One of the more flavorful side-effects of people being forced to stay at home was a renewed interest in a task that was a daily practice 100 years ago, but had fallen out of practice. It’s baking, of course.
People started with sourdough and coffee cakes, then transitioned into experimenting with muffin ingredients. They invented their own gluten-free or sugar-free variations, and then resolved themselves to the situation and tried making decadent desserts.
They found out they really liked them. They don’t want to go back to the old, tasteless way. There’s only one problem.
Where Can I Find the Time?
Now that we’re emerging from our seclusion and going back to “the real world” and its requisite time constraints, who has the time to measure and mix ingredients, stir, preheat, and wait 30-50 minutes?
The solution? An apparently newish trend that was gaining popularity in 2019, and is seeing a resurgence now.
Instead of a half-hour – minimum – of prep, followed by 45 minutes of baking, and then 30-40 minutes to cool before you can get a bite – mug cakes are miraculously ready to eat in 7-10 minutes.
The term “mug cake“ comes from the preferred choice of baking container – a ceramic coffee mug.
But what you may not know is that mug cakes have their own rich history – pun intended. The first mug cakes actually debuted in the 1850s. At the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, the “Bower’s Registered Gas Stove” appeared. One of the accomplishments of the Industrial Revolution was a gas oven where you could set the thermostat.
But prior to this invention – as revolutionary as the iPhone in 2007 – bakers had to have some way to measure the approximate temperature of the oven. They would take a sample of the batter, pour it into a ceramic coffee mug, and let it bake in the oven. Of course, they didn’t call these bite-size dainties something as remarkable as “mug cakes.”
Because the baking vessels were commonly called coffee cups, the temperature testing cakes got the nickname cupcakes. Rumor has it that’s also where the term “coffee cake” originated. Eventually, someone decided to use these test treats as their own delicacy, and with the advent of those temperature-controlled ovens, cupcakes took on a life of their own.
Back to the Future
Now mug cakes are the favored snack of anxious college students, overworked commuters, and even harried housewives.
There are plenty of quick and simple recipes online. Or you can take advantage of easy-to-prepare mug cake kits from the folks at Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, and Trader Joe’s. Starbucks even had mug cake mixes for a little while.
Like traditional cake since it was first introduced, chocolate is the number one choice for mug cakes. Unfortunately, recipes and mixes vary greatly in taste, texture, and snacker satisfaction. By the way, it’s interesting how language changes over time. The first chocolate “cakes” sold in the mid-1700s were more like Hershey bars, or Baker’s chocolate. Thankfully, we have more alternatives now.
But for your mug cakes, you don’t have to stick with traditional favorites like chocolate or red velvet. Try a Louisiana cinnamon flavored king cake, colored with purple, green, and gold in honor of the Biblical Magi. Celebrate the success of the Ukrainian resistance – while there’s no proper way to prepare Medovik honey cake in a mug – with the right recipe, you can come close.
Not a fan of coffee? Try some Earl Grey, piping hot, with British lemon drizzle cake. You can even find recipes for apple pie and Snickerdoodle mug cakes.
In fact, for just about any type of traditional cake you can think of, someone’s tried to hack a recipe for a mug cake version. If you look hard enough, you might even find a nice recipe for a red, white and blue(berry) mug cake to make for celebrating United States’ independence.
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Paul Rose Jr has worked as TV News Producer, Forensic Analyst, and Train Conductor, among many other things. He’s the former TV Editor for Infuzemag.com and owns more books, DVDs, and comics than most people have seen in their lifetimes. When he’s not writing articles, he exercises his creative muscle writing screenplays and acting in film and television in Los Angeles, CA.