Food & Drink

With a mug and a microwave, you can have cake

When you crave a sweet snack but want to avoid the seduction of a whole cake or a dozen chocolate chip cookies, the one-off mug cake is your best friend.

What is a mug cake? It’s just what it sounds like: a few tablespoons of ingredients whisked in a mug and microwaved for less time than it takes to make popcorn. Presto: sweet, moist cake. And just one.

My new favorite mug cake is a quick batter with golden oats and chopped pecans that bakes up light and fluffy around a dollop of gooey Nutella in the middle. It’s like getting cake and frosting in one happy mug.

Of course, it is a little deceiving to call mug cakes “cake” at all. What most of them resemble most is a steamed cake or pudding, like those found in old-fashioned British cooking. They don’t brown or get golden on top, and their texture stays fairly moist and usually rather dense.

But this mug cake avoids the pitfalls of the overly gummy microwave cake by doing things a little differently. First of all, there’s no egg, which can weigh a recipe like this down. Second, I use a tad more baking powder than is usually called for, giving it extra lift. Last, I fold in rolled oats and chopped pecans. The oats absorb a little of the moisture, leaving the cake tender and light, and together the oats and nuts add pleasant texture and crunch.

And Nutella? Oh, why not! A big spoonful in the middle of the cake gets warm and gooey in the microwave, sinking down so you get warm cake and chocolate goodness in every bite.

Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients; this is a very fast and easy recipe for anyone with a decent baking pantry. I made it more than five times in one afternoon while testing, and it took no more than 5 to 10 minutes total, from beginning to mixing to microwaving to eating. (Note that your finished mug cake will probably not come up to the lip of the cup as shown in the picture. After testing, I made a double batch to make it easier to show the texture in a photograph.)

There’s only one serving in each batch – but it doesn’t take long to make a second.

Faith Durand is executive editor of, a website for food and home cooking.