Lost Italian: Get in the mood for Valentine's Day with Molten Chocolate Cake

Molten chocolate cake is broken open for Valentine’s Day. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

The season for aphrodisiac foods has arrived, and my personal favorite is chocolate. Particularly, dark chocolate.

Aside from its natural flavor appeal, eating dark chocolate has been shown to cause an increase in dopamine levels, which can lead to feelings of pleasure. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, these Molten Chocolate Cakes are the perfect way to end your evening with a romantically decadent flourish.

This dish receives its name because of the clever way the ingredients are combined to create a dessert with a wonderful cake shell surrounding a gooey chocolate center that oozes out from the cake, just like molten lava. Created in the 1990s by Master Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, this classic dessert has everything you need to woo your loved one: it’s rich, super-chocolaty and, best of all, easy to make.

With just seven ingredients, the batter can be whipped up in minutes and even prepared several hours in advance and refrigerated until ready to bake. With chocolate as the star of this dessert, it’s important to use the best quality chocolate you can find. While Jean-Georges’ recipe recommends Valrhona bittersweet chocolate, that can be difficult to find in our local market so for this occasion I used Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Butter is the next big ingredient, and unsalted is a must for this recipe in order to control the amount of salt added to the batter. A pinch of salt is included in the recipe, but more than that could affect the overall flavor result.


To help create the cake’s molten center, two whole eggs are combined with two egg yolks and a bit of sugar. The only adjustment I have made to Jean-Georges’ recipe is the addition of a half-teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, which is my favorite way to enhance any chocolate dish.

These four ingredients are beaten until the mixture become thick and pale yellow in color, and this can be done by hand with a whisk or with an electric mixer. By hand, this can take several minutes of vigorous whisking, so I use my stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat the mix on high for two to three minutes. This can be done while the chocolate and butter are melting, and I use a double-boiler system on the stovetop to best control the melting process.

Once the egg mixture is ready, the melted chocolate and a scant amount of flour are folded in to create the batter. To prevent the hot melted chocolate from curdling the eggs, I’ll fold just a small amount of it into the eggs first, to temper the batter, and then add the remaining chocolate.

This recipe yields four individual cakes, and you’ll need to use ovenproof ramekins or baking molds for each serving. To ensure easy removal from the mold, I grease each ramekin generously with butter followed by a light coating of flour. For best results, use butter that has been softened to room temperature, as melted butter or cooking spray just isn’t enough to help the cake easily pop out of the mold.

If you’re looking for a surefire way to impress your loved one or family this Valentine’s Day, these easy-to-make Molten Chocolate Cakes are sure to bring the love to your table.

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Molten Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Master Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s recipe

Makes: Four 6-ounce cakes



½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, either in chips or cut into small pieces

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt


2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Generously grease four 6-ounce ramekins with softened (not melted) butter, then lightly coat entire ramekin with flour, shaking out the excess. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and set aside.

Fill a medium saucepan with an inch of water and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Place the chocolate pieces and butter in a heatproof bowl large enough to fully cover the top of the saucepan.

Position the bowl over the saucepan. Once the chocolate and butter begin to melt, use a whisk to combine the ingredients until fully melted and smooth. Remove bowl from heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer (stand or hand-held) to beat the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla extract and salt on high until thickened and pale, about 2 to 3 minutes. Alternatively, use a whisk to combine the ingredients and mix vigorously for 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the flour and about a half-cup of the melted chocolate to the egg mixture and use a rubber spatula to combine. Add the remainder of the melted chocolate and gently fold it into the mixture until evenly combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the sides of the cake are firm, and the center is still soft to the touch and somewhat jiggly. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool for 1 minute, then cover each ramekin with an inverted plate. Carefully turn each cake over, let stand for 10 seconds and gently remove the ramekin.


Dust the top of each cake with powdered sugar, garnish with fresh berries and serve immediately.

Sarah’s Tips:

  • The batter may be prepared several hours in advance and refrigerated before using, either in the ramekins or the mixing bowl. Remove from the fridge at 30 to 45 minutes before baking to bring batter to room temperature.
  • For an added touch of elegance, serve with a good-quality vanilla ice cream, or melt the ice cream to serve as a vanilla sauce.
  • Softened butter is best for greasing the ramekins, as I have not had good results when using melted butter.

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at

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