Chocolate lava cake: timeless or tired? Recently I came face-to-face with this (moral?) dilemma at Jean-Georges, where my boyfriend had splurged on a Valentine's Day dinner. The four-part chocolate dessert tasting included the molten mixture — not surprising, since Jean-Georges Vongerichten has served the same prix fixe menu since the restaurant opened, in 1997.
Back then lava cake was all the rage. Chocolatier Jacques Torres claims to have invented the dish, but Jean-Georges Vongerichten disputes him vehemently, saying that he accidentally pulled a chocolate sponge cake out of the oven before it was finished and discovered a runny center. It was so delicious that he decided to invent a cake that was intentionally molten in the center. Voila! The famed lava cake. (It's worth noting that Lucky Peach's history of the dish says that it dates back to a 1966 Pillsbury bake-off in which the second-place winner was called the Tunnel of Fudge Cake.)
These days molten lava cake will make most people think not of high-end cuisine but of Chili’s. As I I cut into the soft chocolate exterior of the dense chocolate cake, and beautiful, rich chocolate spilled out onto the plate (and quickly made its way to my mouth), I couldn’t help but think of that movie Chef. A food critic has written that he’d “much rather have the chef sit on his face on a warm day after a brisk walk in the park than have to take another bite of his uninspired chocolate lava cake.” The chef then completely loses his sh*t on the critic in a full-fledged meltdown.
So what do you think: Does molten lava cake pass the test of time, or would you rather eat your chocolate cake in a more experimental form?