Chocolate Mug Cake for Proto-Curmudgeons and Those Who Love Them

VVVVT. VVVVT. VVVVT. I lifted my head off of the couch and opened my eyes. I had dozed off a bit after watching the Lagos episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. My phone was informing me that wife was calling. She has been away for the last couple of months in New Hampshire learning from an expert in her field. In her absence, I have been living like an old man, mumbling to myself, reading thick books about wars, thinner books about consciousness, watching documentaries, riding my bicycle, and cooking meals for one, mostly without pants. The iPhone is how we’ve stayed connected, through pictures, texts, and phone calls. As we joked and laughed over the phone while I was pacing around the kitchen, I noticed it. The craving had snuck up on me, but was unmistakable. I wanted something sweet and it had to be cake.

Like the iPhone, the mug cake is a marvel of technology.¹ You mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients in a ceramic mug then “bake” the thing in a microwave. In two minutes of cooking, you get a tender, portable cake big enough either for two to share or for one proto-curmudgeon to eat some now, stick in the fridge next to the leftover pizza, and finish off later. Obviously, it tastes better decorated with plenty of ice cream and served with a cold glass of milk.



  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt


  • 3 tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of butter*
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon³ of vanilla extract

Optional Necessities

  • Ice cream, to taste
  • Milk, at least one glass
  • Freshly toasted pecans or walnuts, if you’re feeling fancy
  • Chocolate chips or peanut butter chips, if you’re feeling desperate


  • 1 small bowl
  • 1 sieve
  • 1 whisk or fork, preferably small enough so that you can whisk in the mug
  • 1 microwave
  • 1 mug, preferably decorated with an animal or something funny
  • 1 or 2 eating spoons


  1. Sieve all of the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix them well.
  2. Add all of the wet ingredients but the vanilla to the mug and microwave it on high for about 20 seconds, or until the butter gets melty, but the liquid is not boiling.
  3. Add the vanilla and the dry mixture to the mug and whisk until just combined. The more you whisk, the tougher the cake since more gluten will develop. If you’re feeling extra deprived or desperate, add chocolate chips or peanut butter chips.
  4. Microwave on high for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Watch the cake rise. When it stops bubbling, it’s probably done. Use a potholder to protect your hand from the hot mug when taking it out of the microwave. Check for doneness by sticking a wooden thing into the center of the cake. I use a chopstick. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, give it another 30 seconds.
  5. Top with ice cream, to taste, nuts if you’re feeling fancy, and whatever else you like.
  6. Take a picture of it and put it on Instagram and Facebook with a link to this recipe and feel the love.
  7. Eat and be satisfied.
  8. Repeat.


(1) At some point, I may amend this post with a graphic that illustrates the supply chain of each component and the technologies required to produce each one. The mug cake is a marvel of modernity, technology, and globalization, perhaps both a product and a comment on our culture.

(2) While the procedure in this post is my own writing, the proportions came from this recipe on Allrecipes. I swapped the recipe’s canola oil for butter. I found the oil to give the cake a less pleasant flavor.

(3) …or 1 splash, if you’re the impulsiveimpatient adventurous type. Yeah, adventurous, that’s what I am.

(*) Cold butter is a supercooled liquid. Let’s go with that.

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