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Mini Chocolate Lava Cakes

January 25, 2023

I'm a self-taught baker, recipe developer, photographer and writer in Brooklyn, New York. 

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a mini chocolate lava cake cut in half with molten chocolate ganache oozing out of its center, sitting under a scoop of vanilla ice cream

Molten chocolate cakes, also known as lava cakes, were the quintessential 90s restaurant dessert — but the trend has solidified as you can still find them on dessert menus everywhere. Many recipes exist online for making chocolate lava cakes at home, but most require the use of ramekins or other small baking dishes. I’ve been running a baking blog for 3 years now, and I have so many useless kitchen gadgets and baking vessels collecting dust in my storage-free Brooklyn apartment, but the one purchase I can’t seem to justify is ramekins. So a while ago, I set out to create a recipe for mini chocolate lava cakes, but ones that home bakers can make in something almost everyone has: a standard 12-cup muffin tin.

These mini chocolate lava cakes still have the desired molten, gooey center of chocolate, surrounded by a rich chocolate cake with a crisp exterior. Unlike many recipes online, though, the center is not unbaked cake batter. Instead, a heaping teaspoon of chilled chocolate ganache drops into the center of each tin, and that is what oozes out when you cut into the cake. Not only does this decrease the chances of eating totally raw cake batter (which, I’m not saying I don’t do on occasion) but it also adds a complexity to the cakes and another layer of texture and flavor with a slightly more rich, dark, chocolatey filling.

mini lava cakes ingredients like chocolate, sugar, butter, eggs and more on a white marble surface.

Ingredients for making mini chocolate lava cakes

One of the best parts about making molten chocolate cake is the short ingredient list, many of which you probably already have. All this recipe requires is:

  • Heavy cream 
  • Salt
  • Semisweet chocolate
  • Unsalted butter
  • Vanilla extract (optional)
  • Large eggs
  • Granulated sugar
  • Flour
  • Cocoa powder (for dusting the tins, you can also use flour)

How to make lava cakes in a muffin tin

making chocolate ganache in a liquid measuring cup with hot heavy cream and chopped chocolate
making chocolate ganache in a liquid measuring cup with hot heavy cream and chopped chocolate

The first task in this recipe is making the ganache so it has time to chill before dolloping it into each muffin cup filled with cake batter. Heat heavy whipping cream in the microwave just until hot, then add the 2 ounces of finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate and cover. Let the chocolate begin to warm up and melt for about a minute, then uncover and mix the cream and chocolate together. Ta-da! That’s ganache. (If the chocolate doesn’t melt all the way, just run the mixture through the microwave for about 5 seconds and it should loosen up.) Cover and chill the ganache in the fridge (or freezer) until its solid and scoop-able.

melting chopped semisweet chocolate into hot butter for mini lava cake batter
melting chopped semisweet chocolate into hot butter for mini lava cake batter

Gently melt the butter and chocolate by either placing a heat-safe mixing bowl over a sauce pan of simmering water, or by melting them together in the microwave a few seconds at a time.

mixing whipped eggs and sugar into chocolate and butter for molten chocolate lava cake batter

Gently fold the beaten sugar and eggs into the chocolate-butter mixture. The air-filled egg mixture is the only source of leavening in this recipe, so they are solely responsible for the cakes’ rise and final texture.

filling muffin tins for mini molten chocolate lava cakes
filling muffin tins for mini molten chocolate lava cakes

Fold the flour in, then cover just the bottoms of 8 of the muffin cups with about a third of the cake batter. Then dollop a heaping teaspoon of chilled chocolate ganache into each cup and cover completely with the remaining batter. Make sure the ganache is covered or it will bubble through in baking and leak out when transferring the cakes.

Mini molten chocolate lava cakes turned out onto a half sheet pan

The mini lava cakes are done in the oven once the tops look set and dry. Remove them from the oven and let them sit for 1 minute. Then, take a half sheet tray and invert it onto the muffin tin. Using oven mitts or towels, grasp the muffin tin and half-sheet tray together, and carefully but quickly flip both at the same time so that the muffin faces down on the tray. (The cakes are pretty fragile at this point.) Give it a gentle tap and carefully lift off the muffin tin. Don’t try to serve the cakes with your hands. Use a spatula to transfer them to plates.

mini molten chocolate lava cakes dusted with powdered sugar with a fine mesh sieve of powdered sugar on the side

Garnish with a dusting of powdered sugar or, let’s be real, a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

a mini chocolate lava cake cut in half with molten chocolate ganache oozing out of its center, next to a scoop of vanilla ice cream on a dessert plate

Did you make these mini chocolate lava cakes? I want to see! Tag me @easygayoven on Instagram and TikTok.

a mini chocolate lava cake cut in half with molten chocolate ganache oozing out of its center, sitting under a scoop of vanilla ice cream

Print Recipe
Course Dessert
Servings 8 small lava cakes

Ingredients

Filling

  • 2 ounces heavy whipping cream (1/4 cup)
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate (not chips) finely chopped

Cakes

  • Cocoa powder for dusting
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (85 grams)
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate ((not chips) finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (37 grams)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon flour (11 grams)

Instructions

  • In a liquid measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl, heat heavy whipping cream in the microwave for a few seconds at a time until hot, then add the 2 ounces of chopped chocolate and cover.
  • Allow the chocolate to melt for about 30 seconds to a minute, then uncover and add a pinch of salt. Stir until smooth. Chill the ganache, covered, in the fridge or freezer until it has firmed up.
  • Once the ganache has chilled, move one oven rack to the second highest position and preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Grease 8 cups of a regular muffin tin with butter and dust with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess.
  • In a heat-proof mixing bowl over a saucepan filled with an inch of simmering water (or in the microwave) gently melt the butter over low heat. Add the remaining chocolate and mix until smooth. Remove bowl from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Stir in the vanilla and a salt.
  • With a hand mixer in a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed until pale and foamy. Mix in the flour.
  • Gently fold the egg mixture into the chocolate and butter, just until combined.
  • Add about one third of the batter to cover the bottom of the 8 prepared muffin tin cups.
  • Dollop about a heaping teaspoon of ganache in the center of each cup.
  • Cover the ganache dollops with the remaining batter.
  • Chill the unbaked lava cakes in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  • Bake for 9 minutes, or just until the tops of the cakes look dry.
  • Remove lava cakes from the oven. Place a half sheet tray over the top of the tin. Wearing oven mitts, carefully but quickly, flip both the tin and tray at the same time so that the cakes are inverted onto the tray. Carefully lift off the muffin tin.
  • Transfer the lava cakes with a spatula to serving dishes and eat while still warm.

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