Chocolate lava cake was one of my favorite desserts as a kid. It was a rare treat that my family would share at a restaurant a few times a year. When I went vegan, I thought maybe my days of enjoying this dessert were behind me. I was intimidated by the thought of reformulating the recipe without dairy and eggs.
This post is kindly sponsored by Kroger!
Recently I rewatched the film Chef, in which the main character (a top-tier chef with a big attitude) has a meltdown when a food critic gives a less-than-rosy review of his lava cake. The scene gave me a good chuckle — but more importantly, it inspired me to finally try veganizing this classic dessert.
This version is so easy and delicious! It’s the perfect way to elevate chocolate cake for a special occasion. Topped with a scoop of good vanilla bean ice cream and a few fresh sweet berries, it’s the most divine mix of temperatures and textures and the perfect dessert for a special occasion (or, really, any day). Try it!
Ingredients for the Vegan Chocolate Cake
The ingredients for this vegan lava cake recipe are pretty basic, but together they make something phenomenal. A big thank you to Kroger for sponsoring this post! I shopped at my local Kroger family store (that’s Ralph’s here in San Diego) for all of the ingredients for this lava cake, and it’s been my go-to grocery store for years. They have just about everything I need at an affordable price, from pantry staples to fresh produce. And they now offer free grocery pickup so you can shop safely!
I’ve also been so impressed lately at how much they’ve expanded their range of organic and vegan-friendly options! I’m a big fan of their Simple Truth Organic range of products and used many of them for these lava cakes! Their semi-sweet chocolate chips are a real gem — in the past it’s been tricky to find good dairy-free chocolate chips without going out of my way to a health food store.
Unsweetened plant milk and vinegar: My favorite milk to bake with is soy because it maintains a neutral flavor when heated and also adds a bit of extra protein to the recipe! However, you can use whatever you happen to have on hand. The acidity of the vinegar will curdle the milk to make a vegan-friendly buttermilk substitute, which will help to make the cake nice and tender.
All-purpose flour: I haven’t tested this recipe yet with gluten-free alternatives, but I will update when I am able! I have, however, made plenty of successful batches of cookies and cakes using the Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour, so I’d recommend that if you want to give this a try.
Cocoa powder: Many traditional lava cake recipes call for melted chocolate rather than cocoa powder. However, since we’re omitting eggs (which typically give the cake structure), I find it easier to use cocoa powder to avoid the entire cake being too fudgy.
Baking powder & baking soda: A combination of these two will help the cake fluff up. The baking soda reacts to the acid in our vegan “buttermilk” for some extra lift.
Coconut oil: This is my pick for cakes. If you don’t like the flavor of coconut, you can specifically look for “refined” coconut oil, which should be neutral in flavor. You can also feel free to substitute in another neutral vegetable oil or even your favorite vegan butter (just melt it first).
How to Make the Molten Center
There’s a common misconception that lava cake is simply undercooked chocolate cake! In actuality, we achieve the molten center by embedding pure chocolate or chocolate ganache inside the cake batter. When heated, the filling melts to create that ooey-gooey effect.
I decided to use a simple chocolate ganache as the filling to make it extra luscious, and to ensure that the chocolate wouldn’t be absorbed into the batter. This piece of the recipe requires just two simple ingredients:
Full-fat coconut milk: This is my recommendation for the ganache, since it’ll lend the most creamy and decadent texture! You can use canned coconut cream, too, if you want to make it extra luscious. But if you don’t enjoy the flavor of coconut or want to lighten the recipe up just slightly, you can also use a different plant milk. Just note that the ganache might be much softer when chilled.
Vegan-friendly chocolate: You have two options here! My preference is to use a bar of semisweet baker’s chocolate. (Just double-check the label for milk ingredients; this will vary from brand to brand.) Give it a coarse chop to help it melt easily.
Alternatively, you can use your favorite vegan-friendly chocolate chips. I always have a few bags of the Simple Truth Organic chocolate chips in my pantry because they’re affordable, super easy to find at your local Kroger family store, and they taste great!
Heat the coconut milk in a pan on the stove or in the microwave, then pour it over the chocolate. After allowing it to sit for a few minutes, whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and incorporated. Allow the ganache to chill in the fridge for several hours, until it is firm to the touch. (If you use the freezer to speed up the cooling time, don’t allow it to get too hard! It should still be easily scoopable.)
More Vegan Dessert Recipes
- Easy Double Chocolate Vegan Banana Bread
- Chocolate Chip Cookies for Two
- Triple Chocolate Vegan Brownies
Vegan Chocolate Lava Cake
- 3/4 cups unsweetened plant milk
- 1/2 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar
- 1 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup coconut oil melted
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup vegan-friendly chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
- 2/3 cup full fat coconut milk
- confectioner’s sugar
- fresh berries
- vanilla bean ice cream
- sprig of fresh mint
- Make your chocolate ganache at least an hour in advance because it will need time to chill and harden. You can even make it the night before.
- Add your coconut milk to a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Keep an eye on it and stir regularly until it just begins to simmer. Remove from heat. (Alternatively, you can microwave your coconut milk in a bowl for 1-2 minutes until very hot.)
- Immediately add your chocolate to the hot coconut milk and allow it to sit for 2-3 minutes to start melting. Then whisk until the mixture is smooth and evenly combined.
- Transfer your ganache to a heat-safe container and place it in the fridge for 2 hours to harden completely, or in the freezer for half an hour if you’re in a hurry. (If you cover it while it’s hot, condensation will form in the container, so allow it to cool a bit first. You won’t really need to cover it if you plan to use it within the next few hours.)
- Once ganache has firmed up completely, you can proceed to assembling your lava cakes.
Molten Lava Cakes
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Generously grease 4 ramekins or jumbo muffin tins. For additional insurance, I like to line each cup with a circle of parchment which I also grease.
- Whisk together soy milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle. This will act as your vegan “buttermilk.”
- In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour in the coconut oil, vanilla extract, and milk mixture and mix until smooth.
- Pour into prepared tins or ramekins until they’re 3/4 of the way full, reserving a few tablespoons of the batter.
- Remove your ganache from the fridge. For each cake, scoop a heaping tablespoon of ganache. Place in the center of each cake and press down very gently to slightly submerge. Use the remaining batter to spread on top and seal in the ganache.
- Bake in preheated oven for 12-13 minutes. The cakes will be slightly domed on top but will still look a little jiggly/undercooked. However, they should look fully cooked around the edges.
- Allow to cool for about 5 minutes so the ramekins or muffin tins are not too hot to the touch. Then invert them very carefully onto a plate or baking tray.
- Any your favorite toppings and serve while warm!