The “Sunday Scaries” hit hardest on Sunday nights, after dinner, once the reality sets in that the weekend will expire in just a few hours and the prospect of another long work week filled with obligations lies ahead. That’s why my boyfriend and I started a Sunday night routine to look forward to in the form of a sweet and easy-to-prepare dessert: the humble mug cake.
I stumbled upon mug cakes years ago in the baking aisle and fell in love with the idea of a pre-portioned dessert for one as the perfect solution for someone like myself who loves baked goods, but had only one roommate and often found myself short on time.
Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, and Ghirardelli all offer a variety of boxed mug cake flavors — from chocolate brownie to cinnamon coffee cake to blueberry muffin. Some even come with their own frosting topping, but after my first mug cake, I realized my favorite topping is a scoop of ice cream.
Our Sunday mug cake ritual starts with selecting the perfect mug. I don’t drink coffee or consume tea with any regularity, so my mugs rarely leave the cabinet, but that doesn’t stop me from buying new ones just for mug cakes. Making this Sunday snack is the perfect excuse to parade my collection of mostly fall and holiday themed mugs.
On nights when I’m feeling sentimental I might reach for a mug a loved one gave me, or grab a mug I snagged on vacation when I’m in the mood for a little nostalgia.
Making the mug cake itself is easy — just follow the simple instructions on the box, usually just mixing in a couple tablespoons of water or milk, then popping it into the microwave for no more than 2 minutes. After that comes the creative part: dressing the mug cake with enough ice cream and toppings to keep the thought of going to work tomorrow at bay just a little while longer.
Mug cakes are best enjoyed on the couch, tucked under a cozy blanket with something enjoyable on TV (aka no news or stock market shows). I like to make sure each bite delivers a combo of cake, ice cream, and toppings, though it can sometimes be difficult to get to the cake at the bottom if I’ve filled the mug to the brim.
As Sunday winds down and Monday draws closer, I try to savor each spoonful, taking each morsel as a small moment of solace helping me feel joy at what can sometimes be the most dreadful time of the week. After all, I’d been looking forward to this mug cake for 7 days!
- Make sure to leave plenty of room for toppings. The cakes will rise no higher than half of a standard coffee mug, so this can be where your tall or larger mugs will shine.
- Don’t just pick the first clean mug within reach. Find one that matches your mood — the mug should put a smile on your face, even before being filled with delicious sweetness.
- Most boxes will suggest mixing with water or milk, but you can also use heavy whipping cream for maximum fluffiness. Or you can swap in a nondairy alternative. I usually go for almond milk.
- Stir a spoonful of chocolate chips into the mix before microwaving to add texture — and more sweetness!
- The mug cake makes a great base for an ice cream sundae. Something simple like vanilla or chocolate ice cream won’t overwhelm the cake, but don’t hesitate to pile on a more decadent flavor. I tried a caramel whiskey ice cream on top of a chocolate cake recently, and it couldn’t have been a better combo.
- Top the ice cream with some whipped cream and throw on some candy, crumbled cookies, or even chopped nuts.
- Many mug cakes will come with a frosting topping, but if not — or if you want something extra — add some hot fudge or Nutella (or both!) for that finishing touch.
Dana Rose Falcone is a journalist whose stories have appeared in People, Us Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, Backstage, HuffPost, Brides.com, Apartment Therapy, Fast Company, Mental Floss, Money.com and Newsweek. She’s a graduate of Syracuse University and is based in Jersey City. Follow her on Twitter @DanaRoseFalcone.