If you love to bake but don’t have access to an oven, worry not, because you can make a cake in the microwave. I’m not talking single-serving mug cakes either; I mean a homemade 3-tier cake with frosting. With just a microwave, not only does it take just 10 minutes, but the cake will be fluffy and airy.
This recipe is for all you passionate bakers living in a college dorm, in kitchens without ovens, or just traveling without access to a proper kitchen. It’s a simple but delicious, from-scratch vanilla cake with vanilla frosting that’s as good as any other vanilla cake recipe. It is light-textured, full of vanilla flavor, and impressively tall. No one will believe you if you tell them it was “baked” in the microwave.
Yes, You Can Microwave Cake. Here’s How It Works
Microwaves function in a drastically different way from ovens. They use radiant micro-waves that penetrate beyond just the surface of the food and can heat incredibly fast. Each cake layer takes only 3 minutes and 15 seconds in a 1000-watt microwave. Of course, the cook time will vary depending on your microwave’s wattage.
Because microwaves are so unique, you can’t use just any cake recipe. This recipe has been designed specifically to work for this cooking technique. Because microwaving essentially steams the cake, it requires extra moisture in the batter, so this one is looser than standard cake recipes. To ensure a fluffy cake, it also calls for fewer eggs, as too many would make the cake taste like an omelet.
Essential Tips for Microwaving Cake
Here are some essential tips for your microwave cake adventure:
- Use a microwave-safe silicone mold. Do not use a metal cake pan in the microwave.
- You don’t need to grease silicone bakeware, but you can if you want to be completely sure and want extra easy washing later.
- Double-check your microwave’s wattage and adjust the cooking time up or down. I used a 1,000-watt microwave and cooked each cake for 3 minutes 15 seconds. Add or subtract 15 seconds depending on the power of your microwave.
- The cake is done when there are no longer any wet spots of batter. The cake should spring back when gently poked in the center with a finger. The toothpick test works for microwave cakes too.
How to Frost a Cake
Even if you don’t have a full baking setup with a turntable, offset spatula, and piping set, you can still frost a beautiful cake.
- It is possible to make the buttercream frosting without a mixer using a whisk and some elbow grease. I did it several times in my college apartment days. But if you have access to a mixer or can borrow one, you’ll definitely want to use it.
- Let the cakes cool completely before frosting. Otherwise, the frosting will melt, and your layers will slide around.
- If you don’t have an offset spatula, you can use a spoon, a large butter knife, or the straight edge of a rubber spatula to frost the cake.
- Don’t worry about getting pristine, smooth edges. Decorate with swirls and swoops, and add some sprinkles or candy.
More Microwave Treats
- Microwave Caramel Corn
- Banana Bread Chocolate Chunk Mug Cake
- Easy Microwave Chocolate Pudding
- Microwave Brownie in a Mug
Combine the wet ingredients:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, eggs, milk, and vanilla extract until smooth.
Add the dry ingredients:
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and fold with a spatula until just combined. Be careful not to overmix. The batter will be slightly loose.
Divide the batter equally into three 8-inch round silicone cake pans, roughly 2 cups of batter per pan. You don’t need to grease the silicone pans. Cook in the microwave on full power, one layer at a time, for 3 minutes and 15 seconds. The cake should spring back when gently poked in the center, and the edges will pull away slightly from the side of the pan.
Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting:
In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract and continue beating on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Assemble the cake:
To assemble, place one of the cake layers on a large serving plate. Use an offset spatula or a butter knife to spread a thick layer of frosting, about 1 cup, evenly over the layer. Repeat with the remaining cake layers. Check that the cake layers are centered and that the top of the cake is level. Gently adjust accordingly.
Frost the cake:
Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake in a thick, even layer. Use the offset spatula, a large spoon, or the back of a butter knife to smooth or decorate the sides. Decorate with sprinkles, if you’d like.
The cake will keep for up to 4 days, covered, or in a cake saver, on the counter. Save cake slices on a plate covered with plastic wrap for up to 4 days.
When storing leftover cake with slices missing, I like to cover the exposed cake layers with a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper to prevent them from drying out.
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