The Chocolate Cake So Easy, I Made It In The Microwave

edited by Christian Kozlowski; produced by Jessica Chou; appearance by Jessica Weiss.
On Good Chef, Bad Kitchen, professionals take on the ultimate challenge: Cooking in a bare, under-utilized kitchen. In this episode, Union Square Hospitality Group pastry chef Jessica Weiss improvises a chocolate cake with hazelnut frosting — baked in a mug.
In a certain section of the Internet — mainly food blogs and Pinterest — mug cakes have become a go-to dessert. It's easy to see why. No one would whip up a whole cake for themselves, but pouring some batter in a mug, microwaving it, and adding whipped cream on top falls squarely in the realm of reasonable.
So when Union Square Hospitality Group's pastry chef Jessica Weiss pulled out the mugs in our latest cooking challenge, we were hardly impressed. But then, Weiss took it a step further. She unmolded the cake and frosted it and improvised a chocolate-y filling with found ingredients. All that in a little RV kitchen owned by a family of flying trapeze artists at New York's Big Apple Circus. Which just goes to show, one should never underestimate a pastry chef.
Jessica Weiss's Chocolate Cake Recipe
For the cake:
1 cup pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 egg
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold water
Splash of vanilla extract
For the frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
Dash of whole milk
Splash of vanilla extract
Hazelnut spread, like Nutella, to taste (optional)
For the filling (optional):
A few slices of plantain (or banana)
1 tablespoon of sugar
Spoonful of hazelnut spread
Splash of vanilla extract
For the cake:
1. Combine and sift dry ingredients into a medium mixing bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, water, and vanilla extract.
3. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the batter has just come together. It should be a little lumpy.
4. If you're microwaving, grease two microwave-safe mugs with vegetable oil. Fill halfway with batter and microwave for 1 minute and 45 seconds, or two minutes, on high until done. This might take some experimentation; be careful to not cause an explosion of batter in your microwave.
If you're baking in an oven, pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line cupcake tins with cupcake liners and fill 2/3 of the way full with batter. Bake until the cake springs up, probably 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of your tin.
For the frosting:
1. Beat your butter until smooth, using a hand mixer, if you have it, or a big wooden spoon.
2. Mix in powdered sugar a little at a time, working to get all the clumps out.
3. Once all the sugar is mixed in, add in a pinch of salt, a spoonful or two of hazelnut chocolate spread like Nutella (if you're using it), and a splash of milk to loosen the frosting. Beat vigorously until your frosting reaches your preferred consistency.
For the filling (optional):
1. Mash the bananas with sugar, vanilla, and hazelnut spread. Set aside for assembly. If you're using plantains, microwave plantains with sugar for 30 seconds, mashing until soft. Stir in vanilla and hazelnut spread and set aside.
To assemble:
1. To unmold the cake from the mug, run a knife along the perimeter, lifting up every so often to loosen the top of the cake from the mug. Carefully turn the mug upside down and let the cake drop down. Pro tip: It helps if you cool the cakes in the fridge while you make the frosting and filling.
2. Run a knife horizontally through the cake, halving it to make two even layers.
3. Place the mashed banana or plantain on top of the first layer, and carefully place the second layer on top.
4. Starting from the top down, use a knife to spread a thin layer all around the cake, cleaning your knife of crumbs before dipping it back into the frosting. Once you've created the first layer, place the cake in the freezer for a minute or so to firm up the base.
5. For the second layer, frost the cake from the top down, cleaning your knife every so often to ensure your frosting is crumb-free. Top with a dusting of chopped chocolate, if available.

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