The Ultimate: Molten Chocolate Cake
It may no longer be avant-garde, but molten chocolate cake is still perhaps one of the most difficult desserts to pull off. Done right, its slightly crisp outer layer conceals a warm, silky chocolate center; done wrong, it’s a dried-out lump filled with sweet goo. Bistro du Midi’s version, which it calls "warm chocolate fondant," melts our hearts. Pastry chef Sarah Ewald, who once turned out molten cakes in New York’s Mercer Kitchen, achieves the flawlessly smooth texture and intense chocolate flavor by combining 72 percent Valrhona chocolate and pure cacao "pâté." The finishing touch? A scoop of nougat ice cream, the perfect icy contrast. 272 Boylston St., Boston, 617-426-7878, bistrodumidi.com.
****1/2 Orinoco: Made with rich Venezuelan chocolate, this confection showcases an irresistibly thick, velvety center, but loses points for its uninspired disposable-baking-tin presentation—and no ice cream on the side! 477 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-369-7075; 22 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-232-9505; orinocokitchen.com.
**** Fleming’s: A stellar contender, even if the buttery, spongy, near-puddinglike cake strays a bit too far from tradition to take the crown. 217 Stuart St., Boston, 617-292-0808, flemingssteakhouse.com.
*** Finale: Like Bistro du Midi’s version, it’s made with Valrhona chocolate. But Finale’s molten cake lacks the same flavor intensity. One Columbus Ave., Boston, 617-423-3184, and other locations, finaledesserts.com.
** Morton’s: A bit cloying, and missing the rich chocolate taste of the other confections we tried. 699 Boylston St., Boston, 617-266-5858; 2 Seaport Ln., Boston, 617-526-0410; mortons.com.