Chocolate cake has been done to death. If you're planning on entertaining, you're unlikely to impress with a normal chocolate cake. No matter how decadent your recipe is or how elaborate you get with your icing, your guests won't appreciate your home-made cake any more than something you might buy at the store.
When it comes to presentation, however, there's still plenty of unexplored ideas. I stumbled on this recipe a few months ago and I've been playing with variants ever since. Having a small, self-contained serving of cake for each guest allows you to pull all sorts of neat tricks, like flavoring each cake slightly differently or decorating each mug with a different theme. This gives your guests the freedom to choose the cake they like and gives you lots of space to explore your creative side. If you're not entertaining, you can make single mug cakes in the toaster oven. This is a great way to make dessert for one or two people while keeping your regular oven free.
This recipe does require a few things beyond the ingredients. First, you'll want to be sure that you have enough oven-safe mugs. There's nothing worse than putting on your silicone oven mitts and opening the oven to reveal that your mugs have cracked and deposited their loads of cake batter on the oven floor.
Second, you'll want to be sure you've got a set of heat resistant silicone oven mitts
. While it's pretty easy to remove things in baking pans from the oven with potholders (or even a towel), mugs can be pretty slippery and hard to grip with bulky cloth protection. Picking up a pair of grippy silicone mitts will make it much easier to take mugs and other "weird" objects out of the oven.
Once you've got your mugs and mitts ready, here are the ingredients you'll need:
- (per 6-oz mug)
- 1 tablespoon butter (plus a bit extra for coating)
- 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour (plus a bit extra for coating)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (plus a bit extra for coating)
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon mini marshmallows
- pinch salt
- a few drops of vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
And here's how to prepare your mug cakes:
1. Preheat your oven (or toaster) to 375 Fahrenheit. While it's preheating, rub butter around the inside of all of your mugs and dust the inside with sugar and flour. This will help prevent your cakes from sticking. Clean the rims in order to make your presentation a bit nicer.
2. Melt butter and chocolate chips together and stir until smooth. I like to do this in a double boiler, but you're free to use a microwave or direct heat as you like. Once they're nicely melted and mixed together, let this mixture cool off for several minutes. Do the next step while you're waiting.
3. Beat the eggs, vanilla, salt, and sugar together with a hand mixer on high. The mixture should get pretty foamy and double in volume. This normally takes about five minutes with my mixer. Once it's properly fluffed up, gradually stir the egg mixture and your flour into the (now cooled off) mixture of chocolate chips and butter. Beat everything on low until it's well mixed.
4. Gently pour or ladle batter into each mug, making sure to leave at least 1/2 inch of headroom. Bake at 375 until the cakes are puffy and begin to form cracks while still having slightly runny centers, about 12-17 minutes.
5. Place marshmallows (or other toppings) on top of your mugs, then put them back in the oven. Let them bake for another 2 to 5 minutes or until the marshmallow tops have become slightly brown and crispy.
6. Remove mugs from the oven (for good this time). Let them sit for about 5 minutes and sprinkle cocoa and other decorations on top before serving.
For me, the most fun part about making cakes is decorating them. This recipe offers you many small, blank canvases that you can use to express your creativity. If you're short on ideas, however, try using variations on a theme. You might put a dollop of whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and an Oreo on top of one mug, whipped cream, a cherry, and strawberry syrup on another, and whipped cream, an apple, and caramel on top of a third. Try adding fresh fruit, ice cream, sprinkles, icing, and even other baked goods to your presentation. You'll come up with lots of neat, delicious pairings.
Even without much decoration, this recipe is one of my fallbacks for entertaining. There's something about being able to hand each of my guests a mug of delectable chocolate cake that's pretty hard to beat. There's a practical element (since it's great for gatherings with limited table space) and a unique aesthetic that makes an impression on even the most stoic of friends. It's sure to be a big hit!