This chocolate Paleo mug cake is lightly sweet, rich, and easy enough for kids to make their own. The perfect healthy gluten free snack!
What's to love ❤️ about mug cakes
My mind typically turns to no-bake desserts as the weather gets warmer since I know most of us don't want to add more heat to our homes by turning on the oven. Mug cakes aren't only no-bake, they're also as unfussy as you can get and when made right they're a shortcut to a moist, tender and rich cake for one. No sharing, nearly no cleanup.
I guess that's why we've already made a basic chocolate gluten free mug cake with a rice-based flour blend, plus a flourless mug cake made with a nut butter base. In fact, mug cakes are simple enough that my entirely kitchen-clueless children can make them for themselves.
You know that a baking concept has really taken off when packaged food companies like Betty Crocker and Pillsbury start making mixes for them. There are so few dry ingredients in a mug cake, though, that the idea that you might buy one of their “kits” really kills me.
How to make this mug cake
This mini chocolate Paleo cake is so lightly sweet, has so much good fat and protein that I even let my children have it for breakfast or an after-school snack. This mug cake is made with just a few clean ingredients: mainly almond flour, cocoa powder, coconut sugar, 1 tablespoon of oil, and an egg.
So easy my children can make it (and I'll actually let them)
My children really can make this recipe themselves, and they literally have zero hands-on cooking experience. I hate it when parents brag about their children's eating habits for so many reasons, and I hate cooking with small children.
My home kitchen is my workspace, my laboratory. When I'm in the kitchen, which is nearly always, I'm busy and don't want to add another layer of complexity to my life.
People often insist that their kids are more willing to eat things that they've prepared themselves. I just never had the strength of character necessary to put that statement to the test. But this mug cake is soooo easy, even my teenage son who thinks everything new is “weird” made this mug cake—and was so proud of himself he called it his “son.”
Some lazy child shortcuts
The “ideal” way to make this recipe so the cake is super tender is to mix the ingredients in a separate small bowl, then transfer it to a greased microwave-safe mug or mason jar. Microwave for 30 seconds, mix, and then finish cooking for about 1 minute more. But when my son is the one making it, we take some shortcuts that compromise the recipe but just a littttle bit.
First, he mixes the ingredients right in the mug or mason jar he'll use to microwave the cake (no separate mixing bowl). That also means he doesn't grease the mug or jar so he might have to scrape the sides to get every last bit of his cake. Not a big problem.
If I've planned ahead for him and mixed the dry ingredients myself, I'll have either a small jar like you see above that has the almond flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, sugar, and even the chips. He'll whisk the oil and egg together in a mug, then add the dry ingredients and mix. I might keep the dry ingredients in a 2 cup mason jar or mug, and he can add the egg and oil right to it.
Second, my son doesn't microwave for 30 seconds, mix, then finish cooking. He just microwaves for 1 minute straight up (at 70% power since our microwave is a whopping 1200 watts), then checks for doneness. Maybe he'll need another 10 seconds at 70% power, maybe not.
Ingredients and substitutions
Almond flour: The almond flour in this recipe must be finely ground blanched almond flour. “Blanched” almonds are just almonds that have had their skins removed. Almond meal is a coarsely ground form of almond flour and is made with almonds that have their skins intact. It won't work in this recipe.
If you can't have almonds, you can try replacing the almond flour with finely ground blanched hazelnut flour, as that's often a successful almond flour replacement. If you want to use a rice-based flour blend, try my basic chocolate gluten free mug cake recipe.
Coconut sugar: Coconut palm sugar, which I buy at my local Trader Joe's, is a coarsely ground sugar that has a deep brown color. When I open the bag of sugar, I usually transfer the entire contents to a simple blender and grind the sugar until it's as fine as possible. That way, I find that it dissolves much more easily in baking, which is especially important in a recipe like this that cooks in less than 2 minutes.
You can use refined granulated sugar in place of coconut palm sugar in this recipe in an equal amount (2 tablespoons, or less if you prefer). If you'd like to use a liquid sugar like honey or maple syrup, it will change the moisture balance and the recipe would need to be rebalanced in other ways that would require hands-on experimentation.
Eggs: It's possible that you can replace the egg in this recipe with a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds with 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel). The basic chocolate GF mug cake recipe linked above is egg-free which would be appropriate if a rice-based flour blend is an option for you.
Baking powder: Baking powder is a combination of baking soda, cream of tartar, and a starch. Most conventional baking powder is made with starch that isn't Paleo-friendly, like cornstarch.
If you're very concerned that your mug cake is strictly grain-free, you can purchase Paleo baking powder or make your own. To make your own Paleo baking powder, combine 1 part baking soda + 2 parts cream of tartar + 1/2 part arrowroot or tapioca starch/flour.
Chocolate chips: I used Enjoy Life brand miniature dark chocolate chips because they add richness to the recipe and just a touch more sugar. You can either leave the chips out, use a few regular sized dark chocolate chips, or even add in another type of chopped chocolate.
The microwave: As I explain in the recipe instructions below, microwave ovens tend to vary quite a bit in their full power potential. It's important to be able to approximate around 850 watts of power in your microwave oven.
My microwave at 100% power is a whopping 1200 watts, so I set it to 70% power for this recipe and it works perfectly every time. If you're unsure of your microwave's wattage, it should either be listed on the outside of the oven, or you can just google your model. If you've ever made a mug cake before and it came out rubbery, it might have been because you didn't account for the strength of the microwave, and just let it rip at full power.
And yes, you do need a microwave to make this recipe. If you'd like to make a decadent chocolate cake for one in the oven, try my 3 Ingredient Chocolate Cake For One.
Chocolate Paleo Mug Cake
1/4 cup (30 g) finely ground blanched almond flour
2 tablespoons (10 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-processed)
1/4 teaspoon (Paleo) baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons (20 g) finely ground coconout palm sugar
1 tablespoon (14 g) neutral oil (like grapeseed)
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell), at room temperature
1 teaspoon miniature dark chocolate chips (optional)
Grease lightly a microwave-safe mug or mason jar with at least a 10-ounce capacity and set it aside. In a small bowl, place the almond flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the oil and egg, and whisk until smooth. The batter will be relatively thin. Add the chips, and mix to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared mug or mason jar.
Place the mug in your microwave oven and cook at about 850 watts for 30 seconds.* Remove the mug from the microwave, stir the mixture a couple times, shake the mug back and forth to even the top, and return it to the microwave. Cook again at about 850 watts for 45 seconds to 1 minute more, or until the cake is mostly set. The cake may seem a bit wet on top, but it’s better to undercook it than overcook it. All the cake to cool briefly before garnishing as you like and serving.
*It’s important to be able to approximate around 850 watts of power in your microwave oven. My microwave at 100% power is a whopping 1200 watts, so I set it to 70% power for this recipe and it works perfectly every time. If you’re unsure of your microwave’s wattage, it should either be listed on the outside of the oven, or you can just google your model.