Table for One

A 15-Minute Lava Cake for When You Need a Little Chocolate

These gooey, single-serving chocolate cakes are just set and scented with winter citrus.

December  6, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Table for One is a column by Senior Editor Eric Kim, who loves cooking for himself—and only himself—and seeks to celebrate the beauty of solitude in its many forms.

It's coming up: December 21. The first day of winter, the shortest day—and the longest night—of the year. To prep for the winter solstice, which is said to feature a full moon and a meteor shower (!), I'll be going home to my dog, brewing a cup of weak coffee with steamed milk (stirred together with a cinnamon stick), and sitting out in the courtyard to watch autumn recede into the hibernal skyline.

When it comes to the coldest and darkest season of the year, it helps for me to schedule little moments of peace like this, solo time for Quentin and me to gather our thoughts at the end of the workweek and be, as they say, with ourselves.

Afterward, we'll go back inside to warm up and get ready for a quiet night in—and some light Friday-night baking. On tonight's menu: clementine chocolate lava cakes.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I'm having 8 people over for dinner and would love to make these the day before and store in the fridge. Are they as good served cold or should I try to rewarm before serving?”
— Karen

It's a just set chocolate cake, scented with winter citrus. And during Christmas, I always have a huge box of clementines sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting to be peeled and eaten throughout the week—but also zested into a rich, chocolatey batter.

This recipe couldn't be simpler to bake. And by "bake," I just mean: 5 minutes of stirring together a handful of ingredients, 10 minutes of sitting by the oven (and twiddling my thumbs), and 15 seconds of eating (with a spoon, in bed).

I also like to serve these individual chocolate cakes for dessert at the end of long dinner parties (everyone loves chocolate). But more often than not I just end up making a batch, baking one ramekin off for myself right there, and stashing the rest, covered, in the fridge for the next three nights.

We spend so much time talking about meal prep, but dessert prep can get you a long way in these colder, darker days.

More Tables for One

More from Food52

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mike Jones
    Mike Jones
  • Linda Safianwhite
    Linda Safianwhite
  • Urvashi Pitre
    Urvashi Pitre
  • Karen
  • Stephanieemrick
Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.


Mike J. January 24, 2020
Linda S. January 23, 2020
Ever make these without the citrus? Can't eat citrus for health reasons but I sure can eat chocolate!
Urvashi P. December 30, 2019
Desert prep is SUCH a great idea! I have to try these.
Karen December 29, 2019
These sound delicious! I'm having 8 people over for dinner and would love to make these the day before and store in the fridge. Are they as good served cold or should I try to rewarm before serving?
Eric K. December 29, 2019
Hi Karen! I'd make 8 ramekins (a double recipe) ahead of time and just fridge them, covered, then bake them on a sheet pan right as guests are finishing the main course. These should be eaten hot and gooey, and since they only take 10 minutes to cook (closer to 15 if you're baking them from the fridge), I don't know that there's a need to cook them in advance, though I'd certainly prep them in advance. Hope that helps, Karen!
Karen December 29, 2019
Thanks so much! This sounds very doable. YUM!
Stephanieemrick September 12, 2019
My favourite cake is my Mom’s Crazy Chocolate Cake which contains buttermilk. It’s divine and everybody loves it!
Eric K. December 13, 2019
Sounds divine. Recipe?
Mike J. January 24, 2020
L March 27, 2019
Hi Eric,

Is there any way to minimize or substitute some of the chocolate (I suffer from migraines and chocolate is a trigger)?

Eric K. December 13, 2019
Hi there, hm, have you tried baking with ground carob? Or maybe using a lower cocoa content milk chocolate here?
ellemmbee February 22, 2019
I’d like to make these in pyrex custard cups so I can invert them onto plates for serving. I’ll try buttering and lightly sugaring them before filling. What do you think?
Eric K. December 13, 2019
These are quite lava, especially after just 10 minutes, so I'd recommend serving straight in the ramekins. Good luck!
Christine January 7, 2019
I couldn’t get the egg/sugar/etc to whisk up to light and fluffy; just really well mixed. What did I do wrong? I’m wondering if maybe I should let the eggs come to room temp next time.
Eric K. December 13, 2019
Hi Christine, that's totally fine! I recommend a little air in the recipe because I like the way they taste when they rise and fall, like meringues. But they'll work however long you whip the eggs. Though it is true that room-temperature eggs aerate faster, I really wouldn't worry about it.
Nina S. January 4, 2019
Double Chocolate Cookies by Rick Katz from Baking with Julia is a family favorite!
Eric K. December 13, 2019
Mark December 27, 2018
These look amazing, and the recipe is simple but sounds great! I'm sure these would be perfect any time of the year. Do you think replacing Olive oil with rice bran oil would effect the flavour that much?

will have the do some metric conversions but I can't wait to get home and try it!
Eric K. December 27, 2018
Hey Mark! I like the fruity pepperiness olive oil lends, but rice bran oil would probably be fine due to its mild flavor. Let me know how it goes?

True story: My brother was in charge of the lava cakes this Christmas (I asked him to follow my recipe) and he completely left OUT the olive oil! But they were totally delicious; more lava than cake, but with some vanilla ice cream in there, no one was complaining.
CameronM5 December 21, 2018
Those little white ramekins are the best when cooking for one. ❤️ So going to try this, I need something warm and chocolate like yesterday.
Eric K. December 24, 2018
I use them for everything! These, too: