Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dark Chocolate Molten Cake & Le St André Café in Bonnieux

One of the desserts we saw all over Provence was beautifully presented individual servings of dark chocolate molten cakes. The one above is from Le St André Café in the gorgeous perched village of Bonnieux.

Bonnieux is one of the beautiful villages of Provence. As early as 972 AD, it was a fortified village and has an interesting history. According to the website Luberon.comBonnieux started off lower down the hill, but inched its way up the slope as events got harrier in the 13th century and barricaded itself against invaders and attackers with ramparts, which sometimes kept them out and sometimes did not.” Hmm, just when I thought those perched villages were safe from the invaders during the Middle Ages.

Today Bonnieux is one of the most impressive villages in the Luberon. Here are a few of the pictures we took while we strolled around before lunch.

The French adore their dogs and take them everywhere, including restaurants. This man kindly allowed us to take his picture with his cute little pooch.

On the day we visited Bonnieux we decided to have lunch, or dejeuner as it is called in France, at Le St André Café.

Before we ordered our lunch, Meakin went inside the restaurant and found some of the staff, including our server and the hostess, both pictured below, enjoying their own lunch before the noontime rush.

As it turns out, they were eating an omelet and a chef’s salad. He thought it looked so good and, as yet, we hadn’t eaten an omelet on this trip, so he asked them if we could order the same meal as they were having. The hostess looked over to a gentleman (we presume to have been the chef or owner) of the restaurant and he nodded in the affirmative, so you’ll see below our chef’s salad and omelet, customized to our request.

For dessert we both chose the dark chocolate molten cake sitting atop a crème anglaise sauce, served with a scoop of pistachio glacée and a dollop of whipped cream sprinkled with a few miniature chocolate chips.

I could not wait to get home and try a version of their dessert myself.

I chose this particular molten chocolate cake recipe (there are a lot of recipes out there) because cookbook author Peggy Knickbocker had adapted her recipe from the Russian Tea Room, an iconic restaurant in New York City. One evening in the late seventies Meakin and I stopped into the Russian Tea Room (next door to Carnegie Hall) prior to attending a Frank Sinatra concert at Carnegie Hall and ran into to Gene Shalit, famed New York movie and television critic. It's just another reason this recipe is special to us. Funny, you never know when old memories related to recipes can crop up. Below is how dark chocolate molten cake turned out.

Try as we might to find a similar pistachio glacée or gelato, which to us seems very similar to a French glacée, we were unsuccessful. I found pistachio gelato, but unfortunately it wasn’t very green, so we settled on quality mint chocolate chip ice cream. We skipped the crème anglaise sauce, but it was a very nice addition. If you don’t want to bother with making your own crème anglaise sauce (we didn’t) and want to cheat a bit, you can melt some vanilla ice cream and swirl a little underneath the cake to take its place. We’ve done that in the past and it works great. All in all, the molten chocolate cake was easy to make and we were pleased with how it turned out. If you want it a little runnier, remove it from the oven a minute or two before the recipe calls for. I really like the fact that you can make the majority of the recipe in advance and cook it right before you plan to serve it.

The mint chocolate ice cream is very pretty with the dark chocolate, but a bright raspberry gelato would be equally stunning.

Here's our version of Le St André Café's molten chocolate cake.

Dark Chocolate Molten Cakes
Adapted from Simple Soirees by Peggy Knickerbocker, serves 6
Printable Recipe

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, plus additional for buttering the ramekins
10 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus additional for flouring the ramekins
¼ cup sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
Powdered sugar

Optional toppings:
French glacée, ice cream or gelato
Whipped cream

In a double boiler (or set a bowl tightly over a pot of simmering water), melt the butter, then add the chopped chocolate to the hot butter, stirring constantly until all of the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. If desired you can place the bowl in the refrigerator briefly, but do not let the chocolate harden.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Butter and lightly flour six 6 ounce ramekins, making sure not to miss any spots or the cakes will stick. Place them on a sheet pan (lined with Silplat if available to keep the ramekins from sliding.)

Combine the flour and sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk in the eggs until well blended and there are no visible lumps. Whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture until combined completely. Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins. They should be two thirds full.

At this point the recipe can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 6 hours. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake in the middle rack of the oven until the cakes have puffed up a bit and the cakes still jiggle slightly when shaken, about 10 to 12 minutes. (I advise checking them at 9 minutes.) The cakes will be slightly fluid at 10 minutes and a little more cakelike if baked for the 12 minutes. If you like the centers very solf, taken them out at 9 minutes. Let sit for 1 minute.

Carefully remove the ramekins for the sheet pan. Place a plate on top of each ramekin and, with a potholder to protect your hands, carefully invert the cake onto individual plates. Let it sit for 10 seconds, then lift up each ramekin off of the cake. Alternately you may serve the cakes in the ramekins if you wish. Sprinkle the cakes with powdered sugar and if desired, a scoop of French glacée ice cream, gelato, or sorbet and/or whipped cream.

We highly recommend the food and the quality of service at Le St André Café in Bonnieux. For more information on the cafe, visit their website here.

Friday is Market Day in Bonnieux. If you plan to have lunch afterwards, we suggest that you call ahead and reserve a table no matter where you dine. If you are planning to have lunch at Le St André Café and you find yourself parked too far away to comfortably walk, call ahead and they will send the cute French golf cart above to fetch you.

Photo courtesy of Le St André Café website

Le St André Café Bonnieux
1 Freedom Square
84480 Bonnieux
Phone: 04 90 75 11 72

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm and Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday.
Have a great weekend everyone.


  1. It has been ages since I last had a molten cake. Your version looks divine, Sam.

  2. I feel as if I'm opening up a copy of Gourmet with each time you post lately! Beautiful sites and delicious food. I'm looking forward to the next "issue".


  3. Loving this recipe and the stories behind it. A recipe can paint a picture more vivid that any photos in your photo album. Recreating this dish would have brought back such amazing memories.

  4. Wonderful post Sam. Your pictures of the French countryside are beautiful. The molten cakes looks and sounds wonderful.

  5. So sweet it brought back such a dear memory..what an outing that was too!
    Jacques and I loved Bonnieux..a Deux Chevaux was parked outside that church..I rememeber printing that photo to make a birthday card ..for my friend Nancy who had one when she lived in the South Of France.
    We walked to the top:)
    I regret not buying the CD of the woman that was singing there.. we went to Lacoste after..

    and ended the day at the Co-OP(wine...) where Jacques became quite smitten with the young girl who was an Audrey Tautou lookalike♥

  6. What a great meal Sam. I must try your molten cakes. I think they would be great for a small party or gathering.

  7. Sam, You had me hooked with that first photo of the dark chocolate molten cake! Your photos of Bonnieux are terrific... What a setting for a beautiful lunch! The golf cart is a classy touch too... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  8. I remember being there Sam. What beautiful pictures and your molten cake . . . Ooh la la!

  9. So luscious and incredibly chocolaty!



  10. I was afraid to read and look at your posts in Provence as I knew it would make me homesick since I did not go back home this year. As you say “it’s good to be back home” but it is hard when home is far away and nobody speaks your language where you live. The lodging you had was so picturesque and lovely. The lunch at the Café de la Poste must be yummy and I saw that many patrons were seating outside the restaurant. I enjoyed your pictures of Goult – the colors of Provence. The tomatoes and melons in Provence have a special taste, not replicated here in the US – and the smell – isn’t lavende the best. Your molted cake looks delicious – I still cannot get used to cakes here in the US because they are too sweet for my taste and they use milk chocolate usually. In France you can find gourmet lunches in even little country towns. When I travel in Georgia, in little country towns, I am lucky if I find a barbecue restaurant. But this is a different culture and they would not like French gourmet meals, I guess. Your series of posts on your trips and meals was ever so much fun to read.

  11. Great shots of the village and what a treat to enjoy that delicious meal there - good choice to eat what the help is eating. Bev likes to make the molten cakes so I'll send this on to her.

  12. Your photos of the area are gorgeous, Sam! It's amazing, you would think building at that high elevation would deter invaders for sure. The pink flowers are so pretty and that pooch is adorable! Your cake looks delicious and it would make all the chocolate lovers in this family happy. Take care

  13. Beautiful pics and your cake turned out great Sam:@)

  14. Another beautiful postcard-perfect post, Sam. I love looking at the view and love the building with the bright blue shudders that match the blue sky. What wonderful dining experiences you had and with such friendly and accommodating people. Would you believe I've never tried making a chocolate molten cake? I really need to try your recipe because I have a friend who loves to order them at restaurants. It would be such a nice surprise for her.

  15. Your images are so beautiful, Sam - making me want a trip to France! Chocolate molten cake is a favorite…may have to give this a try!

  16. I enjoyed the photos very much as I don't get to travel and wished I could.. so thanks again for sharing them they are beautiful.. As for molten cakes I always wanted to make some but then you have to search for a great recipe so double thanks for sharing yours now I can try them.. Yay.. have a lovely evening with love Janice

  17. What an enchanting village! I'll try the molten chocolate cake soon -- I know my family will thank you.

  18. These were all the rage, for a while, in California. The village looks quite, quite beautiful.

  19. Oh Sam, your photos are enchanting! That brick walk is a gorgeous photograph! Charming, the entire post. Of course, the dessert is divine. I'm not a chocoholic, but my son is and this is one of his favorite desserts!

  20. Bonnieux looks so beautiful, Sam. It is wonderful to visit these villages of France on your blog that I will probably never see. I enjoyed reading your reminiscence about the Russian Tea Room! We dined there multiple times. My husband was often mistaken for Gene Shalit - We both love chocolate molten cake --I will have to make this as a special treat very soon!

  21. What a wonderful recreation of your lovely meal in Provence! We are huge fans of chocolate molten cakes, so I'll definitely give your version a try!

  22. looks amazing and what a special place :-) bet the locals love meeting you both

  23. Hi Sam,
    What a lovely dessert, like you I would have made this as soon as possible, and that is what I am going to do. Thanks you so much for sharing your special adventures with us and bringing us with you. Thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday and have a great week!
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen


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