Kitchen Intuition: Chocolate cake for one

Authored By aliceodea

I teased a single-serving chocolate cake last week, but before I get to the recipe, I want to emphasize that rather than being an encouragement to splurge on desserts, this is a great way to indulge in the occasional sweet treat without burdening yourself with tempting leftovers. There are a lot of scientists, doctors, nutritionists and other clever people out there who believe that processed foods are creating a public health crisis in the Western world-and refined sugar might just be the “single worst ingredient in the modern diet.”

According to the American Heart Association, a healthy, active female should eat no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day, and a healthy, active man is allowed 9 teaspoons. That is a total amount-a combination of everything you consume in a day, from what you put into your morning coffee to your soft drinks, cereals, snacks and desserts. It’s not easy to regularly meet that target, but your chances get better if you prepare your own food, because then you can be more mindful of the ingredients going into what you eat.

And here is the beauty of making just a single serving of cake. After you eat it, there’s nothing left over, no temptation whispering to you from the kitchen, beckoning you to come and have just one more bite. Further, making a cake yourself also falls in line with one of my favorite of Michael Pollan‘s  food rules, which is No. 39: “Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” Seeing the ingredients that make up the final product can be an illuminating experience (who could possibly bring themselves to drink a latte after personally stirring in 25 spoons of sugar?)

There are a gazillion recipes out there for single-serving chocolate cakes, and they come in versions for every sort of eater-dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free, egg-free and so on. If you have a dietary issue, just do a Google search and you’ll find a mug cake that accommodates it. I’ve made a number of varieties over the years, and what follows is a basic version that I made this week. It’s a decent size for one person, and the amount of sugar I used was under 5 teaspoons. Some recipes also include frosting or a sprinkling of confectioners sugar over the top of the cake, and I think it would be possible to reduce the amount of sugar in the cake itself to allow for a bit more sugar as a garnish.

I started by mixing the dry ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1.5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

I stirred those together and then added the wet ingredients:

  • 1.5 tablespoons milk
  • 1.5 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon white vinegar

I blended it into a batter, mixed in a few dark chocolate chips and poured it all into a greased ramekin. I baked it for about 20 minutes in the toaster oven, which I had heated to 375 degrees. After 15 minutes, I checked it by poking the center with a toothpick, and it was not quite done, so I gave it another five minutes. That was enough time, and the result was a very moist and tasty cake, just the right size for one.

It’s also possible to cook these in a microwave, a minute at a time until done, but you’ll get a spongier texture, which I don’t like as much as the baked version. But either way, you’ll end up with a nice treat, which you can enjoy virtually guilt-free and with no haunting leftovers. 

Alice O’Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn’t really learn to cook until midlife. When she’s not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.