Is there anything that salted caramel can’t make better? There are actually plenty of desserts out there that salted caramel can’t improve on (although it’s difficult to come up with more than a couple), but there are an even greater number that can go from good to great with a little bit of salted caramel mixed in. One of these recipes is a molten chocolate cake, a.k.a. chocolate lava cake. Molten chocolate cakes are served hot and are baked so that they have oozing chocolate centers that add an extra chocolate kick to each serving and make the cakes extra decadent. This variation on the standard recipe adds salted caramel to the filling, keeping all that chocolate while adding another layer of flavor.
I relied on salted caramels that I already had in my cupboard to make these cakes. Since you only need a couple of caramels, it is much easier to start with premade caramels than try to make a whole batch just to use a half dozen. The salted caramels I used were the Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramels, which are chewy and have a nice sweet-salty flavor to them. There are several other brands of salted caramels out there to choose from, too. If you can’t find them in your area, choose another buttery caramel candy (chewy and made with good quality ingredients, not a hard candy) and use those, adding a generous pinch of coarse sea salt along with each caramel into the chocolate cakes.
The caramel melts as the cakes bake, but holds its place in the center of the cake without being absorbed by the chocolate surrounding it. This means that you get a soft, gooey caramel center and a tender, rich chocolate cake all in one dessert. The salty-sweetness of the caramel is a great contrast to all that dark chocolate. The cakes must be served while they are still hot, or the caramel centers of the cakes will start to firm up and become sticky. If you grease and flour your muffin pans or ramekins, your cakes should come out pretty easily. Silicone molds are even easier to pop cakes out of. If your cakes do stick, however, take comfort in the fact that you can cover up any imperfections with whipped cream and you’ll still have an amazing dessert.
Salted Caramel-Filled Molten Chocolate Cakes
4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp all purpose flour
6 chewy salted caramels
or 6 caramels + pinch of sea salt for each
Preheat oven to 400F. Grease and flour a 6-cup muffin tin (or 6 cups of a muffin tin or 6 four-ounce ramekins).
In a small bowl, melt together 4-oz dark chocolate and the butter. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes until mixture is close to room temperature.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat with an electric mixer until the mixture triples in volume and is thick and fluffy (about 5-7 minutes). Sift flour over egg mixture and fold in. Add cooled chocolate/butter mixture and fold in until batter is uniform and no streaks of chocolate remain. Divide evenly into prepared muffin tins.
Gently push one caramel into each of the muffin cups (or one caramel and a generous pinch of sea salt) and cover with batter.
Bake at 400F for 9-11 minutes, until the tops are just set. Let cakes cool in pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of each pan and turn cakes out onto a large plate or cutting board. Use a spatula to transfer cakes to individual serving plates.
Cakes can be served right side up or still inverted.