We had a great school holidays kids event at Success Library Monday and, since the inspiration for the activity came from a book that passed by my desk some time ago, I thought it fitting to post an event summary/book review and share the fun around!

So, what was it all about? Well, it’s quite simple: we each made ourselves a cake – in – a – cup. Amazing! [Technically you made two each, you greedy gutses! – Ed.] Cake-in-a-cup, mug cakes, cup-o-cake (I made the last one up) – call it what you will – the idea is to mix up all your ingredients in one small bowl (or directly in the mug itself), pop it in the microwave and two to three minutes later … bing! instant single serve cake. Again, amazing!

What we did:

We had an hour so we decided on two cakes per person, so they could have a go at two different styles of cake, fancy one up a bit and dig straight in to the other!

Cake #1: plain vanilla – layered with strawberry (jam) and cream

I won’t go through the step-by-step, you’ll have to borrow the book, but all the cakes have the same basic foundation ingredients:

2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp self-raising flour (sifted)
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp beaten egg
1 tsp vanilla extract


This first one needed to be turned out onto a plate so we lined it with baking paper to make sure it didn’t stick to the sides. Once done and cooled slightly we slid them out, cut them across the middle (you can do more layers with a steady hand) and slathered some strawberry jam and thick cream in between. Yum!

Cake #2: molten lava choc (using Freddos in the centre)

Same as the plain cake recipe but minus:
1 tsp vanilla

and adding:
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 Freddo frogs


With our mugs now empty, we could make the second cake – a chocolate lava cake. We did this cake last because, as you can imagine, turning out a gooey centered cake can only end in tragedy. Just to note: the original recipe used squares from a block of chocolate and also had a bit of orange zest but we changed to Freddos to make our ‘kids’ version, and they approve!


What we learned …

Cake is serious business and despite good instructions, there are always variables, a bit of trial (and error) and changes we decided need making. So what did we learn and what did we change?


1 ♦ We learned that the recommended 3 minute cook was too long in our microwaves and left the cake dry after only a few minutes on the bench.

  • We changed that to two and a half minutes.


2 ♦ We learned that one mug cake cooking in the dead centre of the microwave leaves the cake moist on the outside but dry or even burnt in the middle.

  • If you are doing just one mug cake – put the mug off-centre to avoid the core drying out.
  • If you are making several – put them in together, in an even ring around the centre.


3 ♦ We learned that a tablespoon of liquid is always measured correctly but a tablespoon of flour (or any dry ingredient) needs to be flat. Because the amounts per cake are so small you need to pay careful attention to this part.

  • When stirring the mixture, if it is too thick and gluggy, add a bit more milk to thin it that extra bit.


4 ♦ *Most Important* – and the thing I forgot to tell the people at the Cake-in-a-Cup event – these are ‘quick cakes’ so their taste and moistness won’t last past the end of the day. Ideally, you should eat them within the hour. No, I’m not joking!

The Review:

Credit where credit is due, the book that started it all is this gem:

Microwave mug cakes! : 40 home-made treats in an instant

“This irresistible book will transform the way you bake. Traditional cake-making in the oven is wonderful but when you only have a few minutes or want a treat just for yourself…all you need is a microwave and a mug! … Lots of delectable toppings and frostings are included too, for when you want to make the mug cakes look and taste even more special.” – Cover

Not much more to say really. [This is a review? – Ed.] The instructions are thorough, clear and easy to follow – as any good cookbooks should be. There are alternative options for the gluten and lactose intolerant – which we successfully provided at our event. There is a cornucopia of recipes in this book: from classic cakes, puddings and fruity cakes; from fancy cakes (the ones the adults pour strange liquids into) to “just for kids” and festive mug cakes.

But you don’t need to know any of this. What it boils down to is that they are quick, fun and they are tasty!

Brilliant idea, brilliant results. All I can say is: