Cakes! Made in a coffee cup

St. Louis Post-DispatchOctober 23, 2013 

When the cookbook "Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth" by Leslie Bilderback landed on my desk, I knew I had a gold mine in my hands. I mean, who wouldn't love the ability to cook up a sweet treat in just seconds?

But the cookbook turned out to be an even bigger treasure to me: It taught my sons how to cook. I let my boys -- now 7 and 9 -- and my husband pick one cake each they'd like to try from the many beautiful photos in the cookbook.

We landed on a Fluffer Nutter, a Caramel Fleur De Sel Mug Cake and a White Chocolate-Macadamia Mug Cake. We'd go on to make many more, including a PB and J Mug Cake and a few chocolate varieties (OK, those were for me).

The day after our mug cake extravaganza, my 9-year-old asked if he could make one. He insisted on doing it all on his own. As he reasoned: "I can read, and I can use the microwave." Turns out, he was right. After one failed attempt because he misread1/4 cup of sugar as 1-1/4 cups, he was creating cakes for the whole family.

A few days later, his little brother followed suit, creating his own cake recipe using cinnamon and orange extract.

Some of the cakes from the cookbook were successful, some not so much. All were quite easy to make. Just mix the ingredients and pop in the microwave. Because microwaves heat differently, just be sure to watch your cake, taking it out once it is risen and firm. And because you mix the cakes in the coffee cup, cleanup is easy.

But make no mistake, these are not culinary masterpieces, nor are they meant to be, writes Bilderback in the introduction. "This book is here to fulfill the cake craving you have after a long day at work, or in the middle of the night, or when the plumber presents you with a $900 invoice."

Or when hungry kids want a little something sweet on a special occasion and think making it themselves is just as big a treat.

RED VELVET MUG CAKE

1 large egg

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon liquid red food coloring

3 tablespoons buttermilk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup self-rising flour

Pinch of kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cider, white, white wine, or rice vinegar

In a large mug, whisk together the egg and oil with a fork. Stir in the food coloring, buttermilk, vanilla, and sugar. Add the cocoa, flour, salt, and vinegar. Beat the batter until smooth. Divide the batter between two mugs. Microwave separately for 1.5 to 2.5 minutes each until risen and firm.

Topping Ideas: Cream cheese frosting, Marshmallow Fluff, whipped cream, fresh berries, red sugar sprinkles, candied pecans, or chocolate shavings.

Variations

Blue velvet: You never know when you may need to make a blue cake. It's easily done by replacing cheap red liquid food coloring with cheap blue liquid food coloring. For any other cake color, you'll want to omit the cocoa powder, as it will give all other food colors a tinge of brown. If you make another color, replace the cocoa powder with an equal amount of flour.

Makes 2 mug cakes

-- From "Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth" by Leslie Bilderback

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