Table for One

A 5-Minute Peach Mug Cobbler That Just So Happens to Be Vegan

White-fleshed peaches, toffee-like brown sugar cake, and a hint of cardamom make for a stunning summer treat.

August  2, 2019
Photo by James Ransom. Food Stylist: Olivia Mack McCool. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis.

Table for One is a column by Senior Editor Eric Kim, who loves cooking for himself—and only himself—and seeks to celebrate the beauty of solitude in its many forms.

One of the first desserts I ever learned to bake was a peach cobbler recipe from the back of a margarine box. My cousin Becky and I were 12 or so at the time and had never eaten, let alone made, cobbler before, despite our being born and raised in the Peach State (Korean immigrant parents and all).

Not that it mattered. The recipe, of course, called for canned peaches, which is for some reason what our moms stocked up on whenever they made their Costco runs. Our pantries were always filled to the brim with canned peaches in heavy syrup; we almost never bought fresh, I suppose because, contrary to popular belief, Georgia peaches can often be hard and tasteless even in the peak of summer. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise: Peaches are, at least in my experience, much sweeter and juicier in North Carolina, New Jersey, and northern Italy.

Hard peaches aside, if you've ever made classic cobbler before, then you know how weird and counterintuitive the process is. First, you melt butter in a casserole dish or cast-iron skillet, then pour an eggless batter into it, watching it drown in the hot yellow sea like an oil spill. Syrupy peaches go on top of all that, and the mess gets baked until the batter inverts over the wet fruit like black magic.

Or at least that's what's supposed to happen.

When Becky and I attempted peach cobbler all those years ago, the butter hadn't melded with the batter and instead pooled over the overcooked peaches and undercooked biscuit. It was a disaster. Thinking back on it now, I wonder what caused that cobbler to separate so terribly? Maybe it was that we were using margarine, or one of us didn't measure an ingredient correctly, or the recipe was just bad. Nothing like wet canned fruit to ruin a perfectly good summer's day.

Ever since, I'll admit that I've never been that blown away by peach cobbler. Why go for a limp, soggy cobbler when you could have a nutty, oaty crisp?

Good, fresh peaches, that's why.

Years later, I went peach picking in New Jersey and brought home a satchel of gorgeous pink fruit. They were so ripe that they seemed to bruise just from being stared at. Unfortunately I couldn't eat them raw (as a kid I developed an allergy to uncooked rose-family fruits, e.g. peaches, pears, plums, apples, etc.) and didn't want to waste their juicy glory on another cobbler mishap. Fool me once...

So I saved a couple recipes for a rainy day: my colleague Emma Laperruque's lush cake and our co-founder Amanda Hesser's famous tart. But as each day passed—and as the summer heat intensified—I made more and more excuses to avoid turning on my oven when I came home from work, shirt perpetually drenched in sweat.

That's when the microwave seemed to beckon my attention. (Errric...use me.) I decided to start working my way through the peach stash one mug cake at a time. Or were they mug cobblers? All I can say is that the microwave had, somehow, resolved many of the original qualms I had with that one abysmal peach cobbler from years past.

Photo by James Ransom. Food Stylist: Olivia Mack McCool. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis.

The Thing About Mug Desserts...

It's easy to make fun of mug desserts because they can look and sound gimmicky, not to mention emphasize the lonely singleton status of the preparer. But what better vessel than one with a handle to serve as a simultaneous mixing bowl, baking dish, and serveware? Even better that you need only to zap it in the microwave for a couple minutes and you're on your way to peachy dessert heaven.

As I tested and tweaked this recipe over and over—and in the end, with friends who happened to be vegan—I found that olive oil baked up a much better cake than butter, both in flavor and in texture; dark brown sugar over white granulated meant chewier edges and gooier insides; rose-blushed, white-fleshed peaches produced a naturally sweeter (not to mention prettier) mug cobbler than the usual yellow ones. Eventually, a pinch of floral, citrusy cardamom replaced the more classic ground cinnamon and the pieces seemed to fall into place.

I'd finally found a peach cobbler of my own, one that I could prepare for myself and for myself alone—and one that placed the forbidden fruit of my childhood front and center in the nest of a treacly, caramelized cake.

Let's not forget the takeaways here: This cardamom-scented white peach cobbler can be made from start to finish in a 12-ounce coffee mug, in just five minutes (a couple minutes to cut the fruit, fumble about your pantry, and stir a few ingredients together, and about two to three to cook in the microwave). With a scoop of coconut ice cream, it just so happens to be vegan too.

What's your favorite way to use ripe summer peaches? Let us know in the comments.

More Mug Cakes

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Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.


Kathy H. October 26, 2019
Sounds good...will definitely try!
Julie E. August 8, 2019
Do you think this could be made with almond flour instead of wheat flour? Looking for a grain free and gluten free recipe like this. Thanks!
Noreen F. August 2, 2019
Looking forward to trying this!