This is the best guide for learning how to make a mug cake! Get basic ingredients you’ll need on hand (and a recipe!) plus common substitutions. Also get 20 more recipes you’ll HAVE to try!
Mug cakes. I have a love/hate relationship with them. Love because they are so stinkin’ delicious, and hate because I want more. But that is the whole reason to make a mug cake, isn’t it? So you don’t pig out on an even bigger dessert? That’s mine, anyway.
Another popular reason is because they take such a short amount of time to make, especially if you want one serving . . . no going through the motions to make an entire cake. You avoid messy cleanup. And you can raid your cabinet for ingredients as opposed to driving to get something sweet. I love it.
What is a Mug Cake?
It’s is a single serving cake made in a ceramic mug and then cooked in the microwave. That’s it! The whole purpose is that you can make a quick dessert with ingredients you likely already have AND that you can do it without an oven.
How to Make a Mug Cake
This is where you get to raid your cabinet and see what you have to make your mug cakes. You’re always going to need the following ingredients so I recommend having them on hand should the need for sweets arise:
- Baking powder (if you don’t use self rising flour)
- Salt (enhances the flavor)
- Flavoring – vanilla, cocoa powder, cinnamon
- Butter or oil
There are other optional ingredients as well such as eggs, milk, buttermilk, vinegar, and then toppings. Some mug cake recipes even use cake mix.
Besides ingredients, you’ll obviously need the mug and then a microwave. Mug cakes are made in a microwave and not in the oven. There’s no specific kind of mug you need to use – just one that is microwave safe.
Basic Mug Cake Recipe
Are you wondering how to make the best mug cake ever? I have a basic recipe for you below, with two variations (vanilla and chocolate). You’ll use this base recipe and then experiment from there.
Basic Mug Cake Recipe
For Vanilla Cake
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For Chocolate Cake
- 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 T chocolate chips
- Place the butter into your mug and microwave about 30 – 40 seconds or until just melted.
- Add remaining ingredients – choosing between a vanilla or chocolate cake. Mix well with a fork.
- Microwave 60 – 90 seconds. Start with 60 seconds and then check. You’ll know it’s done when the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the mug and the top is dry.
Now that you know the basics, let’s move onto some tips!
Tips for Making Mug Cakes
- Don’t overfill the mug. Fill the mug halfway up at most so that the batter doesn’t spill over the sides when cooking. Grab a bigger mug if you need to!
- Microwave the shortest time the recipe calls for to start. The cake should start pulling away from the sides and the top should look somewhat dry and be spongy. If it’s not, keep going at 15-second intervals until it’s done.
- Small to medium eggs are best for a single size mug cake (if your recipe calls for them). If you only have large eggs, either make two cakes (double the dry ingredients) or just use the yolk.
- Don’t worry about looks. Your cake is probably going to sink somewhat, and that’s okay. Mug cakes typically don’t look like the pictures because those are styled for a photo shoot. The point is that your cake in a cup is delicious!
I often get asked about substituting ingredients in mug cakes, and here are some common themes:
- If you don’t have self rising flour, you’ll need baking powder. If you don’t have baking powder, use 1/4 the amount of baking soda. But then I would also substitute the milk (or add) with buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt. You need something acidic to making the baking soda work and make the mug cakes rise.
- If you don’t have an egg, find a recipe that doesn’t contain an egg (there are many). OR try 1/4 cup applesauce.
- Cake mix is great if you have a box of it and don’t want to use it for an entire cake. In fact, you can keep a box of cake mix on hand and make your own mug cakes on the regular, when you get a craving! Visit our pumpkin spice recipe as an example.
Topping for Mug Cakes
There are a lot of things you can put on the top of mug cakes, but here are my favorite options:
- Whipped cream
- Decorative sprinkles
- Powdered sugar (best on chocolate)
- Cream cheese frosting (1.5 oz cream cheese, 1/8 c confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla, 1/2 T milk)
- Glaze (1/8 c confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla, 1/2 T milk)
- Marshmallow fluff
- Chocolate chips (white, dark, or milk)
- Sugar/cinnamon (1 T sugar, 1/4 t cinnamon)
Just about anything sweet will work. Are you READY for some RECIPES??
20 Delicious Mug Cakes
This list of mug cake recipes is the “best of” – those tried and true combinations that will make having dessert in a cup one of your favorite hobbies. Have you tried any of these? Scroll down and let me know which one you like best!
Marshmallow, chocolate, and graham cracker? This s’mores cake in a cup looks almost too good to eat (almost).
2. Lime Coconut
This lime coconut mug cake was inspired by the Harry Nilsson song – and uses lime zest for flavoring.
This moist cake has fresh squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest, and you can add a delicious glaze on top.
Any pumpkin dessert is my favorite right away, and you can have this pumpkin spice cake in a cup in two minutes.
Starting this cake in a cup with caramel apple cake mix makes it stay tender and moist – add salt for a more interesting flavor.
Raspberries and chocolate make this cake really moist – and really delicious!
This gingerbread mug cake recipe doesn’t have any egg, and tastes perfect with whipped cream and caramel.
In five minutes you can have a chocolate mug cake, and I love the addition of cinnamon for a unique flavor.
This delicious cinnamon roll mug cake takes only three minutes, and even has cream cheese icing.
Everyone loves Nutella, and the addition of it makes a mug cake the perfect consistency (and moist, too!).
This cake in a cup is fluffy, delicious, and has little bits of strawberry mixed throughout.
Chocolate mug cake recipes are delicious, but when you add peanut butter the taste gets sent through the roof.
If you need your chocolate fix, this molten lava cake in a cup is perfect – and the pudding inside keeps it moist.
14. Red Velvet
Red velvet cake is one of my favorites, and this vintage Southern recipe is just as delicious when you put it in a mug.
15. Very Vanilla
This vanilla cake is the moistest and most delicious ever! Tastes just like a fluffy vanilla cupcake.
Salted caramel is a trendy flavor right now. Make this decadent dessert using caramel sauce and candies.
This rainbow cake in a cup is the ultimate where mug cakes are concerned. As one layer is cooling you can be microwaving the next!
18. Coffee Cake
This delicious little coffee mug cake even comes with the crumb topping. Yum!
Snickerdoodle cookies are the bomb, and this knockoff could be the best mug cake recipe on the planet.
“Regular” cakes aren’t the only thing you can have in a mug – you can make a yummy cheesecake as well.
If you enjoy mug cakes, check out my video with my best tips below:
What are your favorite mug cake recipes and have you tried any of these above? Let me know in the comments!