I am new to the mug cake/brownie racket and, to be frank, uncertain I am wholly on board. Staring into the depths of my Dr. Oestker’s Chocolate Individual Mug Cake Mix it smelled and looked good, sure, but I couldn’t quite figure out just…what a cake was doing there. Seemed like this cake had gotten lost and like one of those displaced turkeys showing up outside the movie theater or grocery store in my part of Boston, somewhat disconcerting. Perhaps I lack imagination. Or am a classicist.
Yet, if I were a mug-cake eater, I very well might—so many snacks to try in the world—buy a Dr. Oestker’s Instant Chocolate Individual Mug Cake Mix again. Especially if somehow frosting got brought into the works, as frosting is 70-80% of my cake-ingesting motivation.
I crossed paths with Dr. Oestker’s Instant Chocolate Individual Mug Cake Mix striding in typical first-world gatherer fashion at the grocerying store. I halted in front of the display arrested by: 1) mug cake mix? 2) the latchkey food for adults factor I find so intriguing and 3) the old-timey moniker “Dr. Oestker’s” sounded like a line of orthotic shoes and intriguingly unappetizing for a nom de gateaux (also: “Dr.”?). I was also intrigued by the dimensions of the small narrow box as they are much like a chicken noodle soup mix I OD’d on one revelatory winter in the impecunious days of my extreme youth. I tell you, that soup had the strangest noodle fragments swirling like schools of noodle sardines in a vast chicken-soup-colored-sea. I’d eat out of the pan in my coat, staring out the large, drafty windows at the weak winter light, feeling careless, free, and totally doomed at the same time.
Ahem. Anyway! Dr. Oestker’s Instant Chocolate Individual Mug Cake Mix is as instant as it gets. 4 tablespoons of milk, a few stirs, a carousel ride in the microwave and VOILA: cake. After greasing one’s mug (it is too bad I am uninclined to double-entendres) it is possible to slide cake out onto a plate. Doubting Gilmore has reservations. Still: package says.
While not exactly predisposed to disappointment, my expectations were in alignment with reality, I think, as this product is more on the astronaut end of the food continuum. That it might be more cake-flavored (have you tried Birthday Cake M&Ms?) than actually tasting of cake seemed not impossible.
But (v) small, happy surprise (hang on to ‘em tight, kids, we have some harrowing timez ahead), it became totally and indubitably cake. It was reminiscent of lava cake only with a commitment to go the distance of completely cooked, the center squishy rather than liquidly.
And, by Betty Crocker, I thought it tasted better than a lot of box/oven cakes. You know that aftertaste following a big bite of DuncanPillsburyHines? Like your mouth is a vaulted ceiling in a cathedral where the floors were recently cleaned and a faint miasma of disinfectant hovers in the eaves? While you’re glad the floors are clean, and, sure, you can’t quite say the smell is prohibiting a religious experience, it may be mitigating it? I attribute that taste in box cake to whatever sinister machinations have to go down for cake mix Xtreme shelf life.
So I’ve described in laborious metaphoric terms ways how Dr. Oestker’s Instant Chocolate Individual Mug Cake Mix is not bad. But how was it good? I would say how the food on a French airline tends to more like a literal interpretation of food, as in food. Or, if you’ve ever worked catering, as the night wears on, and you are bored and hungry and footsore and hate your goddamned bowtie, you find your eye resting an abandoned dessert plate with half-eaten cake. You find yourself squirreling the cake away behind a vase to furtively snack on it later, deciding the risk of discovery and germs worth it. And then it is. Does that make it sound good? I hop so.
I ate about half of my Dr. Oestker’s Instant Chocolate Individual Mug Cake Mix and put the rest in the freezer. I forget why exactly. When I pulled it out again, the cake and I exchanged a long soul-searching glance and I reluctantly pitched it. A mug cake is an ephemeral creature, I think. Hang on tightly, let go lightly, as the Buddha said. Or .38 Special. Someone.
I am back to coffee in mugs. And cake on plates. But perverse creature that I am, I will confess I baked rather than microwaved my remaining boxes of Dr. Oestker’s Instant Chocolate Individual Mug Cake Mix in the oven. Hey, I may be a nice gal from Ohio but nobody tells me what to do. Nobody. Fuck mugs. Wait, I don’t know where I’m going with this. Just go ahead, eat a mug cake. Do it. DO IT. See what happens. Then send me a mug. Or a cake. Or really just tell me what you think.
Gilmore Tamny lives in Somerville, MA, where she likes to write proverbs, melodramas, novels, poems and songs. She plays in the band Weather Weapon. She’s also has been busy with a series of drawings called “Lines Dots Circles” using both the left and right hand and painting watercolors. She is a committed artiste, feminist, rawk fan, old master painting junkie and listens to an inordinate amount of audiobooks.