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We bake from the box.

Mixed Review: Dr. Oetker Mug Cake Mix

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[Photographs: Erin Jackson]

Show me a dessert that's ready in five minutes and I'll show you my happy dance. Upgrade that dessert to a warm chocolate cake I can make with only a whisk, mug, microwave, and milk and you'll get some extra wiggling. Sell it for $1.50/serving and I'm pretty much your best friend—provided it actually tastes good.

In my experience with mug cakes, the flavor of the final product has always been the main sticking point. Some of my attempts turned out rubbery, others were too eggy, and most were either under or overcooked.

From a time-spent to flavor-achieved perspective, I've never regretted making a mug cake, but I've also never had one that was as good as actual non-mug cake... until I tried the Dr. Oetker chocolate mug cake mix ($2.99 at World Market).

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Dr. Oetker chocolate mug cake mix

It is ridiculously easy to make. All you need is a mug (ideally 8 ounces), butter or cooking spray to grease the mug, a whisk, and five tablespoons (or 1/4 cup) of milk. You can stir up the mix and the milk right in the mug, which takes about 30 seconds. Then stick it in the microwave for about a minute (the box states 1 minute and 15 seconds, but microwave wattage varies, and an undercooked mug cake is vastly superior to an overcooked mug cake).

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Dr. Oetker chocolate mug, after microwaving

The step that takes the longest is waiting for the mug to cool down (2-3 minutes) before you can dig in. When I peeked into the mug after microwaving, I was initially bummed out because the top looked wet and spongy, like my not-so-successful attempts in the past. But when I spooned out a bite, I was pleasantly surprised. The still warm and steaming cake was light and fluffy.

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Flavor-wise, it has a deep and delicious chocolate flavor that comes from the cocoa powder and chocolate chips in the mix. It's super-sweet—the sugar buzz was swift and intense, but never crossed the line between superfuntimes and dizzy, nauseous regret, so that's a major plus. I liked eating it right out of the warm mug, but wanted to see what would happen if I tried to serve it on a plate.

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Ok, so that presentation doesn't look nearly as appetizing, and you can see how, despite my best efforts, some of the mix wasn't properly incorporated. Even so, it tasted great, especially the gooey, slightly under-baked bites.

Of all the mug cakes I've attempted, this one was the best. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that it has egg powder in it (as opposed to a whole egg, which affects the texture and makes mug cakes taste too much like an unsuccessful soufflé), and the fact that there are no artificial flavor or colorings in the mix. For $2.99/box (which contains two packages of mug cake mix), I would definitely buy this again. I bet you could even make it in a hotel room, using a paper cup and some creamers.

About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax

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