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Cooking With Fire: Chocolate Lava Cake On The Grill

Tom Jackson / All Things Barbecue

This year Americans will buy nearly 60 million pounds of chocolate for Valentine’s Day.

This popular confection didn’t start out as a sweet treat, though; instead, the beans of the cacao tree were ground up and mixed with cornmeal and chili peppers into a bitter drink that was consumed during religious ceremonies and on special occasions in Mesoamerica.

The plant was revered by the Aztec as they believed that Quetzalcoatl, one of their gods, had gifted them the tree.

Cortez arrived at the court of Montezuma in 1519 and during his return trip brought the cacao bean with him.

At first the bitter mixture of ground cacao was used in the treatment of stomach pains and nausea, but soon Europeans found new uses for the bean as they began sweetening the bitter powder with sugar or honey.

This set off a new age for chocolate, and by the early 1600s Spanish courts used dedicated chocolate ware to mix and serve chocolate drinks.

But as the beans were still being grown and harvested in Central America, it was still expensive and hard to come by, limiting chocolate’s impact on the culinary culture of Europe.

Over the years production spread to the west coast of Africa, and several inventions made the processing of the raw bean into ingredients easier, making chocolate an everyday treat for many around the world by the early 1900s.

Enjoy this episode of Cooking with Fire, where you'll hear more about the history of chocolate and Chef Tom will teach you how to make a simple, yet delicious, chocolate lava cake on the grill.

Chocolate Lava Cake

12 servings

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups brown sugar, divided 
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp smoked salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water


  1. Preheat your grill to 375°F, set up for indirect grilling.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, 1 cup of the brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and smoked salt. Whisk to break up any clumps. 
  3. Combine the butter and chocolate in a small bowl and melt over a double boiler or gently in the microwave.
  4. Whisk the buttermilk and Grand Marnier into the melted chocolate, then pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir until combined. 
  5. Stir in chocolate chips, then spread the batter into a greased 12” cast iron skillet.
  6. Combine the remaining (1 cup) brown sugar with the cocoa powder, and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the batter.
  7. Carefully pour the boiling water over the top. Transfer to the grill and bake for about 30-45 minutes until the center is firm to the touch.
  8. Serve topped warm with ice cream, whipped cream or powdered sugar, spooning the sauce from the pan over the cake.
Josh Cary may be the eCommerce Director at All Things Barbecue during the day, but at night he takes on the mantle of an award-winning Pitmaster, who has cooked on the competition barbecue circuit under various team names including ATBBQ, Yoder Smokers and the Que Tang Clan.
All Things Barbecue Staff Chef Tom Jackson is a Kansas native, born and raised in Wichita. In 2008 he and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon, where he attended Oregon Culinary Institute. Tom studied both general culinary skills as well as baking and pastry while working as a cook in a variety of restaurants. After graduating from Oregon Culinary Institute he began working as a bread baker and pastry chef at the renowned Ken’s Artisan Bakery in northwest Portland. He spent more than four years honing his skills under James Beard Award winning chef and owner Ken Forkish. In that time he and his wife had their first child, and the draw of home and family grew stronger. Longtime friends of the Cary family, owners of All Things Barbecue, they returned to Kansas to help All Things Barbecue continue to excel in their cooking classes. Tom has been further developing and building cooking classes and private events at All Things Barbecue since March 2014.