Named for the liquid flow of chocolate released from the middle of each piece, molten lava cakes are a showcase for the dark, rich taste of chocolate. Extremely simple to create -- only requiring five to six ingredients per recipe -- and assemble, the cakes are a quick, yet elegant, dessert. However, for those either monitoring their cholesterol intake, on a dairy-restricted diet, or following a vegan lifestyle, the butter in the recipe is problematic. There are several potential substitutions that allow enjoyment of the cakes, while keeping to your dietary guidelines.
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Butter substitutes are a whipped-oil product flavored to taste similar to butter. They are generally vegan because they use of non-animal products. Use a butter substitute or margarine in a ratio of 1 part substitute for every 1 part butter called for in a recipe. Use at the same stage of the recipe that the butter is called for, when the margarine and chocolate are melted and combined over a double boiler. Do not use a low-fat margarine as these contain a higher amount of water and will mess up the wet to dry ratios of the batter, and thus the cooking times and temperatures, of the overall recipe.
Vegetable oil is a common substitute for butter when baking, and works well in molten lava cakes. However, unlike butter and butter substitutes, oil contains no added water and therefore is more concentrated than either. When substituting oil for butter, use a ratio of 3-to-4 in a recipe. For example, substitute 3/4 cup oil for 1 cup butter. In addition, if the recipe calls for salted butter, add a pinch of salt to the recipe when adding the oil.
Substitute coconut butter to add both texture and flavor to molten lava cakes. An untypical substitute, coconut butter contains a strong coconut flavor that is imparted when mixed with the batter. Enhance this natural flavoring, if desired, by adding a few pinches of shredded cococnut.
Use the butter substitute for greasing the inside of the ramekins, or baking cups, as well as for the batter. This ensures that the cakes slide out after they are baked. Whether using butter or a substitute, the most essential part of creating lava cakes is during the baking process. Closely watch the cakes until they are just hardened on top but remain liquid in the center. The heat continues to cook the center once they are removed, so it is better to err on the side of caution if unsure.