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Recipes: New cake trend involves mug and a microwave

Published January 8, 2014 8:59 am

Baking • Single-serving treats mixed in a coffee cup depend on the microwave — not the oven — to achieve perfection.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One of the sweetest cake trends in the country doesn't involve gourmet ingredients, special utensils or extraordinary baking skills.

It takes a mug, a microwave and a few minutes.

While the microwave has always been slightly mysterious, with mug cakes "it's just a little bit magical," said chef and cookbook author Leslie Bilderback.

Her newest cookbook, "Mug Cakes: 100 speedy microwave treats to satisfy your sweet tooth" ($22.99, St. Martin's Griffin), is one of several that promote the mug cake phenomenon. There also are a host of recipes for these single-serving treats on cooking blogs and Pinterest boards.

Two Utah food companies — Shirley J and Kodiak Cakes — also have jumped on the "mugging" bandwagon, offering just-add-water mixes for brownies, muffins, corn bread and quiche.

No-fear baking • A trained chef who has worked for several years as a cooking instructor, Bilderback said her beginning students are "universally afraid of baking."

"They think it's such a mystery because it involves chemistry," she said in a recent telephone interview from her home in California. "My goal is always to get everyone comfortable."

After seeing mug cake recipes on the Internet, Bilderback decided to experiment with her teenage daughters. "They immediately loved it," she said.

Professional pastry chefs might turn their noses at the thought of baking in a microwave, but Bilderback — a winner of an episode of "Sweet Genius" on the Food Network, and the author of eight books in the "Complete Idiot's Guide" series ­— doesn't mind.

She said a mug cake is "the perfect vehicle" for eliminating fear. "It's minimal ingredients and time, so if you screw it up, who cares?"

Bilderback's recipes are a little more sophisticated than many. She suggests using self-rising flour because in such a small batter, baking soda and baking powder can make the cake have a slight chemical taste. Her recipes also make two mug cakes because it's really tough to split an egg in half.

Mug cakes have caught on in all demographics, she said. "My oldest daughter is now in college and it's taken off in her dorm room."

They also are popular with tweens who want an easy after-school snack, seniors who don't want to bake and basically anyone who wants something sweet but doesn't want a whole cake.

But do they taste like a made-from-scratch cake?

"I don't think you'd want to go head-to-head in competition with a gourmet chef," admitted Stacey J. Miller, author of "101 Recipes for Microwave Mug Cakes" and "101 Recipes for Gluten-free Microwave Mug Cakes." "But I do think you can make something as good in the microwave as the oven."

Miller also loves mug cakes because "I know what is in it and I know it's fresh."

In fact, the batter for a mug cake contains the same ingredients as its larger sibling — only in smaller proportions. Typically, the directions call for whisking together an egg with oil or butter; stirring in a bit of sugar, some milk and maybe vanilla, chocolate or other flavoring; and finally beating in salt and flour until smooth. (See recipes.)

Premade packets • Nothing could be more simple to make. Unless, of course, you buy one of the just-add-water mixes made by Shirley J., an Orem-based company that specializes in cooking mixes and bases.

The company launched its "Mugging" packets more than a year ago and "ever since, it has been one of our top selling products," said marketing director Becky Olsen. Gift sets that include a 16-ounce bistro mug were big sellers for Christmas; a Valentine's Day set should be available beginning Jan. 15.

The company makes eight mug mixes both sweet and savory. The most popular is the chocolate brownie cake, but there also are walnut, pumpkin spice, pancake, yellow cake and cobbler and a gluten-free chocolate. On the savory side, there's corn bread and quiche.

The single-serving packets are available at Harmon's Grocery stores and participating Associated Food Stores for $1.50 to $2. They also are available online at ShirleyJ.com.

Olsen said the savory mixes are great for meals, too; just place ¾ cup leftover soup or chili into a mug and then pour the batter on top before baking.

Just before Christmas, Kodiak Cakes, based in Park City, launched Minute Muffins. The just-add-water mixes come in microwavable cups and are available in blueberry, double chocolate, apple cinnamon and lemon chia, a twist on lemon poppy seed.

The cups are $1.79 each and are sold at Associated Food stores along the Wasatch Front. They also will be available in more than 200 Wal-Mart stores beginning in January, according to marketing director Cori Goddard.

She said the product came about on a whim.

"We had seen the mug cake thing and it got us thinking what would happen if we microwaved our pancake mix?" she said. "When it came out fluffy and hot, we knew we had to get this to our customers."


Blueberry Muffin Microwave Mug Cake

1 egg

2 tablespoons mixed blueberry yogurt (with the fruit stirred in)

1 tablespoon oil

1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding powder (not prepared)

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Prepare mug by coating the inside lightly with cooking spray. In a small bowl, beat egg with a spoon. Mix in yogurt, oil and vanilla. Then add dry ingredients and mix until smooth.

Pour batter into the mug (do not fill more than halfway) and smooth the top with a spoon. Thump mug firmly on the tabletop six times to remove excess air bubbles. Place mug on top of a microwavable small plate or saucer.

Bake in the microwave for 3 to 4 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the middle of the mug cake. The cake is done when the toothpick comes out dry.

Remove from oven and wait 2 minutes, then run a butter knife along the inside of the mug, and tip the cake onto a plate. Position the mug cake so that the slightly rounded top is on top. Your microwave mug cake will now look like a slightly overgrown muffin.

Optional frosting: Top the mug cake with blueberry pie filling, blueberry jelly or the rest of the blueberry yogurt. You can also split the cake in half and frost each half individually.

Serving • 1

Source: 101 Recipes for Microwave Mug Cakes —

Caramel–Fleur de Sel Mug Cake

Fleur de sel is a fancy sea salt, hand harvested from evaporating pools along the coast of Brittany in France. Similar "gourmet" salts can be found in many stores and specialty shops. If you don't have sea salt caramel candies on hand, it's fine to use generic caramel candies.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 table caramel sauce, store bought or homemade

2 tablespoons milk

6 tablespoons self-rising flour

½ teaspoon fleur de sel

4 caramel candies, preferably salted

In a large mug, whisk together butter and sugar with a fork. Stir in egg, vanilla, caramel sauce and milk. Add flour and ¼ teaspoon of the fleur de sel. Beat the batter until smooth. Divide batter between two mugs. Top each mug with a pinch of the remaining fleur de sel. Microwave separately for 30 seconds each. Place two caramel candies on the top of each partially cooked mug cake, then continue cooking 1 to 1 ½ minutes more until risen and firm.

Topping ideas: Crème fraîche, fresh peaches, salted peanuts, chopped pecans or a drizzle of vinegar-caramel sauce.

Variation: Try this recipe using cajeta, the Mexican caramel made with goat's milk. Its unique flavor will hook you.

Servings • 2

Source: Mug Cakes: 100 speedy microwave treats to satisfy your sweet tooth —

Deep dark chocolate mug cake

This mug cake is rich and moist — more like a brownie than a cake. It is perfect for the serious chocoholic.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup dark chocolate chips (semisweet or bittersweet)

1 large egg

3 ½ tablespoons buttermilk

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons self-rising flour

Pinch of kosher salt

Combine butter and chocolate chips in a large mug. Microwave 30 to 60 seconds until melted. Add egg and whisk with a fork. Stir in buttermilk, vanilla, sugar and cocoa. Add flour and salt. Beat batter until smooth. Divide between two mugs. Microwave separately for 1 ½ to 2 ½ minutes each until risen and firm.

Topping ideas: Top with whipped cream, ganache, orange segments, fresh berries or shaved chocolate.

Servings • 2

Source: Mug Cakes: 100 speedy microwave treats to satisfy your sweet tooth —

Pink Champagne Mug Cake

This mug cake is perfect for Sunday brunch. The strawberries add just the right amount of sweetness to balance the acidity of the wine. They also look cute.

4 strawberries, washed, dried, and diced

¼ cup Champagne

1 large egg

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1 drop pink food coloring

¼ cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons self-rising flour

Pinch of kosher salt

Topping ideas: whipped cream, sifted confectioner's sugar or fresh berries

In a large mug, combine diced strawberries and Champagne. Set aside to macerate for 5 to 10 minutes.

In a second mug, whisk together egg and butter with a fork. Stir in food coloring, sugar, macerated strawberries and their liquid. Add the flour and salt. Beat the batter until smooth. Divide the batter between two mugs. Microwave separately for 1 ½ to 2 ½ minutes each until risen and firm.


Mimosa Mug Cake • Omit the food coloring and add the finely grated zest of 1 orange, or 1 teaspoon of orange juice concentrate.

Beer Mug Cake • Omit the food coloring and berries, add ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, and replace the Champagne with your favorite beer.

Guinness Mug Cake • Follow Beer Mug Cake instructions above, and replace 2 tablespoons of flour with unsweetened cocoa powder.

Servings • 2

Source: Mug Cakes: 100 speedy microwave treats to satisfy your sweet tooth