy the cakes from Marks and Spencers. They have a food-porn advert with the chocolate oozing out of the pudding.

Those look great and my wife is a big fan of molten cakes. I did some as well a while back, but hadn't made a separate ganache ball for the filling, but rather, took the underbaking approach. I was happy with it, but not thrilled and from the looks of yours, I think its time for me to try something new.

Oh, Anita! Wow! At first when I saw the photo I thought it was honey ... what a brilliant idea to combine the syrup with chocolate. And those cakes! My word!

Absolutely gorgeous! I love how you combined the a painter's masterpiece!

These look divine! We too had molten lava cakes for Valentine's Day but just plain chocolate ones....I can't wait to try one of your variations!

My boss is being an ass today and the sky is gray now... That molten cake would make me so much happier now, Anita! :)

I made this recipe (matcha variation) that very night and it was fantastic!! I wasn't in the mood to make a sauce (it was late) but I did pair it with a batch of saffron ice cream I had made. My ganache center wasn't as gooey and runny as yours shows in the pictures, but man! It tasted gooooood.

Oh my!!! This has got to be chocolate heaven. I am definitely making this weekend!!


These look wonderful. I think using truffles for the gooey centre is a great idea - it means your not eating uncooked cake batter.

I love molten chocolate cake, it is such a crowd pleaser!

Yummylicious! They look beautiful!



I've been fantasizing about these all day today. I'm having some friend over this comming Sunday for a desserts only lunch ... and i am planning t make molten choc cakes as well , so was mentally planning and thinking of these little babies all day long. And nw this teaser !!! i'm so going to use this recipe this Sunday !!!!

Your posts are always fantastic and your photos I could get lost in forever! You have a wonderful blog! Can't wait until your book comes out!

Hi Anita,
I want to make this for my gf for her birthday but I have some difficulties to over come. As we are both visiting the same city, I will have to make them at a friend's home and take them to her hotel to surprise her. There is a kitchennet there so I know for sure there is microwave. Can I make them and warm them up afterwards? Or microwave them will just ruin them completely? PLEASE HELP!

Thank you very much!

Thanks for the comments all! I'm glad I finally got to strike this recipe off my list and I hope you find the versions delicious!

Tasty treats !Your such a master anita !

I love both the versions, they look amazing. Thanks for the interesting flavors!

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