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Mug Shots

A couple of weeks ago, a friend posted a recipe for banana-cake-in-a-mug. I have a recipe for chocolate cake in a mug that I’ve made from time to time, which is quite good, but until I went searching I didn’t realize how many different things you can make with a single mug, in the microwave.

I’m gradually working my way down this list, and I’ll come back and update as I go. In the meantime, here’s a pretty good list to start from.

Macaroni and Cheese in a Mug–I sort of made this today, only I used leftover cooked pasta rather than cooking it first. It’s actually not bad–the cheese doesn’t melt gently into a lovely bechamel sauce like one would prefer, and it stays a little stretchy, but it tastes yummy and comfort-food-y.

Coffee Cup Quiche–This seems like a sort of no-brainer, actually; we do scrambled egg in a ramekin all the time, why not add a few extra ingredients and put it in a mug? (Obviously, no crust here, but one does what one can.)

Chilaquiles in a Mug–Quiche but with Mexican seasonings and a little tortilla chip crust and crunch. I actually like chilaquiles a lot, so I’m delighted to have found an easy way to make them for myself, since my family isn’t into it.

Meatloaf in a mug–I’m only really linking for the concept, and I’ll post my version if I ever really make it. Off the top of my head, I’d leave out the onion soup mix and add some actual chopped up onion, carrots, and celery, with garlic and herbs. I’d swap barbecue sauce for the ketchup. But I like the quick oats idea instead of bread crumbs…

And now, on to the dessertswhich we all know is what we’re really interested in:

Chocolate Cake in a Mug–the Classic, easy and fast and fairly not-too-bad-for-you, if you leave out the chocolate chips and go easy on the sugar. I use organic yogurt and white whole wheat flour too.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake in a MugThis one will go on the list early…as soon as I get some peanut butter. Looks amazing.

Nutella Mug Cake–I don’t really buy Nutella any more, due to the whole unsustainable palm oil thing, but if I did I’d be all over this.

Banana Cake in a Mug–Looks nice, and easy, and sort of foolproof. I might consider substituting a tbs. of unsweetened cocoa powder for 1 tbs of the flour…and maybe leaving out some of the sugar since banana is usually plenty sweet.

Cinnamon Roll Mug Cake–This looks like a basic cake recipe but with cinnamon and applesauce instead of other spices and fruits; seems a little unremarkable, but who knows?

Cheesecake in a Mug–Minute microwave cheesecake; I’m not sure about this one, since you have to stir and cook as you go, so it can’t possibly have the same consistency as regular cheesecake. I tried it, but with an extra (and I think deal-breaking) wrinkle in the mix: I substituted greek yogurt and cornstarch for the cream cheese per this “normal” cheesecake recipe. Didn’t quite do it in the microwave; got all curdly and lumpy. Anyone tried this for real?

Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Mug–what’s to say? There’s nothing not to like about this…nothing all that remarkable, either, it’s chocolate chip dough but in a mug.

Brownie in a Mug–Ditto above

Cup of Coffee Cake–Intriguing. Looks like more work than it’s worth, but could be good. I just can’t see myself making this, when I could be making the next one down the list…

Mason Jar Berry Cobbler--this one makes a larger portion, or it can be divided into two mugs. (Or, I guess, halved, right?)

Anything I missed from this list? Any more awesome 1-mug microwave wonders out there?

[UPDATE: I decided I wanted a chocolate pudding recipe I could make in a mug too, and made up my own recipe based on another microwave recipe. It’s good! You mix 1-2 tbs white sugar depending on your sweet tooth, 1 1/2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 1/4 tsp cornstarch, and a little salt in a mug. Stir in half a cup of milk slowly till there are no lumps, add 1/2 tsp vanilla, and microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring each time till it comes out sort of dark and shiny. Refrigerate till puddingy. If you’re me, you’d also cut up half a banana and a tsp. or so peanut butter and stir it in before chilling. REALLY good…]


Bundt Cake of Endless Autumnal Substitution

Okay, remember a couple of weeks ago when I made my Applesauce Bundt Cake? (follow that link to the original recipe)

Well, I discovered something interesting the other day when I made it–or something like it–again.

The recipe takes 2 cups of applesauce; I only had one.  But I also had a cup or so of pumpkin puree from the pumpkin oatmeal breakfast cookies.  So I thought…well, it should work, right? Why wouldn’t it?

It would. It did. It was actually really really good, even made with 100% whole wheat flour instead of half white and half wheat like the original recipe.  My kids even love it.  So here’s the amended version:


Some Kinda Fruit Sauce Cake

Preheat oven to 350

In a large bowl mix till smooth and maybe a little foamy:

  • 2 cups pureed or mashed fruit, such as applesauce, bananas, pumpkin, zucchini, pear sauce, peaches, or whatever
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar; if the fruit you are using is very sweet to begin with, substitute up to half a cup of powdered milk for an equal amount of the sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or other flavoring of choice)

Add (just till mixed):

  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (or combination of white and wheat in whatever proportions you choose)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • (and/or other spices in lieu of the above, as you see fit and have in your spice rack)
  • A cup or so of raisins, nuts, or other dried fruit

Mix well and bake for about an hour in a bundt pan or two loaf pans, 40 minutes in 2 square pans, or maybe 30 minutes for muffins.

I have not tried every combination or permutation of this, but I strongly suspect that, aside from the obviousness of other root veggies, almost any mashed or pureed fruit of which you happen to have two cups would work just fine, and give all kinds of delicious different variations (none of which, in the interest of full disclosure, I have actually tried):

  • peaches, and add 1/4 tsp cardamom to the spices (Trader Joes has a nice spiced peach sauce…though you’d then definitely want to diminish the sugar in the recipe)
  • all pumpkin, with some ginger added with the spices
  • banana, and maybe substitute 1/2 a cup of unsweetened cocoa for 1/2 cup of the sugar (although I already have a recipe for something very like this…)
  • what about pear sauce instead of applesauce? I think I might go with white flour for that one…
  • Or whatever weird combinations of fruits you have…that brown banana plus some applesauce and isn’t there still a half cup or so of pumpkin butter from breakfast the other day?…I find it hard to imagine much that could make this cake actually bad, you know?
  • UPDATE: re that previous comment? I tried it substituting nut butter for half the oil; the result was a little too dry, or maybe I overbaked it, and had a sort of funky taste…not enough nut to assert itself, just enough to make you go, “hungh?”–I’ll work on it. In the meantime…yeah, maybe not.


Just pay attention to your proportions, and it should work just fine.

A note about flour type–I find that the more “autumn-y” the fruit combo I’m using is, and the more pronounced the spices, the less likely it is that my children will notice that I’ve used all whole wheat flour.  If I were doing something with, say, peaches and raspberries, I’d probably err more on the side of the white flour, whereas with applesauce and pumpkin I’d go for the wheat.  Again, it depends on your tastes and your situation.

If you don’t have or don’t wish to use a bundt pan, you could also do this in two loaf pans–or make a number of smaller loaves. As you wish…This is seriously good, and is a great way to turn some of those leftover dregs of Stuff in your fridge into a yummy snack or easy way to ingratiate yourself with your co-workers…

Applesauce Bundt Cake

Okay, I made a bunch of really lovely applesauce…of course, then my kids decided they didn’t like it. Figures. So I have a quart of applesauce and only grownups to eat it.

So I made cake.  This is adapted from a recipe I found here, made a little more healthful…it’s really good!

Applesauce Spice Cake

Preheat oven to 350

In a large bowl mix:

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (or 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup powdered milk)
  • 2 cups applesauce
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Add (just till mixed):

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Pour into greased bundt pan and bake about an hour, or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

VERDICT: Really good! This is a keeper.

Honey Berry Snack Cake

Another in my series of experiments with my “berry easy muffins” recipe

I used up all my sugar making plum jam, but I wanted to bake to take some hard-working choir members munchies to break up their long morning.  So I looked up how to substitute honey for sugar in a recipe: turns out up to a cup, you just substitute honey for sugar in a 1:1 ratio.  More than a cup and you start reducing the honey a little, because it’s actually sweeter than sugar.  You are also supposed to reduce the other liquid in the recipe by about 1/4 cup per cup of honey added.   You also add 1/2 tsp baking soda per cup of honey, to counteract the acidity; I didn’t bother with it in this instance.

So, this is how this recipe turned out:

Honey Cake with Berries

In a bowl, mix well:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs water or milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix in until just blended:

Mix in 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen berries. (I used mixed berries this time)

Pour into a 9×9 baking dish and bake at 400 degrees about 30 minutes; if berries are frozen, it will probably take up to 10 minutes longer.

VERDICT: The best version of this cake yet.  The honey is a really nice addition and adds great but subtle flavor.  I might try it sometime using black coffee in place of the milk; I think that’s common in honey cake for Rosh Hashana, and it’s just sort of a variation that might be fun…

One needs to be careful of the honey since it browns more quickly than regular sugar, and I was just a little on the safe side of the center not being quite done even though the top looked nice and brown. But it’s fine. (40 minutes, frozen fruit.)

Yummy cake.  My choir will be lucky if they get any.

Happy Birthday, Princess! (Chocolate Cake and Buttercream Icing)

My little peanut is 5.  I can’t quite believe it.

Last night we had our little family birthday celebration; my parents came in for the week, so it was extra-festive.  My mom and my daughter made the cake; my son and I made the icing. Nothing from a boxed mix.  Who needs one?

This post is not about any earth-shaking greenery…I just wanted to reflect on how amazingly easy it is to do cake and icing without mixes or “convenience” foods.  It’s SO not difficult.  And you can absolutely control what you put in.  Healthy? Not necessarily; there’s not a whole lot you can do with chocolate cake to render it healthy, although I bet I could have snuck a little whole wheat flour in there to boost the nutritional value of the cake.  And I wonder if the applesauce-for-oil substitution might have worked here.  But y’all know how much I kvetch about how busy I am and how little time I have for anything–if I could pull this off, anyone can.

From a health standpoint, buttercream icing is fairly irredeemable–though I’d rather eat homemade buttercream icing made with organic butter than that sort of oogy hydrogenated whatever stuff you get in the plastic cans in the grocery store.  What I can’t get over is how easy it is to make–the only real catch is that you have to a) wash the beaters after making the cake, and b) remember to take the butter out of the fridge a couple of hours ahead of time. I was intimidated by it for ages, until I tried it, and it’s really simple.

Buttercream Icing: You beat 2 sticks of softened butter, start adding 3 cups of powdered sugar a little at a time till it’s all in there, then drizzle in a couple teaspoons of vanilla and a splash of milk and beat the hell out of it for about 3 minutes.  That’s it.  (Okay, if you have a 5 year old princess overseeing the action, you also break down and drip maybe 8 drops of red food coloring into it so it’s a lovely shade of pre-Pepto pink.)

For the cake itself–we used this recipe from  One bowl, oil rather than butter (and only half a cup at that), and boiling water poured in at the end right before it goes into the cake pans.  So very easy, and again, you get to control what’s really in there.   This was a really yummy, moist, lovely cake; I highly recommend it.



  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup boiling water


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and dust with cocoa two 9″ layer cake pans. Set aside.
  • In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir with wire whisk until blended. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and beat well with wire whisk or mixer until combined, about 2 minutes. While beating, heat water in microwave oven to boiling. Stir boiling water into cake batter.
  • Pour the thin batter into the two prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides of pan, top springs back when lightly touched, and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

I still can’t believe she’s 5.  Where’s the time gone?