This is an adaptation—and a huge improvement, in my opinion—of the classic microwave mug cake.
You probably know about microwave mug cake. The Internet has been swooning over it for a while; I think I first read about it in 2007, the year of Dramatic Chipmunk, I Like Turtles, and the Rickroll. It may not be a flashy meme, but it’s paid its Internet dues and earned a reasonable level of respect. Nyan Cat probably has to salute whenever a microwave mug cake goes by.
If you’ve tried any of the popular chocolate mug cake recipes, you know how hard it is to predict which terrible texture you might end up with. One cake is tough and rubbery like an old shoe, and the next might turn out mushy and wet like an old sock, even if you’ve used the same recipe.
I have plenty of real footwear I could eat if I wanted. Even for as little effort as it takes to mix up a mug cake, it’s hardly worth wasting an egg for a bland, burns-your-mouth little hot-handled cup of disappointment.
So I fixed it.
To begin with, I had a whole list of problems with chocolate mug cake:
- Dry/rubbery texture easily made worse by overmixing
- Not very chocolatey-tasting
- Beating the egg separately means washing two dishes
- Kind of a lot of refined sugar for a single serving
So I tested and adapted the recipe, swapping out ingredients and balancing ratios, until I had one that answered all my complaints. The solutions are simple:
- Mix all the wet ingredients first and add the flour last, to prevent overmixing
- Use melted chocolate rather than cocoa powder to improve chocolate flavor
- Add the egg directly to the batter at a pre-flour point when it’s okay to stir to your heart’s content
- Replace all that sugar with a little honey and pretend that means it’s healthy
The recipe is just as easy as the old standard. You put some chocolate chips and butter in your empty cup and microwave those until they melt, then mix the other ingredients into that. Be sure to add the cold milk before the egg so that the egg won’t cook in the heated chocolate, and when all your wet things are perfectly blended, stir the flour in juuuust until it’s blended in, and stick it back in the microwave.
It doesn’t rise a lot, and it’s not going to win any beauty pageants—not even Miss Teen USA 2007—but it’s not about being a handsome cake, it’s about being a tasty cake. Whereas we once summed up the original chocolate mug cake as, “Slightly better, in a way, than no chocolate cake at all,” this one is better than a whole list of things:
- Store-bought individually-wrapped mini cakes
- Things that are not chocolate cake
- No cake
It’s a modest list, yes, and although there are other things that could be added (empty jars, String Racers), I’m not going to oversell it, lest you head into this expecting the kind of cake that would make you turn down a proper cake if given the choice. It’s definitely no substitute for the soft, fluffy, even texture you get when you spend half a day measuring things into different bowls and combining them with the appropriate tools and appliances. What a mug cake sacrifices in nuance and texture, it makes up for by letting you prepare just one little serving and eat it in five minutes, even if you aren’t a baker and don’t have a single pan in your kitchen. In fact, I bet even an idiot could make this. Oh, or a child! Either one.
Notes, in list form today because I’m list-happy all of a sudden:
- The texture of the finished cake should be dense and fudgy and, yes, a bit spongey (it’s a microwave thing), somewhere between a cake and a very moist brownie. There may be some chocolate still melty on the outside, which is not a bad thing. But be sure to let it cool lest you scald yourself.
- The cake can taste strongly of honey if you think about honey while you eat it; if you don’t, you might not notice there’s honey in it at all. According to my research (subject ate the cake whilst looking at the honey bear on the counter; control group did not look at the honey bear), it’s a matter of perception.
- I like to use semisweet chocolate, but if you prefer another kind, try it! What do you have to lose? It’s one serving!
- Being generous with the salt emphasizes the chocolate flavor, so if you’re open to salted chocolate, now’s the time.
One Little Fudgy Brownie Cake in a Mug
- 3 heaping Tablespoons (1.5oz) semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 2 heaping Tablespoons honey
- 3 Tablespoons milk
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon (a.k.a. one large dribble) vanilla
- 4 Tablespoons flour
- Generous pinch of salt
- Place chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe mug and microwave on low power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until chocolate is smooth and melted.
- Add honey.
- Add milk and stir vigorously until combined. (Since the milk is cooler than the chocolate, you have to really convince them to blend, or the chocolate will try to seize and float around in the milk. But you can do it! It’s easy, just stir really fast.)
- Add egg and beat vigorously until combined, just like you did with the milk. Extra beating here, with a fork for instance, may help you get a fluffier texture.
- Stir in vanilla and salt.
- This is important: Add flour and stir until just combined and then stop stirring. But be sure your flour is in fact fully mixed in, or according to one reader, your cake may explode in the microwave. Simply stir it until the moment it is combined—no runny batter with chunks of dry flour floating in it—and then stir no longer. I know it sounds like brain surgery when I emphasize every part of it like this, but when you go to do it, you’ll see it’s not difficult.
- Microwave on medium power (about 500 watts) for three minutes. Allow to cool slightly—but only slightly—before enjoying.