A friend of mine complained to me one day that she was craving cake while at work, but there was no place nearby to get any. Can you imagine a sadder predicament? Cake should always be accessible, especially at work!
I immediately set to work looking for solutions for her, and came across a much-pinned recipe for a “just add water” microwaved mug cake. According to numerous sources, if you combine a box of angel food cake mix and a box of any other flavor cake mix, you can add water to the resulting mixture and microwave it for an instant mug cake. Apparently it’s something to do with the egg white content in the angel food cake that allows this to work, though I had my doubts. I had to try it.
I dutifully mixed together a box of angel food cake mix and box of devil’s food cake mix (see what I did there?), and stirred three tablespoons of the resulting (disturbingly pale) mixture together with two tablespoons of water. I microwaved it for 45 seconds (original recipe said one minute but I was being careful), and got this:
Yeah, it was kind of anemic-looking. Light and fluffy, sure, but not very chocolate-y looking. It wasn’t very chocolate-y tasting either– it was very sweet and had that characteristic acidity that’s the hallmark of storebought angel food cakes. I knew I could improve on this.
Accordingly, I broke out my unsweetened cocoa (I use Hershey’s Special Dark) and stirred 6 tablespoons of it into the remaining cake mix. The mix itself didn’t look much darker, but the batter and the finished cake looked much better. Texture was still fluffy, and the flavor was significantly more chocolate-y than before. Success!
This is the improved cake on the left, in case it wasn’t obvious.
It’s not as rich and moist as a standard chocolate cake would be, but it’ll hit the spot for a cake craving. Of course, I can never leave well enough alone, so I experimented a bit with some other shelf-stable additions that you can stash in your desk at work. You put them in after you’ve mixed up your mug-full of batter.
Instant Chocolate Mug Cake Mix:
1 box angel food cake mix
1 box devil’s food (or other chocolate) cake mix
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
Whisk all ingredients together until completely combined.
To prepare: In a microwave-safe mug, mix 3 tablespoons of cake mix with 2 tablespoons of water, and stir until smooth. Microwave for 45 seconds on high power.
Chocolate chips: Add a spoonful of chocolate chips to the batter before cooking.
Peanut butter/Nutella: Dollop about 2 teaspoons of peanut butter or Nutella into the batter before cooking. It will make a nice molten center in the finished cake.
Marmalade/jam: If you pick up some of the individual packages of jam from your local breakfast place, you can put the jam into a mug cake for a fruity addition. Orange marmalade is particularly tasty.
Mini marshmallows: Add to the batter before cooking. They’ll make gooey little pockets in your cake. For a s’mores-like flavor, crumble in a graham cracker as well.
Coffee: Instead of water, use coffee to stir up the batter– it won’t really taste like coffee, but it’ll deepen the chocolate flavor.
Finally (and this isn’t shelf-stable but it’s my favorite variation to date), you can try putting in a few pitted dark cherries and a sprinkling of chocolate chips. The resulting cake is studded with pools of melted chocolate and has bursts of juicy cherry flavor in it. Really delicious– you’d never know that it was microwaved cake mix!
Note: I would not recommend using the “angel food cake plus one other cake mix” technique on any other flavors of cake, at least not without additions. This one really needed the extra cocoa to amp up the flavor– otherwise it would just have been blandly sweet, with nothing to disguise the egg-white acidity. Too much like slightly flavored angel food cake, in other words.
In the future I may give lemon cake a shot, maybe using powdered lemonade drink mix instead of cocoa. Or possibly vanilla cake, using powdered vanilla coffee creamer, though that sounds like it would be pretty boring for a snack. If anyone tries these, let me know how it goes!