Fluffy Vanilla Mug Cake

published Sep 9, 2021
Vanilla Mug Cake Recipe

Whip up an easy batter in a mug, pop it in the microwave, and enjoy a glorious single-serve dessert in minutes.

Serves1

Prep5 minutes

Cook2 minutes 30 seconds

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Vanilla cake baked in a blue mug, with whipped cream and colored sprinkles on top. There is a spoon on the side.
Credit: Perry Santanachote

I never quite understood the expression “a piece of cake,” as baking a cake — especially a layered one — is a pretty involved process. More accurately, we should call an easy accomplishment “a mug of cake” because that, my friends, makes perfect sense. 

To make this quickie treat, whip up an easy batter in a mug, pop it in the microwave, and in less time than it takes Rihanna to perform “Birthday Cake,” you’ll have a glorious single-serve dessert. Don’t believe me? Play the song and bake along.

How Do Mug Cakes Work?

Mug cakes are cooked in a microwave instead of a traditional oven. And there are a few major differences as a result. Here’s what you need to know about mug cakes.

  • They are essentially steamed, not baked.
  • They cook much faster — within minutes!
  • They dry out faster, so they can’t be made ahead.
  • They are not picture-perfect, but that’s not the point.

Do Mug Cakes Rise?

Mug cakes rise even though they’re cooked at lightning-speed. Some recipes use egg, but microwaves are not kind to eggs — they turn cakes rubbery and smelling of sulphur. Some recipes rely on baking powder, but these cakes tend to dry out considerably and harden before your last bite. The secret to this recipe is self-rising flour and carbonated water for an irresistibly fluffy and moist mug cake.

Credit: Perry Santanachote

What Kind of Mug Should I Use for a Mug Cake?

First, it needs to be a microwave-safe mug. Skip the metal and insulated kinds. If you’re unsure whether your mug of choice can take the heat, place the empty mug in the microwave and heat it for one minute. If it feels lukewarm, it should be fine. If it’s hot, pick a different mug.

An 8- to 10-ounce mug is a good size for this recipe. You can go slightly larger, but definitely not smaller or the cake might overflow. The batter should fill the mug about 2/3 full.

Vanilla Mug Cake Recipe

Whip up an easy batter in a mug, pop it in the microwave, and enjoy a glorious single-serve dessert in minutes.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 2 minutes 30 seconds

Serves 1

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/4 cup

    self-rising flour

  • 3 tablespoons

    room-temperature seltzer or sparkling water

For the frosting:

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons

    powdered sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • Pinch

    kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Place the 2 tablespoons unsalted butter for the frosting in a small bowl and let sit at room temperature until softened.

  2. Place the 2 tablespoons unsalted butter for the cake in an 8-ounce or larger microwave-safe mug. Microwave until melted, 20 to 35 seconds.

  3. Add 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and whisk with a fork to combine. Add 1/4 cup self-rising flour and mix just until you barely see any more flour. Add 3 tablespoons seltzer and stir until the batter is smooth.

  4. Microwave until the mug cake has risen and is firm and springy on top, 2 minutes 10 seconds to 2 minutes 50 seconds. Let cool while you make the frosting.

  5. Add 2 tablespoons of the powdered sugar, 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract, and a pinch of kosher salt to the bowl of softened butter and stir to combine. Taste and add more powdered sugar as needed. Spoon the frosting on top of the mug cake.

Recipe Notes

Microwave: Your first mug cake might not turn out perfect, even if you followed the recipe. That’s because microwave wattage can alter cook times quite a bit. Treat your first cake like an experiment and take note of how long it takes to get it just right. Wait for at least 3/4 of the cooking time before checking on the cake — otherwise it’ll sink. It should feel firm and slightly springy on top.

Self-rising flour: There are recipes on the internet for DIY self-rising flour, but it won’t work in this recipe. With such small quantities, you need self-rising flour to get that fluffy cake texture.

Storage: Mug cakes are meant to be eaten the same day because they dry out more quickly than conventional cakes. If you absolutely need to keep it for 1 day, cover it with frosting to seal in the moisture and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil.