June 13, 2012

Chocolate Lava Cake -- a dairy-free, egg-free way to molten magic

Chocolate lava cake is one of those special desserts for me.  Part brownie, part pudding, it's a more dressy dessert than cookies but not as formal as decorated cakes and cupcakes.  It's definitely not something I crave everyday but when I see it on a menu, I cannot pry my thoughts away from it!  And for the chocolate-loving dad in my life (that would be my husband), a warm lava cake is just right.

I found this dairy-free, egg-free recipe on the Compassionate Action for Animals website.  Not only does it recreate the textures and tastes of traditional lava cake but it is also fairly easy to make.  It can also be made soy-free simply by using oil and water as the original recipe calls for or by using a soy-free milk alternative such as rice milk, almond milk, or flax milk.

I made this recipes three different ways, trying two different cocoas, with oil versus vegan margarine, and water versus a milk substitute.  Switching from Trader Joe's cocoa to Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa was a serious upgrade!  I am once again reminded that not all cocoa powders are created equal.  I used a vegan Earth Balance for a little added richness.  They also have a soy-free version which is a little harder to find in stores.  Always double check ingredient labels, especially since Earth Balance has at least five different varieties, not all dairy- or soy-free.

I have not yet tried this but I think this dessert could be made gluten-free by substituting in 1 cup of your favorite gluten-free flour blend plus 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum in place of the flour.  Be sure to check that your vanilla and baking powder are certified gluten-free, too.  Wheat-allergic/gluten-intolerant readers, please let us know if you are successful with the flour substitution.

Chocolate Lava Cake
Adapted from Compassionate Action for Animals lava cake recipe

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar (I have used granulated, organic, and turbinado raw sugar all with success)
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup milk substitute (I used Soy Dream Original but almond milk, rice milk, or flax milk should work)
2 Tbsp melted vegan margarine or vegan shortening (try Spectrum Organic Shortening), or vegetable or coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup milk substitute
3/4 cup water

Confectioner's (aka powdered) sugar for dusting
  1. Preheat over to 350F.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, unsweetened cocoa, and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add milk substitute, vegan margarine and extract. Mix until well combined.  
  4. Spread cake batter in 9"x9" round pan or distribute evenly among six 6-ounce ramekins.  I have used a CorningWare 9-inch oval casserole dish with good results.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup cocoa with 1 cup of brown sugar.  Sprinkle over but do not mix into cake batter.  If you're using ramekins, use a 1/4 measuring cup to help with equal distribution.
  6. Combine 1 cup milk substitute and 3/4 cup water in microwave-safe bowl.  Heat until almost boiling. This was about 2 to 3 minutes on high for me.
  7. Slowly add hot milk-water mixture into cake pan.  Do not stir.  If you're using ramekins, use a 1/4 measuring cup to help with equal distribution.
  8. Bake at 350F.  Bake without stirring until cake is set (it will lose its sheen and puff up a bit), about 35-40 minutes for 9-inch pans or 15-20 minutes for ramekins, depending on how gooey you want the middle to be.  I like gooey so I favor a shorter cooking time.
  9. Let cool for 5-10 minutes.  Sprinkle powdered sugar in top and serve warm. 
One problem I had using six 6-ounce ramekins is that the recipe was just a little more than what the ramekins could hold.  Some of the liquid bubbled over in the baking process.  It's a good idea to put a baking pan or a sheet of aluminum foil underneath the ramekins to catch any drippings or use an additional ramekin if you have one.


  1. I made a gluten free version of this tonight and it was AMAZING! This is what I did:
    1 cup Pamela's bread mix and flour blend
    1 Tbl soy flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 cup sugar (pamela's is already pretty sweet)
    2 Tbl cocoa
    1/2 cup almond milk
    2 Tbl melted coconut oil
    1 tsp vanilla

    1/2 cup cocoa
    1 cup light brown sugar
    1 cup unsweetened almond milk
    3/4 cup water

    Baked in 8 inch square glass pan for 35 minutes. Came out perfect! This has been my most successful attempt at a GF dessert. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe.

  2. Thanks for sharing your version! Hooray! I'm so glad to hear that a GF version could be made. This is a dessert that I wanted to make again and again.

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