Table for One

A Clementine Chocolate Lava Cake for Tonight (& 3 More Nights)

Five-ingredient comfort baking for one.

December 21, 2018
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 the first day of winter, the shortest day—and the longest night—of the year. To prep for tonight's 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.

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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.

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Top Comment:
“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! ”
— Mark

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 salivating), 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.

What's your favorite chocolate recipe? Please share in the comments below.

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Eric Kim is the Senior Editor and 'Table for One' columnist at Food52. Formerly the Digital Manager of, he writes about food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson Kim. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway.


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)?

ellemmdee 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?
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.
Nina S. January 4, 2019
Double Chocolate Cookies by Rick Katz from Baking with Julia is a family favorite!
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!
Author Comment
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.
Author Comment
Eric K. December 24, 2018
I use them for everything! These, too: