Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cake in a Mug or Adventures in the Kitchen

Cake in a Mug or Adventures in the Kitchen

“Mom, is the microwave supposed to be smoking like that?” my oldest son asked.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

And so what had begun as quality time spent cooking (read experimenting) together for me and my sons rapidly turned into a quick lesson in kitchen safety, or more accurately fire safety.

We were cooking a recipe my mother-in-law had emailed us, knowing my weakness for all things chocolate. It is called 5 minute chocolate cake and it is supposed to be a cure for those midnight chocolate cake cravings. Sounds like an urban legend? Sounds too good to be true? I know. So, of course, we had to try it.

This is the original recipe sent to us and posted in a variety of places on the web.

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons chocolate chips ( optional )
3 tablespoons oil
a small splash of vanilla extract
1 coffee mug

“Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again. Put your mug into the microwave for three minutes at 1000 watts (vary the time just a little either way according to the wattage of your microwave). The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed. Allow to cool and tip out onto a plate if desired. EAT! (This can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous).

“Why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because now we are only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night.”

The boys and I measured out the ingredients into our mugs, chatting while we mixed. Without reading the rest of the recipe, I put mine in the microwave and set it to cook for five minutes. My thinking was that if it’s called five minute chocolate cake, it must take five minutes to cook. Yeah, I know, I need to work on my ability to follow directions. This is not news to anyone who knows me.

Four and a half minutes in and the smoking started. I stopped the microwave and pulled out the charred remnants of cake. It wouldn’t stop smoking. The house was beginning to smell. I poured water on it. Did I mention this recipe has oil in it? Yeah, oil and water are not friends and now
tiny flames were poking out of the charred holes in the cake.

I ran out the back door with my sons on my heels, dumped the cake into the grass and stomped on it. The lawn still bears the scorch marks, which my younger son likes to point out -- frequently.

My husband followed us outside (probably, to prevent smoke inhalation) with the recipe in his hand.

“Darling, it says here you’re only supposed to cook it for three minutes,” he said.


Determined to try again, we waited for the smoke to clear and then trooped back inside and cooked the boys’ cakes for three minutes. They came out well. They had a nice chocolate flavor, but they were a bit on the rubbery side.We decided the egg was to blame. So, we started to play with the original recipe. And this is what we came up with:

Chocolate Mug Cake
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
Mix dry ingredients then add the following
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate chips (I could say these are optional, but in our
world chocolate chips are mandatory).
Microwave for 1 minute.

It came out a little dry, so we tried making it with 4 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream instead of milk. This came out moister but almost too rich to eat (if that’s possible).

A scoop of ice cream or a squirt of whip cream and I do think this could cure the midnight chocolate cake craving, but it will never replace the real deal.
If anyone has a more successful microwave cake recipe, please
share. In the meantime, keep experimenting but remember to keep
your fire extinguisher handy!

And don't forget to enter to win our weekly Mystery Lovers' Kitchen
contest. The prize is a $25 gift certificate to the Williams-Sonoma
kitchenware and gourmet food store. Just sign in to this blog and leave
a comment or send an "Enter me!" e-mail with your first name and state

Jenn McKinlay SPRNKLE WITH MURDER -- March 2010
(also writing as Lucy Lawrence -- STUCK ON MURDER -- Sept 2009)
For more recipes and information visit:


  1. Oh, Jenn, what an adventure! And I can just see the kids pointing to the charred grass! LOL


  2. I love your story! Sounds like something that could happen in my kitchen. I'll have to try out this one...the kids would really enjoy it.


  3. Urban legend microwave cake. Priceless. (There's no sound button on my keyboard but if there were you'd hear me laughing. I can just see your husband. "Uhm...what is my darling wife doing out there on the lawn? She was supposed to be cooking..."


  4. LOL, I'm almost afraid to try these now, but of course, the potential for a little fire won't stop me. :)


  5. I love this story. What we won't do for chocolate, huh? Your posts are dangerous because every time I see what you've cooked up I get the munchies, big time. Keep 'em coming ;-)


  6. I've got a microwave chocolate cake recipe that works great. More than 5 minutes and it's not cupcakes, but it is really good.

    1 stick butter, cut into pieces plus 2 T softened
    8 oz. semisweet chocolate
    1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
    1 tsp. vanilla
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    1/3 cup cake flour
    1/2 tsp. baking powder
    3 eggs

    Use softened butter to grease a 4-cup glass bowl. Grind chocolate in food processor, add sugar and process to combine. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

    Pour into bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and cook on high 4-5 minutes or until just set. Remove bowl, pierce plastic with tip of sharp knife and over with heavy plate. Let rest 10 minutes. Unmold and serve warm (or cold) with ice cream or whipped cream. 6-8 servings.


  7. Oh, man -- good story, Jenn! My sister and I used to be obsessed with "Pie in a Cup" (really, it was in a mug) which we discovered at a diner in Bisbee. I assume it was microwaved, but I really have no cluse how they made it...

  8. Priceless story! Love it. Belongs in a Foodie Magazine.

  9. It's so easy to see this all going down. My sis-in-law swears by omelettes in a cup. She says they were a great way to make a hot breakfast on hectic (and really, is there any other kind?)school mornings. I tried it and learned the way of the smoking microwave.

  10. Pie in a cup? Omelettes in a cup? I see a
    "cooking in a cup" cookbook for an industrious soul out there. I could have used one in college!

    Isabel, thanks for the recipe. I will absolutely
    try it -- anything that requires a stick of butter works for me! Jenn

  11. OMG, my kids were on a kick for this cake forever. They thought it was fun to make and it engaged all three of them in an activity without. If you eat them right away, they are fine but let them sit and they could be used for a ball.

  12. OMG! I love that cake story, too funny.

    I probably should not be posting at all since I do not own a micro. I gave mine away years ago, because I hated the color of the thing, utility brown :( I never replaced it.

  13. Funny story! I looked at this recipe when it went around the internet, but I wasn't ambitious enough to gather the ingredients to try it. But I would assume a cake that had "5 minutes" in the title should be nuked for 5 minutes, too. I have tried the quickie micro cakes they sell in the market, and I have to give them mixed marks as well. A tad rubbery, too, and it's hard to get them to bake evenly. Great story!

  14. Too rich? I think not. Have seen the recipe--thanks for taking care of the testing, the fire, etc, so I can avoid those and try your amended recipe. As if my hips need that...
    LOL Jeanne Bracken

  15. I bought some of those little cake mixes in a small plastic cup and tried one after seeing them on TV. Sigh, I misread the directions and nearly burned our house down as well. It smelled like melted chocolate for days, which I loved and hubby hated.

    I made the second one in the package as soon as the smoke cleared because I was still hungry for chocolate, and I loved it, but this recipe sounds like a great treat for self or for company.

  16. What a yummy blog! I'm going to try the microwave cake recipe. I've read Julie's and Cleo's books but am glad to know about the other series.

  17. Do you have any suggestions as to what type of mug (or size) to use?

    Thank you for posting this recipe. I've seen a few but no good actual testing. This will be a fun activity with the kid.

  18. Standard sized mug. I used my Fiesta ware coffee
    mug and it worked perfectly! Good luck and let
    me know how it turns out. -Jenn

  19. Another quick- easy- yummy coffee mug cake.. this one is better than the chocolate!
    I suggest making this recipe and then splitting it between 2 mugs (the above picture is a 1/2 recipe.. one for each of the girls )

    Combine dry ingredients

    6 Tbs flour (I always use freshly ground wheat.. I used my pastry wheat for this)

    2 Tbs sugar (brown or white depending on your taste.. I use raw sugar but if I were to pick brown or white I’d go with the brown)

    1/4 tsp baking soda (if you use wheat or freshly ground I’d up it to 1/2 a tsp. instead)

    1/8 tsp cinnamon (I use one of the McCormick graters for my cinnamon so I upped it to more like 1/4 tsp.. I don’t really measure anything so I’m not sure)

    1/8 tsp nutmeg

    Mix those up with a fork.. then add..

    4 Tbs orange juice (I used 3 Tbs apple juice and 1 Tbs of a beaten egg.. milk or buttermilk would probably work as well)

    3 Tbs grated carrot

    2 Tbs oil

    1/4 tsp vanilla

    add pecans and/ or raisins if you like..

    mix it all up and pour into 2 small coffee mugs or 1 large mug. Microwave for 2-2.5 minutes. Let it cool a bit and eat! We like this drizzled with honey.