The Perfect Cake For One (Or Two)

A from-scratch chocolate cake that's gluten-free, paleo, and ready in about 2 minutes.
A from-scratch chocolate cake that’s gluten-free, paleo, and ready in about 2 minutes.

This recipe is dangerous. With a capital “D.”

Because it allows you to make a cake in about 2 minutes.

Just imagine being able to indulge in a warm, tender cake anytime you feel like it. And an individual one at that, which you don’t have to share — well, unless you’re feeling exceedingly generous.

What’s more, “Chocolate Mug Cake” is gluten-free and paleo.

The recipe comes from paleo pro Michelle Tam, whose newest cookbook, “Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!” (Andrews McMeel), of which I received a review copy, just hit the shelves.

If you’re familiar with Tam, the former Stanford Hospital pharmacist who has taken the paleo universe by storm, you know that it takes her and her husband Henry Fong about five years to write each of their cookbooks. That’s because they do it all — the recipes, design, photography, and whimsical illustrations. So, when one drops, it’s definitely a reason to rejoice.

The newest cookbook is all about the recipes she makes regularly for her family. All of them are fully illustrated with step-by-step photos, making it easy for any adult or even child sous chef in-training to tackle.

Michelle Tam, as rendered in character-form by her husband.
Michelle Tam, as rendered in character-form by her husband.

Among the delights in this hefty book are “Sunday Night Lasagna” (with yellow squash slices standing in for noodles), “Hash Brown Fish,” “Instant Pot Duck Carnitas,” and “Hong Kong Egg Tarts” (with cassava and tapioca flours in the crust).

The mug cake takes only a handful of ingredients, including almond flour, cocoa powder, maple syrup, one egg, a splash of vanilla extract, and a pinch of baking soda.

The pumpkin cake batter goes into a 6-ounce microwavable mug.
The pumpkin cake batter goes into a 6-ounce microwavable mug.
In the smaller mug, the pumpkin cake rises dramatically over the rim of the mug.
In the smaller mug, the pumpkin cake rises dramatically over the rim of the mug.

Mix everything up, pour into a mug and microwave. The batter will rise, then fall a little, and the resulting cake ready to devour in 1 to 2 minutes, depending on your microwave. (Mine took about 1 minute and 40 seconds.)

You can use either a 6-ounce or an 8-ounce mug. The former will give you a cake that puffs up over the top of the mug, giving a more dramatic look. However, the cake may not bake up perfectly ramrod straight, so don’t be surprised if it comes out a little tilted, as mine did. The latter will give rise to a cake that barely peeks above the rim of the mug. I even tried microwaving the cake in a small bowl, and it worked just fine, offering up yet another presentation option.

The chocolate mug cake is none too sweet, with a homey chocolate taste. The texture is akin to a Chinese steamed cake — moist, spongy, tender, and fluffy.

Tam also provides a couple variations, which I also made. The pumpkin mug cake is ideal when you bake other recipes that call for canned pumpkin puree but end up with leftovers. It calls for only 1 tablespoon of pumpkin puree, so the mug cake doesn’t necessarily end up tasting intensely of the autumn squash. But because it also gets flavored with a dash of pumpkin spice mix, it will surely satisfy any pumpkin spice lover. The pumpkin puree also makes this mug cake the moistest of the variations I tried.

The match mug cake version is more austere, with its sweetness subtle as the astringent, grassy taste of the tea predominates. It’s an ideal version for those who prefer their cakes barely sweet at all.

Tam likes to garnish her mug cakes with whipped coconut cream. I’m not necessarily paleo, so I dusted mine with powdered sugar or matcha powder. I even dolloped the chocolate one with a modest scoop of vanilla ice cream.

You do you. Just grab a mug, and let’s go.

The matcha mug cake, which I actually microwaved in a small bowl instead.
The matcha mug cake, which I actually microwaved in a small bowl instead.

Chocolate Mug Cake

(Makes 1 serving)

3 tablespoons (21 grams) finely ground blanched almond flour

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon avocado oil

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

Toss the dry ingredients into a measuring cup. Stir together until uniform. Add the wet ingredients. Whisk together until smooth.

Pour the batter into a microwave-safe 6 to 8-ounce mug. Place the mug at the center of the microwave and cook on high power for 1 to 2 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool a few minutes, and top with whipped coconut cream, if desired.

For Matcha Mug Cake: Leave out the unsweetened cocoa, and add 1 teaspoon of high-quality matcha powder in its place.

For Pumpkin Mug Cake: When mixing together the dry ingredients, leave out the cocoa, and add 3/4 teaspoon of spice blend instead. When adding wet ingredients, add 1 tablespoon of canned pumpkin puree, as well.

From “Nom Nom Paleo Let’s Go!” by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong

More Mug Fun: Minute-Oatmeal Puffs with Anise and Grapes

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