When it comes to a Valentine’s Day dessert, it really has to be chocolate. Settled slap bang in the middle of February, this day of love requires a pudding that is delicious and romantic, comforting yet not too heavy, sophisticated but warming. Nothing could achieve this balance quite as perfectly as a fondant au chocolat.
Somewhere between a flourless chocolate cake and a soufflé, a fondant au chocolat is a soft chocolate sponge characterised by its liquid centre. Made with just four ingredients – butter, sugar, chocolate, and eggs – the recipe is deceptively simple (though MasterChef fans will appreciate it is not an easy one to get right!) Cooked in ramekins and designed as a one-person pud, it is an indulgent yet light way to end a meal – far too small (and too good!) to share.
Nobody can quite agree who first came up with this melt-in-the-middle delight, but it was much more recently than you might think. The first ever cake with a deliberately gooey centre was actually made by a housewife called Ella Helfrich in the mid-1960s. Her “Tunnel of Fudge” cake was made in a Bundt mould for a Pillsbury bake off and featured a runny fudge centre. It was not until many years later that the chocolate fondant as we know it was invented. The two top contenders are both French chefs – Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Michel Bras – and both created (or discovered) their molten chocolate cakes in the 1980s.
Triple-Michelin-starred chef Michel Bras created his chocolate coulant cake in 1981, by placing a disc of chilled ganache inside cake batter which was frozen overnight. This frozen ganache would then melt as the cake was baking, resulting in a gooey liquid centre. This technique, however, can be tricky, messy, and unreliable, and so the technique most use these days takes after the happy accident which brought into being Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s chocolatey pudding. The story goes that, in 1987, US-based Vongerichten pulled a chocolate sponge out of the oven before it was done, but noticed that the uncooked centre was delicious as it was.
Whoever was responsible – we owe them a debt of gratitude, for this molten loveliness. Have we got your mouth watering? Want to try our fondant au chocolat for yourself? Book a table and you can!