Recipe: Ice cream mug cake

Photographed by Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor

By Olivia Simons

December 8, 2023 at 10:58 p.m.

To be entirely honest, I got the idea for this recipe from a TikTok about making bread with ice cream. I don’t know why, but some part of my brain figured that this meant I had to try making it in a much smaller vessel and in cake form. Personally, I am a fan of cooking and baking things that require extremely small amounts of equipment, ingredients and cleanup time. I also have quite the sweet tooth, so this recipe is perfect for me and my semi-industrial-feeling university-owned college apartment.

I intend for this recipe to be made as a midnight snack or a dessert, but it of course can be made at any time of day. I only specify the late-night nature because this mug cake was microwaved and photographed at about two in the morning. As such, the counter where I made the mug cakes matches the time and the delirious exhaustion felt by Joseph Jimenez, the photographer; Emily Tang, our digital managing editor, who kindly donated her kitchen to this project’s cause; and myself.

Making an ice cream mug cake takes about five minutes, three ingredients, a couple of measuring spoons and a microwave. Beyond that, this recipe is simple and conceivably doable in either a dorm or an actual kitchen.

The picture below shows all you’ll need to create this delicacy. And yes, you do need to scroll through all the photos to get the remarkably basic full recipe. I am going to write a full food blog here.

Two ice cream containers, a mug, a bowl with flour and a spoon with baking powder sit on a counter.

Aside from a measuring cup that I’ll talk about later, this is all you need: flour, baking powder, an ice cream of your choice and a microwave-safe mug. The mug I have is intentionally fall themed, but you can use any mug that can fit at least 12 ounces of liquid.

Ice cream is scooped out of its container.

The first thing you’re going to do is measure out one cup of ice cream. This could be any flavor or any type of milk, since all you need is something that makes up for the liquid part of your standard baked good recipe. I’ve tried coconut milk ice cream before, and it turned out just the same as mug cakes with regular milk ice cream do.

The ice cream I’m using here is Trader Joe’s Speculoos cookie butter ice cream, which gives a good flavor to the mug cake overall.

After you’ve measured out a cup of ice cream, scoop it into your mug.

A ghost mug sits in an open microwave.

I’d like to dedicate this photo to our Video editor, Crystal Trinh, who named my mug, which I bought at Target on sale last year. The mug’s name is Boo – an appropriate choice for its general demeanor, expression and ghostliness.

Returning to the recipe, I placed Boo in the microwave to melt the ice cream, which takes about 30 to 90 seconds depending on how melted your ice cream already is. I would suggest microwaving in increments of 30 seconds and checking to see when the ice cream is completely melted.

A half cup of flour is poured from a measuring cup into a ghost mug.

As you can tell from this photo, I was wearing a white T-shirt while making this mug cake. I didn’t intentionally dress like my mug, but looking back on it, I would recommend color coordinating with your most prized Halloween-themed ceramic cup as you make these cakes for added aesthetic appeal.

Baking powder is poured into a mug.

After you pour in your flour, add a smidgeon of baking powder. I would give a specific measurement, but it would be disingenuous of me to say I actually measured how much I put in despite the recipe saying a quarter of a teaspoon. The baking powder is just to make the cake rise a little bit, so just a small, measure-with-your-heart amount works.

Ingredients in a mug are mixed together with a spoon.

Mix all three ingredients together in the mug until combined. It’ll look like not all of your flour and baking powder will fit in the mug at first, but it’ll all work together when you start mixing. Make sure to spill a little bit of dry ingredients on the counter for the full midnight microwaving experience.

Once everything is mixed up, stick your mug back in the microwave and watch it rotate around on the microwaving dish for three minutes on high. High is the default setting for most microwaves in my experience, so you don’t need to actually check the power level.

When the mug cake is first taken out of the microwave, it’s going to be a lot taller than it will be about five minutes after it’s been removed. If any batter ends up spilling over the top of the mug and into your microwave, you can blame me for the mess.

Photographed by Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor
Photographed by Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor

Whipped cream is swirled onto the top of a mug.

This next step is both the only optional step and my favorite step. Instead of showing you the mug cake in its just-taken-out form, I’m showing you Boo all dressed up with a head of whipped cream looking extremely cute for this photo. I need to thank Tang again here, who used her expert whipped cream decorating skills to add another sense of aesthetic to the whole microwave mug cake operation.

A scoop is taken out of a mug cake.

Here I am taking a scoop out of my creation for proof that there is, in fact, an edible cake inside of this mug.

This next portion of the recipe is the same as what I laid out above, just with a different kind of ice cream and half the size to show that you can scale down the recipe but still achieve the same level of success. While I could probably eat a full ice cream mug cake in one sitting, I’ve had leftovers each time I’ve made this recipe, so I’d recommend the reduced portion unless you’re particularly hungry.

Ice cream is poured from an ice cream container into a measuring cup.

For this mug cake I’m using Trader Joe’s salted maple ice cream, a more on-brand option for the fall.

Joseph, Tang and I had been in Tang’s apartment for several hours now, frequently interrupted by the late-night desire to sing classic Disney songs and prove to each other that we knew 2000s pop hits by heart. Thus, my ice cream had completely melted by the time I went to scoop it, making it easy enough for me to pour out a half cup of the liquid into my measuring cup.

Melted ice cream is poured from a measuring cup into a mug.

Next, pour your ice cream into your friend’s mug, which you’ll need to borrow because you forgot to bring a second one. We didn’t name Tang’s mug, unfortunately, but I sincerely appreciated her donating the drinking vessel to the project.

Flour is poured from a measuring cup into a mug.

Since the recipe is half the size of the original one, a quarter cup of flour is needed to go in with a half cup of ice cream. You’ll also need half a smidgeon of baking powder.

Ingredients are mixed in a mug with a spoon.

Mixing the ingredients together is, in my opinion, a pretty intuitive step, but I will be honest and say I have stuck a mug cake in the microwave before without mixing together the ingredients. It didn’t turn out very well.

After mixing, stick the mug in the microwave for 90 seconds until fully cooked and spongy on top.

Whipped cream is piped into a mug.

Thank you again to Tang and your whipped cream skills for adding a cute hat to your even cuter mug. I look forward to returning to your apartment and picking up the supplies I left after departing at 3 a.m. with half a tub of cookie butter ice cream in one hand and a leaking bag of flour in the other.

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