Investigating the Myth of the 5-Minute Chocolate Cake
Let me start by saying: This is kind of ridiculous.
Let me also say: I know how to make homemade chocolate cake. In the oven. Ask The Angry Chef, my mother, or my friends. I can make simple ones or elaborate ones. I can make complicated cakes with layers and fillings that are piled high with soft, fluffy frosting.
But that’s not what this is. This is one part urban mythology, one part science experiment.
I actually had a hell of a lot of fun figuring it out. So please don’t lambaste me. Sit back and have a laugh. Then go microwave yourself a cake.
And if you’re wondering why I didn’t just scale down a full-size cake recipe, don’t be silly. That would be way too easy (and way too much math).
Here’s my cake:
5-Minute Chocolate Cake: Fact or fiction? (Or, why are you doing this?)
Let me back up.
Recently, a handful of people have asked me—eyes wide—if I’ve heard of the legendary 5-Minute Chocolate Cake. “You know, you make it in a mug in the microwave when you’re hungry in the middle of the night?”
Really. Google it. (I’ll wait.) If you haven’t heard of it, you might be as surprised as I was. As of tonight, “5-minute chocolate cake” returned 43,500 hits in 0.19 seconds.
Wait, isn’t Betty Crocker already selling that? Sure. But that’s a packaged cake mix. What do you do if you don’t have one in the cupboard at 2 in the morning?
5-Minute Chocolate Cake: OK, game on
So…a chocolate cake you can make—from scratch—in five minutes? That’s a myth, right? In spite of myself, I was intrigued. It sounded too good to be true. So, I thought, let’s see if it is.
And? It is—and it isn’t.
5-Minute Chocolate Cake: Has anyone seen that pesky Goldilocks?
I could use her help testing these cakes. I found a recipe on the internet and started baking. I mean, microwaving.
My goal was to create a cake that was edible—maybe even kind of good—that you could mix and microwave in a few minutes with stuff you probably have lying around in your kitchen. For this recipe, fast and easy trumped any baking best practice that created extra steps.
This first cake was way too dense. It came out like a chocolate sponge. And when it cooled, it turned into a brick.
OK. Too much egg, I reasoned.
I started to fidget with the the dry ingredients. I bumped them up so they were more in proportion with the amount of egg. I added some baking powder to give it a little extra oomph. I swapped in chocolate liquor and chocolate milk for extra flavor, reasoning that lots of midnight munchers might have those on hand. Last but not least, I tossed in some mini chocolate chips, which were just the right size to melt in a few minutes.
I cooked it in a mug first, then a bowl when the mug overflowed. In the end, I settled on a Pyrex loaf pan. It produced a relatively even, flat cake and a lot of folks have one in the house.
After about 10 tries, I managed to make one that was just right. Or, as just right as I think microwave cake can get. If you have all the ingredients on hand, it should take you just under 2 minutes to mix, and just over 3 minutes to cook. (Hence, the 5-minute cake.)
It probably serves two now, instead of one. But hey, you’re bound to have at least one hungry friend, right?
5-Minute Chocolate Cake: So, how does it taste?
All that said, I’m not sure it’s quite OK on its own. Eaten alone, it’s a passable—but pretty mediocre—chocolate cake.
But if you used it as a base for stuff you might have in the fridge, like chocolate sauce, whipped cream, fresh raspberries…if you, say, soaked it in a little Kahlua and crowned it with a scoop or two of Haagen-Dazs vanilla, you might just have something there.
5-Minute Chocolate Cake: Disclaimer and microwave information
I am not a microwave cooking expert. I made this cake in my personal microwave, which is an 800-watt Samsung that I bought a few years ago. If you use a different pan or strength microwave, you’re going to have to monkey around with the directions, as both those things drastically affect cooking time. The pan will also be really, really hot when it comes out of the microwave.
5-Minute Chocolate Cake: Get to the cake, would ya?
Yep, yep. If you try this, please drop me a line. I’d love to know how yours turned out—and what you did with your magical microwave creation.
5-Minute Chocolate Cake
6 Tbls. sugar
5 Tbls. flour
4 Tbls. cocoa powder (NOT hot chocolate mix)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 jumbo egg
2 Tbls. creme de cocoa or any other chocolate liquor
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbls. chocolate milk
2 Tbls. olive oil
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
spray oil for the pan
5-Minute Chocolate Cake: Combine the dry ingredients
Put the sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Add the cocoa powder and the flour.
Toss in the baking powder.
Whisk them together to combine.
Your goal is a uniform mixture.
5-Minute Chocolate Cake: Add the wet ingredients
Add all the wet ingredients to the dry before stirring. Crack in the egg.
Add the liquor, vanilla, chocolate milk, and olive oil. Whisk together to combine well.
Your goal is a smooth cake batter. At this point, it should look like regular chocolate cake batter. Not too thick, not too thin. (Sorry, Goldilocks again.)
So far, so good.
5-Minute Chocolate Cake: Add in the mini chocolate chips
This step is optional, because not everyone keeps mini chocolate chips on hand. If you have them, stir them in now.
Don’t use regular size chips, as they’re too big to melt properly.
5-Minute Chocolate Cake: Microwave your cake
Spray your bread pan with oil. Wipe it out lightly with a paper towel to soak up any excess oil. (If you don’t, it will pool around the sides of the cake and make it gummy.)
Pour the batter into your greased pan, scraping all of it out with a spatula or wooden spoon. It should look about like this:
Put your pan in the microwave, and cook on high for 3 minutes, 25 seconds. If you don’t have an 800-watt microwave, you’ll need to adjust the time up or down a little.
This is what it looked like after about a minute. At this point, it should start to poof up and solidify. It’ll be a little concave in the middle.
This is what it looked like after two minutes. It should be more solid, and the center should rise to be about even with the sides.
After 3 minutes 25 seconds, the surface of the cake should be even, relatively firm, and dappled with tiny bubbles. It should be just pulling away from the edges of your bread pan. When you press on it lightly with a finger, it should spring back, just like an oven-baked cake.
5-Minute Chocolate Cake: Serve and enjoy
Now, what you do with your microwave cake from here is completely up to you. If you need your cake fix right away, have at it. (Just don’t burn yourself.)
I cooled my cake in the pan for maybe 20 minutes. After that, I ran a thin-bladed knife in between the cake and the pan to loosen it. I turned it out onto a rack and cooled it another 20 minutes before slicing.