I was in the baking section of my local super market and did double-take when I saw the instant mug cake. If there’s a powder version, it must have really made the main stream. It was a rainy, dull day. I decided to do some research and see if there was a pattern to mug cakes. I now have a go-to recipe.
The pleasure of mug cake is that it’s fast: you stick some things in a mug, blast it with microwaves and ta-dah! – dessert. If you have to make more than one or two it becomes a faff and you might as well make a cake. But as a near-instant sugar fix, it’s useful. It’s portion controlled, you don’t need any special tools and can use ingredients that re probably already in your cupboard. Having seen the light, I wanted to develop an easy-to-use recipe for my personal online cookbook.
I googled dozens of recipes looking for a plain vanilla mug cake. There are lots of different varieties out there, some use egg and butter, some use curdled milk for lift. I opted for a vegan recipe since I wanted a one-cup, minimal mess cake. Extrapolating, I came up with a basic recipe of 3 parts dry to 2 parts wet, or 4 tbsp plain white flour, 2 tbsp soft brown sugar, 0.25 (to a half) tsp baking powder, 3 tbsp soya milk, 1 tbsp oil, 0.25 (to a half) vanilla essence.
The cakes puff up in the microwave, then deflate when they come out. I like to let them sit a few minutes before eating or decanting onto a plate. It gives them a bit more integrity.
- Flour: most of my experiments used simple white plain flour. I also made one cake that used half wholegrain rye. I really liked that. It had a nuttier flavour. Swap one tbsp of flour for cocoa and you have chocolate cake. You’re welcome.
- Sugar: My first experiment used white flour and white sugar. It was fine but bland. So I shifted up the sugar and what a difference that made!
- Baking powder: I have a 0.25 tea spoon measure but I realise not everyone does. Baking powder leaves a nasty taste so you don’t want too much but if you use a bit more than 0.25 tsp, don’t worry.
- Milk: my first attempts used almond milk. They all collapsed and had a very tender crumb. With soya milk, it was much better. I think the difference is the protein content: 3.3 in soya, 0.4 in almond.
- Oil: I was out of almond oil so used walnut oil instead. That too is neutral in flavour. You can use vegetable oil too. I prefer something very neutral like almond or very flavoured like hazelnut.
- Vanilla essence: a hint of vanilla is nice, don’t overdo it.
- Cinnamon cake: straight vanilla with half a tea spoon cinnamon in the batter and a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon on top.
- Dark woods: a happy jolly take on Black Forest – 1 tbsp of cocoa instead of 1 tbsp flour, 0.25 tsp almond essence, 3 cherries.
- Chocolate chip: chop up a square of chocolate and mix through the batter.
- Orange: swap the milk for orange juice, add a sprinkle of orange zest.
Have fun playing with this.
- 4 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp sugar (soft, brown gives colour and flavour; golden castor works too)
- 0.25 tsp baking powder
- 3 tbsp milk (soy works well)
- 1 tbsp oil (a neutral flavour is best)
- 0.25 tsp vanilla essence
- 4 raspberries
- The size of the cup is important: this recipe is for a standard British tea cup, of about 200 ml.
- Mix the dry ingredients in the bottom of the cup.
- Add the wet ingredients and mix until well combined.
- Gently push the raspberries into the batter.
- Cook for 1.5 minutes (90 seconds) in a 900Watt microwave oven.