Food52 in 5

A Gooey Chocolate Cake for When You Need Dessert, Stat

February 16, 2018

What can you do with just five minutes? Actually, way more than you think! Introducing Food52 in 5: your cheat sheet for speedy, delicious recipes, fun mini projects, and more.

I'm just going to say it: Sometimes I need dessert. Whether it strikes on a particularly rough Tuesday or a lazy Saturday afternoon, a regular hankering for sweets is an enjoyable fact of my life, and maybe it is for you too. Lucky for us, there's a way to whip up a from-scratch cake in nearly no time at all: in a mug, using a microwave. The meme-worthy baking hack lets you satisfy a dessert craving, not only in a pinch (five minutes!), but also in a very tidy, contained way (a mug).

If you’re thinking, But haven’t mug cakes gone the way of the rainbow bagel?, pause to consider the fact that if we stopped making everything after it was trendy, we wouldn’t have avocado toast, molten cakes, or actually-good kale salads anymore. If you’re also thinking, There are one million mug cake recipes out there, so why should I make this one? I gotta say, this mug cake takes itself pretty seriously, in a good way (it has sumac in it, after all). Add in really good olive oil, cocoa powder, and white chocolate (and maybe skip the “World’s Best Boss” mug), and you could even serve it to guests.

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It’s riffable, too. You can use canola or vegetable oil if you don’t like the olive oil flavor, milk or dark chocolate chunks if white chocolate isn’t your thing, and sub in cinnamon or orange zest for the sumac (or leave it out entirely). You can top it with ice cream or whipped cream, or strawberries and a drizzle of tahini. The beauty of the mug cake is that it can be anything you want it to be, your wildest dessert fantasy come true—all in just five minutes.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Katelong01
  • Sabra
  • AntoniaJames
  • Judy
  • Thisisnotmyname


Katelong01 March 5, 2018
What happens if you make more than one... How do you adjust the amount of time in the microwave? I'd like to make 4.
Sabra February 22, 2018
Is this made in a standard size coffee mug? Hard to tell since the pic is taken from above. Thanks!
Joanna S. February 22, 2018
This mug holds 12 ounces, but I did it with a more standard 11 ounce mug at home and it fits just fine!
AntoniaJames February 20, 2018
I’m glad to see Food52 devoting some editorial real estate to this "what can you do in five minutes?" approach, which I’ve been evangelizing since the earliest days of the site. Several years ago, one of the editors picked up on this to write a short-ish feature on tasks quickly done in the morning, to make the evening meal easier. I created a quick list, just off the top of my head, of the many 2 - 6 minute tasks that I do to take advantage of small “pockets” of time when I’m home. To share it with anyone who might find it helpful, I’ve posted a link to this (still somewhat stream of consciousness) list of quickly completed tasks.

(This general idea is not original to me. I have been doing this in my office since reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” which was published the year I started my own law practice. It’s one of the most useful business books out there. But I digress . . . .)

I’ve added this overarching suggestion to the linked Google Doc about a month ago:

When I plan / review my menus for the following week to lay out my prep activities for the weekend and weeknight evenings, I create a list of every small food prep or other task that will eventually need to be done. I put it on a medium index card, which I keep handy to consult whenever I have a few minutes of "downtime,” or to include in my longer prep sessions.

Also, there are quite a few good suggestions of 5-minute tasks in this Hotline thread started last month: I’m guessing that many of these ideas will be the subject of separate posts in the near future . . . . . . .

Judy February 19, 2018
What is the sumac for? What can I substitute?
Joanna S. February 19, 2018
It's just for flavor! You can omit it completely, or you can sub in 1 teaspoon of citrus zest or 1/4 teaspoon of another spice, like cinnamon or cardamom.
Thisisnotmyname February 18, 2018
I put this into a calorie counter. Being mug-sized makes this sound like it's supposed to be a single portion. The cake is 1273 calories without ice-cream and 1400 calories with a half cup scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Nothing wrong with an occasional indulgence, but I think you should be up front with people about just how calorific this recipe actually is. Without thinking about the ingredients too much, most people would expect a cake of this size to be somewhere around 500 to 600 calories. I don't think anyone would really expect a mug-sized cake they could whip up in just five minutes to be close to their entire day's calorie allowance.
Miss V. March 4, 2018
Wow. Soooo close to wonderful ...but REALLY over the top. We're gonna need the lightened up version.
Amy March 5, 2018
Wow - that is a LOT of calories. Yikes! Thank you for doing the research! I was just about to make this cake - but will forgo it. Surely there should be a way to make a mug cake with fewer calories. Maybe with egg white?
Millum May 22, 2018
It’s the oil!
Alisha February 18, 2018
Agreed on the oil that really per cake?
Willa February 18, 2018
Six tablespoons of oil almost sounds like the amount you would use in a whole cake. Is that correct?
Joanna S. February 18, 2018
It definitely feels like a lot of olive oil! But because you're not really using any other liquid ingredients apart from the egg (many other mug cakes call for milk, melted butter, or water in addition to oil),I found the 6 T enough to moisten the mixture and impart flavor. If it feels like a lot for you, maybe experiment with other combinations. Try subbing in milk or water for some of the oil. I'm not sure how it will turn out, but I'd love to hear how it goes!