3 microwaveable mug cake recipes, because everyone deserves a personal dessert

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In search of a quick and easy sweet treat? Look no further than cult NYC bakery Milk Bar’s microwaveable mug cakes, for personalised desserts you can make in minutes. 

Picture the scene: you’ve just had dinner. You’re curled up on the sofa. You’re feeling content and a little sleepy as you settle down to watch Netflix. One documentary down, and you start to crave something sweet. Sound familiar?

This, friends, is the hour of mini desserts. Not brownies, cookies or chocolate-coffee banana bread, all of which require a pre-warmed oven and at least half an hour of your attention. Instead, turn to clever, no-bake desserts that deliver a satisfying sweet treat fast. Does such a thing exist? With mug cakes, the answer is most definitely, resoundingly yes.

If your first impression of a cake baked in a mug is that it’s a little studenty, or an internet hack that can never be successfully replicated in real life, it’s time to upend your expectations. Mug cakes are something of a miracle when it comes to home baking, allowing you to whip up a quick, easy personalised dessert with simple store cupboard ingredients. 

To help you on your way to mug cake glory, we’ve got three recipes to share from Christina Tosi, co-founder of cult New York bakery chain Milk Bar. In All About Cake: A Milk Bar Cookbook (Clarkson Potter), Tosi reveals how to make a molten chocolate mug cake and a mint chocolate chip version, both of which can be on the table (and in your mouth) in around 10 minutes. 

Tosi’s recipe for oatmeal, apple and brown sugar mug cake takes a little longer if you follow all the steps (and if you’ve got time, it’s definitely worth it). But the process can also be whittled down to around 10 minutes if you skip the baked apple matchsticks and brown sugar glaze and just stick the cake itself in the microwave. 

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Oatmeal, apple and brown sugar microwave mug cake recipe

Apple and oatmeal mug cake
Mug cake recipes: Milk Bar Christina Tosi's oatmeal, apple and brown sugar microwave mug cake

Christina says: “Oatmeal cookies and apples are the two most prominent snacks and desserts of my childhood. I didn’t have a great from-scratch cake recipe up my sleeve when I was young and microwaving strange batters for fun, but I like to think this is the recipe I’d make for my mom, grandma, or aunts if I did. It’s deeply nurturing and tugs at the heartstrings of some of my favourite early food memories. I also like to think it’s not too far from a mug full of oatmeal, but I can really convince myself of anything in order to get a little more butter and sugar into a bite of warm, oaty goodness.”

Makes two 11-ounce mugs of cake/serves 2

Ingredients

Tip: Use quick oats instead of rolled oats in this recipe – if you do use rolled oats, they will be delicious, but will remain slightly “al dente” due to the short cooking time in the microwave.

For the mug cakes: 

  • 75g buttermilk
  • 40g unsalted butter, melted
  • 25g grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 4g vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 45g quick oats
  • 40g sugar
  • 40g light brown sugar
  • 40g cake flour
  • 1g baking powder
  • 1g coarse sea salt
  • 0.25g ground cinnamon

For the green apple matchsticks (makes about 100g/1 cup):

  • 5g lemon juice
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 60g light brown sugar
  • 0.5g coarse sea salt

For the brown sugar glaze (makes about 40g/2 tablespoons):

  • liquid reserved from green apple matchsticks
  • 5g unsalted butter

    Method

    Start by making the apple matchsticks. Heat the oven to 120°C/250°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

    Put the lemon juice in the bottom of a small bowl. Cut the apple into matchsticks, by first slicing one side of the apple into ⅛-inch slices starting at the edge and working your way to the core. Stack the slices on top of each other and slice them again into long ⅛-inch-wide matchsticks. Add these matchsticks to the bowl with the lemon juice and toss to coat. Repeat with all sides of the apple until all that’s left is the core.

    Toss the matchsticks with the light brown sugar and salt and let them sit for 10 minutes to release their juices.

    Gently squeeze the apples to release more of their juices. Reserve the brown sugar and apple juice liquid for the brown sugar glaze.

    Spread the apple matchsticks evenly across the lined sheet pan and bake until they dry out and start to caramelize, about 40 minutes. The apples can be stored at room temperature, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.

    While the apple matchsticks are in the oven, make the brown sugar glaze. Put the liquid reserved from the apple matchsticks into a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the temperature to low and continue to cook until the liquid darkens and coats the back of a spoon, about 1½ minutes.

    Stir the butter into the mixture until melted. Let the glaze cool to room temperature before using.

    All About Cake: A Milk Bar Cookbook by Christina Tos
    All About Cake: A Milk Bar Cookbook by Christina Tosi is published by Penguin

    Now you can make the mug cake mixture. Whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, vanilla extract, and egg together in a bowl.

    Whisk the oats, sugar, brown sugar, cake flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in a separate bowl.

    Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir to combine. If the batter looks lumpy, use a whisk to break up all the lumps.

    Divide the batter between the mugs and top each mug with a generous amount of the apple matchsticks.

    Microwave the mugs until the cakes rise and puff up and look like they are about to spill out over the mugs. Start with 1 minute, and if they look too raw, continue to microwave in 15-second increments until the sides and top have set, leaving hot gooey cake batter hidden inside (up to 2 ½ minutes).

    Remove the mugs from the microwave, drizzle the brown sugar glaze all over the top, and garnish each oatmeal cake with more apple matchsticks.

    This will take every ounce of self-control you have, but wait 1 minute before stirring it up and digging in with a spoon.

    Mint chocolate chip molten microwave mug cake recipe

    Mint chocolate chip mug cake
    Mug cake recipes: mint chocolate chip mug cake

    Christina says: “I can never quite shake my obsession with mint chocolate chip ice cream, but eating those flavours warm, late at night from a mug, makes me believe I CAN give up the ice cream if I can keep my gooey, molten microwave cake. Sidecar this snack with a cup of peppermint tea or a hot cocoa or both, and you’ll be the hero of your household.”

    Makes two 11-ounce mugs of cake/serves 2

    Ingredients

    • 5 peppermint sweets
    • 40g unsalted butter, melted
    • 35g buttermilk
    • 25g grapeseed or other neutral oil
    • 4g peppermint extract 
    • 1 large egg
    • 80g sugar
    • 20g light brown sugar
    • 60g cake flour
    • 1g baking powder 
    • 1g coarse sea salt
    • 40g mini chocolate chips 
    • 6g cake flour

    Method

    Find your two best 11-ounce mugs and set them aside.

    Unwrap the peppermint sweets and place them in a zip-seal freezer bag. Use a rolling pin to crush them into small, pea-size pieces.

    Whisk the melted butter, buttermilk, oil, peppermint extract, and egg together in a large bowl.

    Whisk both sugars, the 60g (½ cup) cake flour, baking powder, and salt together in a separate large bowl.

    Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir to combine. If the batter looks lumpy, use a whisk to break up all the lumps.

    Toss the chocolate chips in the 6g (1 teaspoon) cake flour and stir them into the batter. Divide the batter between the mugs.

    Microwave the mugs until the cakes rise and puff up and look like they are about to spill out over the mugs. Start with 1 minute, and if it looks too raw, continue to microwave in 15-second increments until the sides and top have set, leaving hot gooey cake batter hidden inside (up to 2  1⁄2 minutes).

    Remove the mugs from the microwave and garnish them with the crushed peppermint bits (they give a great toffee-like texture). This will take every ounce of self-control you have, but wait 1 minute before stirring it up and digging in with a spoon.

    Molten chocolate microwave mug cake recipe

    Chocolate mug cake
    Mug cake recipes: molten chocolate mug cake

    Christina says: “This is like a combination of a warm-out-of-the-oven brownie, a square of cake, and all of your deepest chocolate dreams come true. Scoop your favourite ice cream atop this gooey masterpiece and you’ll drift peacefully to sleep, like you just had a boring old glass of warm milk, but better.”

    Makes two 11-ounce mugs of cake/serves 2

    Ingredients

    • 40g unsalted butter, melted
    • 35g buttermilk
    • 20g grapeseed or other neutral oil
    • 1g vanilla extract 
    • 1 large egg
    • 100g sugar
    • 50g cake flour
    • 20g cocoa powder 
    • 2g baking powder 
    • 2g coarse sea salt
    • 45g mini chocolate chips

    Method

    Find your two best 11-ounce mugs and set them aside.

    Whisk the melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla extract, and egg together in a bowl.

    Whisk the sugar, cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl.

    Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir to combine. If the batter looks lumpy, use a whisk to break up all the lumps. Stir in the chocolate chips.

    Divide the batter evenly between the mugs. Microwave the mugs until the cakes rise and puff up and look like they are about to spill out over the mugs. Start with 1 minute. If it looks too raw, continue to microwave in 15-second increments until the sides and top have set, leaving hot gooey cake batter hidden inside (up to 21⁄2 minutes).

    Remove the mugs from the microwave. This will take every ounce of self-control you have, but wait 1 minute before stirring it up and digging in with a spoon.

    All About Cake by Christina Tosi (£18.99, Clarkson Potter) is out now

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    Images: Gabriele Stabile

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    Christobel Hastings

    Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.