Cakes and savory treats are easy to cook in a coffee cup

  • Mon Apr 16th, 2012 10:06pm
  • Life

By Cindy Dampier Chicago Tribune

When I was a kid, my mother called me The Mad Scientist. It wasn’t that I was an ace in science, but more that I liked to mix stuff in tiny cups — and leave them scattered around the house.

So when I stumbled on a recipe on the Prudent Baby blog (prudentbaby.com) for a coffeecake in a coffee cup, I was hooked. The ingredients were insanely tiny (1/2 an egg! drops of vanilla!) and the results could be tasted in minutes because the cooking was done in the microwave. The instant gratification meant that weekday breakfasts could include a warm, adorable coffeecake for one grateful child. In short, it was kind of brilliant.

Turns out the coffeecake post was Prudent Baby’s top post of 2011 (thanks to links to it by, among others, an online group for pot smokers who were psyched about a 5-minute cure for the munchies). Co-founder Jaime Morrison Curtis, who came up with the cinnamon-flavored cake as an alternative to chocolate cake-in-a-cup recipes, recognized its appeal right away.

“Tiny things are awesome,” she says. “I did have to mess around with it a bit … but that’s the fun part of making recipes.”

It was so much fun, it made me wonder what else I could cook in a coffee cup. Here’s what I discovered:

Though the microwave is a blunt cooking instrument, it works well with small portions of anything that aims for a soufflelike consistency. Think English steamed puddings, lava cakes, bread puddings, omelets — and don’t overcook.

Compensate for the lack of browning by using dark brown sugar, or covering the tops of your creations with garnishes such as crumb topping or cheese.

Once you’ve figured out basic proportions and cooking times (which will vary depending on your cup size and your microwave), start raiding your fridge for ingredients that suggest variations on your themes.

Because the quantities are so small (though you can also double recipes and split them between two cups), you can experiment as much as you like without fretting over wasted ingredients. Once you start, you might discover that you’re a mad scientist too.

Note: Use a microwaveable cup, and consider placing it on a plate to catch possible overflow. We found that a 12-ounce cup worked best for these recipes. You may need to adjust cooking times depending on the strength of your microwave oven. The cup and mixture will be very hot. Allow to cool a bit before eating. Each recipe makes 1 serving.

Coffee cup coffeecake

Crumb topping:

2tablespoons dark brown sugar

2tablespoons flour

1tablespoon butter, softened

Pinch cinnamon

Pinch salt, optional

Cake:

1tablespoon butter, softened

1tablespoon dark brown sugar

1/2egg (1 egg lightly beaten and divided)

2tablespoons sour cream

1teaspoon maple syrup

Vanilla (a few drops)

1/4cup self-rising flour

1/4teaspoon cinnamon

1teaspoon apricot or other preserves

For the crumb topping, mix the ingredients together in a small bowl with your fingers. Pinch together until crumbs form. For the cake, mix butter and sugar together in a large measuring cup until creamy; add egg, sour cream, syrup and vanilla. Beat until blended well. Add flour and cinnamon; beat until smooth. Pour half of batter into a buttered coffee cup, drop preserves into center, then top with remaining batter. Top with crumb topping, microwave about 1 minute 15 seconds.

Makes 1 serving.

Coffee cup upside-down cake

2tablespoons butter

3tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/2apple, thinly sliced, slices cut in half

1/2egg

2tablespoons milk

Vanilla (a few drops)

1/4cup self-rising flour

2pinches cinnamon

Put 1 tablespoon butter, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the apple slices in the bottom of a coffee cup; microwave, 1 minute. Soften remaining butter; mix in a measuring cup with remaining sugar until creamy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat with a fork to combine. Add flour and cinnamon; beat until smooth. Swirl coffee cup to coat apples completely with melted sugar and butter; sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon. Pour batter into cup, swirl once. Microwave 1 minute.

Makes 1 serving.

Coffee cup quiche

1egg

1 1/2tablespoons milk

Salt, pepper

1/4of a bagel (or similar amount of French bread, etc.)

2teaspoons cream cheese

1/2slice prosciutto or ham

Dijon mustard

Fresh thyme leaves or fresh chopped chives

Beat egg and milk together with a fork in a coffee cup, with salt and pepper to taste. Tear bread into dime-size pieces; stir in. Add cream cheese; stir in. Tear or cut prosciutto into small pieces; add to mixture. Sprinkle with thyme. Microwave 1 minute 10 seconds. Garnish with mustard and fresh thyme or chives.

Makes 1 serving.

Coffee cup chilaquiles

1egg

1tablespoon milk

Salt, pepper

1tablespoon sharp cheddar cheese

5tortilla chips

1tablespoon salsa

Sour cream, queso fresco, chopped green onion

Beat egg and milk with a fork in a coffee cup, with salt and pepper to taste. Add cheddar; stir to coat. Break 3 or 4 tortilla chips in small pieces to fit in the cup; stir into the mixture. Add salsa. Microwave, about 1 minute, 10 seconds. Garnish with a tortilla chip, sour cream, queso fresco and onion.

Makes 1 serving.