Food Lab: Mug cake

Molten lava cake in a mug? Seriously? What will they think of next! I read an article about the history of molten lava cakes and it featured a recipe for mug cake. I also happened to see Dr. Oetker mug cake instant mix at the grocery store that same week – I figured it was a sign and just had to try it.

Mug cake #1: Dr. Oetker mug cake mix
1 packet Dr. Oetker mug cake mix
1/4 cup milk

Grease a mug with butter, margarine, or cooking spray. Pour mix into mug.
Add 1/4 cup (5 Tbsp) milk and stir until well mixed (whisk for perfection).
Microwave for 1 minute and 15 seconds. Cool for 2-3 minutes. (Caution: contents will be hot)
Loosen sides with a knife and turn over onto a plate or simply eat straight from the mug.

Mug cake #2: From scratch
Recipe from Lucky Peach: Issue 3

1 egg
3 Tbsp milk
3 Tbsp neutral oil
3 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
3 Tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips
small splash vanilla extract
pinch salt

Add wet ingredients (including the egg) to a small or medium coffee mug and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla extract, and mix again. Put your mug into a (1000-watt) microwave for 2 minutes. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed. Allow to cool and tip onto a plate if desired.

My observations:
It was definitely a lot easier making the mug cake using the mix. Put the contents of a pouch into a greased mug and add milk. Done. Measuring out the ingredients for the homemade mug cake took some time and in the end, some people actually preferred the taste of the instant one.

The mug cake from the mix was a lot more dry (but it tasted sweeter). The one made from scratch looked more moist but it wasn’t as sweet (and a little bland). However, neither of these mug cakes were runny in the middle. I wasn’t overly impressed with either product. The fact that neither of the mug cakes was runny in the centre was a big deal breaker for me. When the recipe implies that it’s a descendent of the original molten lava cake, I expect it to be runny in the centre (and not just ‘slightly moist’ in the interior).


However, overall neither of these cakes were appealing to look at (they both looked like very ghetto versions of a lava cake (or any chocolate cake for that matter)) and the taste was just mediocre. If you’re going to treat yourself to a rich dessert (one mug cake has a whopping 420 calories) you might as well do it right.

Bottom line:
When it comes to dessert, it really should be a treat. Why settle for a mug cake that looks totally ghetto? There are so many better options such as going to your local grocery store/bakery and buying a single piece of cake or buying a box of frozen desserts that come individually wrapped. Treat yourself right and go out and get yourself a really nice piece of cake.

But seriously, if you want to have a good lava cake you are better off making a small batch batch of lava cakes from scratch. Just grab a muffin tin, measure out the ingredients and you’ll have perfect lava cakes in less than 10 minutes. It might take a little more effort and an extra 10 minutes of your time but the end product is totally worth it (plus they will be guaranteed to still be runny in the middle and isn’t that the whole point of a lava cake?)

However, I know that they do sell frozen lava cakes at most grocery stores. Homemade lava cakes vs. frozen lava cakes will definitely be a future taste test!

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