Adventures in Ratio Baking: Making Mug Cakes

Last year, I made a ton of cakes while I was trying to perfect ratio baking cakes. This year, I still like cake, but would rather not have a whole cake staring at me day after day, wondering when I was going to get around to eating it. I mean, it can be very unsettling to glance into the kitchen and have a mopey cake stare back.

I enjoy a good mug cake once in a while. The only thing I don’t like is I can’t pry it out of the mug in one piece so I can put frosting in the middle. No, actually, the thing I don’t like about mug cakes is that the recipes I’ve tried have been too large for my mugs, so I use a big bowl, and it’s still too much. My 3 year old daughter is a cake fiend, but those recipes just give us a little too much cake.

A big two-layer cake is too much. A mug cake is just on the other side of being too much. But I want cake sometimes. You know, for an afternoon snack or dessert. Or just because I really need chocolate cake on any given day. Hey, I’m a mom with two kids who are stuck indoors. If I weren’t trying so hard to be a good role model, I’d eat cake for breakfast. Chocolate, of course.

That made me wonder if I could use the cake ratio to make a mug cake. It would be ideal since I would be stuck with however much cake a recipe makes. I’d have more control over how much I make.

Attempt 1

The ratio for a high ratio cake is 2:2:1:1:1 flour to sugar to fat to egg to liquid. Since I usually make high ratio cakes, it made sense to use that ratio. I didn’t want to use a whole egg because one egg is about 50 grams and I did not want a cake that big. Instead, I swapped out the egg for milk, also used milk for the liquid, and used oil for my fat.

It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, either. It left a funny, coated feeling in my mouth and my teeth just felt like they were awkwardly sliding across each other. It was weird. The cake tasted fine, but it felt terrible in my mouth.

Attempt 2

I had read that oil cakes tend to be lighter, especially when made with olive oil. Well, I have olive oil. I remember the first attempt was liquidy due to the double dose of milk, so I wondered what would happen if I left the extra liquid out. I switched out the egg for milk again and then used olive oil for my fat.

This time, the batter was thicker. I knew I was going to get something fudgier. It definitely was, and my daughter gobbled it down. But it also tasted like olive oil. Well, of course! I did use olive oil, but it wasn’t supposed to taste like olive oil. At least, that’s what I always read about oil cakes. Nice and fudgy, but also nice and olive oily. At least my daughter liked it.

Attempt 3

Third times the charm, right? I hoped so. I decided to scrap the high ratio thing and just go back to the basic 1:1:1:1 flour to sugar to egg to fat cake ratio. Boring, but dependable. I used oil for my fat and water in place of the egg. Flour, cocoa powder, sugar, oil, water, a bit of baking powder, and some vanilla extract. So simple.

It was perfect! It felt lovely in my mouth and tasted so chocolate-y. The best part was that I had full control over how much cake to make. Since everything was to weigh the same, I picked a number that didn’t seem too low or too high: 40 grams of everything. It ended up being the perfect size for my daughter and me. It was a bit crumbly, but I usually experience that with the mug cake recipes I’ve tried. It was absolutely lovely otherwise.

Now that I have 8 ounce Mason jars, I prefer to use a ratio using 15 grams. It gives me about 4 ounces or so of cake, which is perfect to satisfy a sweet tooth without being too much. It also leaves enough room for some whipped cream or frosting. About 4 ounces of it.

chocolate mug cake

How to Make a Mug Cake

Use the basic cake ratio. Seriously. It works. You can make as little or as much as you want and then have cake in about 2 minutes or less. Though I do recommend making it a little early so it isn’t too hot. I like cake, but I don’t like it burning my mouth.

Here’s the super simple ratio recipe I used for my chocolate mug cake:

40 grams of flour plus cocoa powder depending on how chocolate-y you want it

40 grams granulated sugar

40 grams vegetable or canola oil

40 grams water

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together and then microwave for a minute and a half.

Note: If you do use 40 grams, use something larger than an 8 ounce Mason jar. It exploded a bit.

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If you’d prefer the smaller cakes I like to make, using the 15 grams, just switch out 40 in the above for 15 and microwave for about 45 seconds. Or choose your own number! It could even be something odd like 23, as long as each measurement is the same. Also scale the baking powder and vanilla extract and the microwaving time accordingly. For more cake, it’ll take a little more. For less cake, it’ll take a little less.

Enjoy, and have fun experimenting!

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