FRONT BURNER: Let the cake's molten chocolate flow

This dessert goes by many names: moelleux au chocolat, chocolate surprise cake, molten chocolate cake, chocolate lava cake, chocolate molten lava cake, chocolate souffle cake ...

Molten lava cakes were all the rage in the early 1990s, thanks to food writers like Maida Heatter and Dione Lucas and well-known chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Jacques Torres.

The dessert is still popular on restaurant dessert menus. So I was surprised when I didn't find a proliferation of recipes for it in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette archives. Oh, there were a few, but most mentions of this dessert were in restaurant reviews.

But this dessert could not be easier to make. Seriously, the hardest part is waiting for it to cool enough that you don't burn your mouth.

It is a deceptively simple blend of egg, sugar, fat, chocolate and sometimes flour.

This version is made with olive oil and flavored with vanilla and citrus.

And it just happens to be gluten-free.

One thing that makes this recipe stand out is that it does not call for separating the egg.

The resulting dessert is a perfectly portioned — it bakes in individual ramekins — chocolate dream that is part souffle and part warm pudding. A puffy, toothsome "crust" forms around the edges while the center remains a luscious liquid.

Some recipes call for serving the dessert topped with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream — a delicious contrast of hot molten chocolate and cold, creamy ice cream — but I prefer a light dusting of confectioners' sugar and a bit more citrus zest.

Molten Dark Chocolate-Clementine Cake

2 ounces dark, bittersweet chocolate (56% or more cacao)

1 egg

3 tablespoons olive oil

Scant ¼ cup granulated sugar

Pinch kosher salt

Splash vanilla extract

Zest of 1 clementine or other citrus fruit, divided use

Confectioners' sugar, for garnish (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 2 (6-ounce) ramekins and place them on a sheet pan.

In a small bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each; set aside to cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg, olive oil, sugar, salt, vanilla and all but a small pinch of the clementine zest until quite thick — the more air you incorporate into the batter the more souffle-like the edges will be. Fold in the chocolate with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into the prepared ramekins and bake for about 12 minutes, or until edges are puffed and the top is slightly cracked. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm dusted with confectioners' sugar and sprinkled with the reserved clementine zest.

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe adapted from

Food on 03/04/2020