What is the difference between molten cake and lava cake?

Both molten cake and lava cake are decadent chocolate cakes with oozing molten centers. However, there are some key differences between the two cakes in terms of ingredients, baking method, texture, and presentation.

What is Molten Cake?

A molten cake, also known as a chocolate molten cake or simply a molten chocolate cake, is a dessert that combines elements of a conventional cake and a soufflé. It has a solid exterior that hides an inner core of warm, molten chocolate.

The molten cake was popularized in the 1980s by French chef Michel Bras. His version combined a fudgy chocolate cake with a liquid chocolate center that oozes out when you cut into the cake. This molten chocolate cake became a signature dessert at his restaurant.

To make a molten cake, a thin layer of chocolate cake batter is baked in ramekins. As the cake bakes, the exterior sets while the interior remains gooey. Timing is key – the cake is served immediately after baking so the center stays warm and runny.

Basic ingredients for molten cake batter include bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. Some recipes also incorporate cocoa powder. The liquid center is made from melted chocolate, cream, and sometimes butter.

Key Features of Molten Cake

  • Thin, cake-like exterior that quickly gives way to an oozing chocolate center
  • Served warm so the filling stays liquid
  • Rich, dense, fudgy cake texture
  • Intense chocolate flavor

What is Lava Cake?

A lava cake is a molten chocolate cake that contains a liquid chocolate filling. It is very similar to a conventional molten chocolate cake, but there are some differences in preparation.

The lava cake was popularized in the 1990s by French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. His version was inspired by the molten cake but contained more liquid chocolate in the center. The filling oozes out dramatically when the cake is cut, resembling hot flowing lava, hence the name “lava cake.”

To make a lava cake, the chef pours a chocolate ganache filling into the ramekin before adding the cake batter on top. As the cake bakes, the ganache stays liquid and creates an extra-oozy center. Lava cakes are sometimes finished with a dusting of powdered sugar or served with ice cream.

Key Features of Lava Cake

  • Very liquid chocolate center that flows out like lava
  • May have a cake-like top crust
  • Contains more filling than a traditional molten cake
  • Oozes dramatically when cut into

Major Differences Between Molten and Lava Cakes

While molten cakes and lava cakes are very similar desserts, there are some key differences between the two:

1. Baking Vessel

Molten cakes are classically baked in ramekins which are small, round dishes suitable for individual portions. Lava cakes can be baked in ramekins, but are also sometimes made in small skillets or dishes for a dramatic tableside presentation.

2. Amount of Filling

The main difference between molten and lava cakes is the amount of liquid filling. Lava cakes have more ganache in the center, making them even more oozey and lavatic.

3. Crust

Lava cakes are more likely to develop a cake-like crust on the top and sides as they bake. Molten cakes do not always form this crust due to the lower filling-to-batter ratio.

4. Serving Temperature

Both cakes should be served warm after baking. However, lava cakes may be slightly cooler in the center since they have more ganache that retains heat.

5. Origins

Molten cakes originated in France in the 1980s. Lava cakes were popularized later in the 1990s, also by French chefs. So while there are similarities, lava cake is a more modern interpretation of the molten chocolate concept.

Attribute Molten Cake Lava Cake
Baking Vessel Typically ramekins Ramekins or skillets
Amount of Filling Moderate amount of liquid filling More generous amount of filling
Crust Thin, may not form crust Can form cake-like crust
Serving Temperature Hot throughout Hot exterior, slightly cooler center
Origins Created in 1980s France Popularized in 1990s France


While both contain chocolate, eggs, sugar, and flour, there are some ingredient differences as well:

Molten Cake Ingredients

  • Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Melted chocolate and cream for filling

Lava Cake Ingredients

  • Dark chocolate
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Chocolate ganache for filling

Lava cakes tend to use darker chocolate and filling is made from ganache instead of melted chocolate and cream. But overall, the ingredient lists are very similar.

Baking Process

There are some subtle differences in how molten cakes and lava cakes are assembled and baked:

Molten Cake Baking

  1. Butter and chocolate are melted together
  2. Eggs and sugar are whisked separately
  3. Dry and wet ingredients are folded together
  4. Batter is portioned into ramekins
  5. Filled ramekins go straight into the oven
  6. Baked just until set on the outside but still molten inside, about 12 minutes

Lava Cake Baking

  1. Ganache filling is made ahead of time
  2. Ganache is poured into ramekins or dishes
  3. Cake batter is prepared separately and then spooned on top of the ganache
  4. Cakes bake until set on the outside but liquid inside, about 14 minutes
  5. May finish with dusting of powdered sugar

The main difference is that lava cakes have ganache added to the ramekins before the batter, creating a more dramatic ooze when finished baking.

Serving Suggestions

Here are some serving ideas for both molten and lava cakes:

Molten Cake Serving Suggestions

  • Dust with powdered sugar
  • Serve with vanilla gelato or ice cream
  • Garnish with fresh raspberries
  • Drizzle with chocolate sauce
  • Top with whipped cream

Lava Cake Serving Suggestions

  • Drizzle plate with raspberry coulis
  • Add scoop of chocolate or coffee ice cream
  • Garnish with chocolate shavings
  • Serve with freshly whipped cream
  • Pair with port wine or sweet dessert wine

Both cakes pair beautifully with ice cream and fruit. The high quality chocolate and molten filling are the stars of the show.

Taste and Texture

In terms of taste and texture:

Molten Cakes

  • Fudgy, dense cake exterior
  • Oozing liquid chocolate center
  • Intense chocolate flavor
  • Smooth, velvety interior

Lava Cakes

  • Cakey exterior that quickly gives way
  • Even more liquid, lava-like filling
  • More dramatic taste and texture contrast
  • Intense chocolate taste

While both are intensely chocolatey, lava cakes offer a more drastic contrast between the cakey crust and ultra-liquid center. Molten cakes have a denser, fudgier texture throughout.


Molten chocolate cakes helped launch the popularity of molten cakes in restaurants in the US in the 1990s. Lava cakes emerged later and also became menu staples at many restaurants and bistros.

Both molten and lava cakes remain popular dessert options on menus today. Their dramatic and photogenic presentation makes them perfect for sharing online and at the table.

Home cooks can also find many recipes to recreate restaurant-worthy molten and lava cakes. When prepared properly, they can have the right oozing texture and make for an impressive finale to a meal.

Difficulty of Preparation

Molten and lava cakes require some skill to prepare correctly:

  • Timing is key – underbake and they are too mushy, overbake and they lose that signature ooze
  • Getting the right contrast of textures takes precision
  • The high quality chocolate is essential for flavor
  • Filling must be the proper temperature and consistency

That said, both cakes use basic ingredients and techniques approachable for novice bakers. Those new to molten cakes may want to start with a recipe and watch tutorials to get the timing and textures just right.

Easier: Molten Cake

With less filling, molten cakes are slightly more forgiving and easier for beginners to master.

More Difficult: Lava Cake

Lava cakes require making ganache ahead of time and layering it into the dishes properly to get the full lava effect. This makes them a bit trickier for baking newcomers.


These decadent cakes do require some special ingredients that impact the cost:

  • High quality dark chocolate – the star ingredient
  • Sometimes heavy cream for filling
  • Occasionally brandy or liqueurs for flavoring
  • May require ramekins if baking individually

However, most of the ingredients – eggs, butter, sugar, flour – are baking basics. Making a large batch with store-bought items can be cost effective. Overall, molten and lava cakes range from inexpensive to moderately pricy depending on ingredients.

Cake Type Cost
Molten Cake $-$$
Lava Cake $-$$

Both cakes can be made for under $10-$15 depending on ingredients. High-end chocolate, imported butter, and premium liqueurs will raise the price. But basic versions can be budget-friendly.


With chocolate, butter/oil, eggs, and sugar as main ingredients, neither cake is particularly light or healthy:

Molten Cake Nutrition (per serving)

  • 220-350 calories
  • 13-15g fat
  • 30-40g carbs
  • 3-5g protein

Lava Cake Nutrition (per serving)

  • 250-400 calories
  • 15-25g fat
  • 30-45g carbs
  • 4-6g protein

Dense ingredients like chocolate and butter mean both desserts are high in calories, fat, and carbs. Low protein and fiber also make them lacking from a nutritional standpoint.

Nonetheless, eaten occasionally in reasonable portions, molten chocolate and lava cakes can be enjoyed as part of an overall balanced diet. They make for an indulgent special treat.


While molten cakes and lava cakes are very similar, they differ in terms of:

  • Amount of filling – lava cakes have a more generous portion for bigger ooze
  • Crust – lava cakes are more likely to form a cakey crust
  • Plating – lava cakes can be served in dramatic skillets or dishes
  • Preparation – lava cakes require filling the vessels first
  • Flavor – lava cakes use slightly darker chocolate for intensity

Both make for decadent, impressive desserts with hot, melted chocolate centers. Lava cakes amp up the drama and ooze factor. But classic molten cakes win for chocolate intensity and elegant simplicity.

Whichever you choose, enjoy these sexy, molten chocolate cakes in moderation for a memorable sweet treat.

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