Mug cakes mostly deserve their bad reputation. They can be bland, spongy, and dry-it's challenging to engineer a recipe for a legit single-serving cake that's fully cooked in the microwave. Cookbook author Jessie Sheehan, though, has cracked the code, figuring out how to make a mug cake that's rich, tender, and moist, with a soft center reminiscent of a molten lava cake. As an enthusiastic (and once professional) baker, I've made lots of intricate desserts, but I'm obsessed with the Molten Double Chocolate Mug Cake in Sheehan's new book Snackable Bakes. And no matter how many people roll their eyes, I'm not afraid to admit it.
I spoke to Sheehan about the challenges she encountered while working on her mug cake recipe. "The mug cake was actually one of the hardest recipes" to develop for Snackable Bakes, she tells me. "You have to be a little more fussy and finicky with your ingredients to not only make it super tasty, but also, hopefully, not hideously ugly." While the mug cake may not be the most beautiful dessert in Snackable Bakes, it is one of the most delicious. "My thing is not making things look beautiful," Sheehan smiles. "I like to think my thing is making things taste good."
Many mug cake recipes call for a whole egg, but Sheehan found that mug cakes made with just the yolk were superior in both taste and texture. "While a whole egg in a mug cake makes it rise high, which we all love," Sheehan writes in her book, "it also makes it taste like rubber, which we don't love." Egg whites are a great leavener, but can also have a drying effect on cakes and cookies. The single yolk, together with vegetable oil and sour cream, results in a cake with more moisture and richness. Without the structure provided by the egg white, the mug cake collapses almost immediately after it's removed from the microwave. Once you've taken your first bite, though, that slump will be the last thing on your mind.
Sheehan's recipe is easy and quick enough to make and eat on a busy afternoon between meetings, or whenever you want something sweet but don't have the energy to get out a mixer or preheat the oven. It requires just a cup and a fork, and from start to finish, the whole process takes about three minutes.
Each spoonful is soft, sweet, and tender. The cake is deeply flavorful from both cocoa powder and semisweet chocolate chips, and the slight tang from sour cream highlights the cocoa's fruity notes. In the microwave, the chocolate melts to create a liquid center, like that '90s favorite. I've made hundreds of cakes, but this might be the one I've made the most. Is it the fanciest dessert that's ever come out of my kitchen? No. Is it my favorite? Honestly, yes.