Microwave mug cakes are not as good as real cakes. But they are awesome in a different way: You can make them fast enough to satisfy an emergency homemade treat craving without an oven, and eat them in their entirety without feeling comatose afterward. The problem is that microwave baking is tricky, and not every cake-in-a-mug recipe that turns up on Google will be worth making.
That’s why the new cookbook Mug Cakes is great, because author Leslie Bilderback tested each of the book’s 100 recipes three times to make sure they work every time. (We also tested a few of the recipes in the BuzzFeed offices, primarily so we could eat mugs full of cake at our desks, and we were satisfied.)
Find some of the author’s best tips below, plus a few recipes from the cookbook.
7 Essential Tips for Mug Cake Baking
1. Use self-rising flour. You can make a small batch if you can’t find it at the grocery store by combing 1 cup all-purpose flour + 3/4 teaspoon baking powder + a pinch of kosher salt, but store-bought self-rising flour will produce better, more consistent mug cakes.
2. One large egg = two mug cakes. The recipe developer for this cookbook found that it was impossible to make a one-egg cake with the right ratio of ingredients that would fit in a single average mug. And splitting an egg in two is a pain. Therefore, her recipes make enough better for two mugs. Be sure to use large eggs, not extra large.
3. Anything microwaveable will work. Glasses, jars, ceramic ramekins, or even paper cups. The most important thing is not to fill it more than half full with batter. Use your best judgment and experiment. It only takes one or two mug cakes to become an expert.
4. Again, don’t fill any mug more than half full. This is the golden rule of mug cake baking. If you stick to that, you will avoid overflow.
5. Start with the shortest cook time your recipe lists first. Check the cake by carefully touching the top. It should be firm and springy, not at all doughy. If it’s not done, keep cooking it in 15-second bursts.
6. Mug cakes will be blonde. The golden brown on the top of a traditional cake is created by caramelization of sugar, which occurs at 320ºF. A microwave doesn’t get much hotter than 212ºF — the vaporization point of water. So your mug cakes won’t brown, and that’s fine; they may be finished cooking anyways.
7. Sinking happens. Mug cakes often deflate a little bit. They still taste delicious and there’s no need to be discouraged — but don’t fill it up more than halfway; it won’t help.
Yellow cake is the classic birthday cake, and a perfect blank canvas on which to paint a sweet celebratory picture. Eat it as is, or fold in anything you like — chocolate chips, candies, nuts, fruits — to create a personalized mug cake statement.
Makes 2 mug cakes
INGREDIENTS ￼￼2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 large egg 2 tablespoons milk 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/4 cup granulated sugar 6 tablespoons (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) self-rising flour Pinch of kosher salt
PREPARATION Place the butter in a large mug and microwave it for 20 to 30 seconds until melted. Add the egg and whisk it in with a fork. Stir in the milk, vanilla, and sugar. Add the flour and salt. Beat the batter until smooth. Divide the batter between two mugs. Microwave separately for 1.5 to 2.5 minutes each until risen and firm.
This über-trendy cake is actually a vintage recipe from the Deep South. It is as red as Scarlet O’Hara’s dress thanks to the combination of cocoa powder and cheap liquid red food coloring. Be sure to use the cheap stuff! Fancy food coloring pastes and gels don’t work nearly as well. The vinegar was traditionally added to the baking soda as a leavener. With self-rising flour, it’s not necessary, but it’s added here for its classic zippy flavor.
Makes 2 mug cakes
INGREDIENTS ￼￼1 large egg 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 teaspoon liquid red food coloring 3 tablespoons buttermilk 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 1/4 cup granulated sugar 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 1/4 cup self-rising flour Pinch of kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon cider, white, white wine, or rice vinegar
PREPARATION In a large mug, whisk together the egg and oil with a fork. Stir in the food coloring, buttermilk, vanilla, and sugar. Add the cocoa, flour, salt, and vinegar. Beat the batter until smooth. Divide the batter between two mugs. Microwave separately for 1.5 to 2.5 minutes each until risen and firm.
Topping Ideas: Cream cheese frosting, Marshmallow Fluff, whipped cream, fresh berries, red sugar sprinkles, candied pecans, or chocolate shavings.
Variations Blue velvet: You never know when you may need to make a blue cake. It’s easily done by replacing cheap red liquid food coloring with cheap blue liquid food coloring. For any other cake color, you’ll want to omit the cocoa powder, as it will give all other food colors a tinge of brown. If you make another color, replace the cocoa powder with an equal amount of flour.
This cake is gluten-free the way the North Pole is bikini-free. It’s simply not needed. It’s not as cakey as other recipes in the cookbook, but it is certainly just as tasty.
Makes 2 mug cakes
INGREDIENTS 1 overripe banana 1/4 cup peanut butter (or any nut butter) 1 large egg 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, or alternative sweetener 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 1⁄4 cup add-ins of your choice, including chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or dried fruit
PREPARATION Mash the banana in a large mug with a fork. Add the nut butter and egg and mix thoroughly. Stir in the sugar and cocoa and beat until smooth. Fold in the add-ins. Divide the batter between two mugs. Microwave separately for 1.5 to 2.5 minutes each until risen and firm.
Regardless of how you feel about the word "foodie," or the questionable edible trends that find their way on to menus, you’ve got to admit that good food is always worth sharing. Being economical in the kitchen doesn’t mean that you or your family need to go without good food. On the contrary, everyday recipes should be delicious and satisfying but not leave you out of pocket. This practicality is not new: in every part of the world, the most beloved traditional foods, such as Russian Borscht, Hungarian Goulash, Mexican Quesadillas, and Italian Lasagne, are inexpensive to make for this very reason. Traditional recipes are therefore featured often in this book. These are dishes that you can reproduce reliably day after day, and they have an undeniable feel-good factor.