Sargent Choice Test Kitchen: Mini Vanilla Cakes

May 2, 2023
Abigail Morrissey, Nutrition Student

Why We Chose This Recipe

  • This recipe makes a quick, single-serving mug cake in the microwave, so it can be made in a dorm room!
  • We modified this recipe to add some more nutrients to an already popular food.

Recipe adapted from Dessert for Two and Tastes Better from Scratch
Yield: about 3 sandwiches


Oven Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar*
    • *instead of using milk and apple cider vinegar, you can use 6 tablespoons of buttermilk

Icing Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon heavy cream

Microwave Mug Cake Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup + 1.5 teaspoons white whole-wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil, melted
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Oven Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and spray a 6″ round pan with 2″ sides with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round piece of parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer or vigorously by hand. Beat well, about 1-2 minutes (6-8 by hand).
  3. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well combined, about 15 seconds.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add half of this to the butter and sugar and beat for just a few seconds before stirring in half of the milk and vinegar.  Continue beating. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat, and then stir in the remaining milk.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth out the top, and bake on a small sheet pan for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick or knife comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a wire rack in the pan. Carefully remove it from the pan and pull away the parchment paper once it has cooled.
  6. To make the buttercream frosting, beat the butter in a medium size bowl with an electric mixer or whisk until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream, and beat until light and fluffy.  If the mixture seems too stiff, add a splash of heavy cream.
  7. When the cake has cooled, frost the cake and enjoy!

Microwave Version:

  1. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to a mug and stir together.
  2. Stir in the milk, melted butter or oil, and vanilla extract until smooth, ensuring the bottom of the mug is scraped and mixed in.
  3. Cook in the microwave for 70-90 seconds (Until the cake is just set, but still barely shiny on the top. It may appear undercooked but will continue to cook as it rests). Allow to rest in the microwave for 1 minute before consuming.

What We Liked

  • Although this cake was modified to contain a type of whole-wheat flour and less sugar, we loved how this cake still tasted like a traditional vanilla cake.
  • It was fun to share this vanilla cake during the last week of school to provide students with a treat to celebrate the end of the semester!


    • Adding a tablespoon of cocoa powder to the microwave option creates a delicious, chocolate mug cake.
    • Milk can be used to make the frosting instead of heavy cream if that is more easily accessible or available.

    Nutritional Value

    • This recipe includes whole-wheat flour that contains a different nutrient profile than traditional all-purpose flour. Whole wheat flour contains more fiber than white or all-purpose flour. Whole grains (such as whole-wheat flour) contain three parts; bran, germ, and endosperm, which provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals. White flour is processed to remove the bran and the germ which reduces the fiber and nutrient content.  Fiber helps contribute to feeling full and satisfied after eating and helps support a healthy digestive tract.
    • Flour is a carbohydrate that provides a quick source of energy for your body, and is the preferred fuel source for the brain, muscles, and red blood cells.
    • While this cake is a lower protein food, it can be consumed alongside a glass of milk to contribute some protein which helps you feel satisfied and satiated after eating.