Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Microwave Baking, Does It Work?

Microwaves, for home use, became popular from the 1970s to the 1980s.  At that time, they were large, bulky, heavy, and cooking food properly was hit or miss.  Nowadays, they seem to be a standard in every residential home, apartment, business office, and fast-food chains.  They have become more compact, easier to carry, take up less room on the counter, and definitely more efficient.

Back in, oh around 1989, I purchased a microwave cooking set put out by Tupperware. It was stackable bowls in which a complete meal, including dessert, could be cooked around the same time as your favorite sitcom show.  Unfortunately, unless the included cookbook was used, making other types of recipes was again, hit or miss.  After a while, the set was boxed up, placed on a shelf and forgotten about.  Oh, I still have it, as you never know when the gas range will go kaput, and eating out is, also, not an option.



How do microwaves cook food exactly?  According to a 1999 article, by Scientific American, and I quote, “"A microwave oven cooks food because the water molecules inside it absorb the microwave radiation and thereby heat up and heat the surrounding food. The microwaves cause water molecules to vibrate; the increased friction between the molecules results in heat.”  Basically, after getting those molecules a rocking and rolling, the food, or recipe ingredients, cook from the inside outward.  That is why, sometimes, the center will be fully done, or even well done, while the food closer to the container sides is not completely cooked.

Often, I have seen recipes regarding baking cake in a microwave, mainly inside a ceramic mug.  In fact, you can purchase a kit, of pre-measured ingredients, mix in the mug, microwave, and “wallah!”, dessert.  Maybe I am microwave challenged, but these kits did not work for me; usually ended up with a gooey, inedible mess.

So, when I recently found a recipe, to bake an entire chocolate cake, in a microwave, I was intrigued, but hesitant.  Why?  I have been working so hard to learn “bake from scratch” which, in turn, has been teaching me patience.  What if this recipe fails?  Will it set me back in acquired baking skills, and lead to frustration instead of patience?  These, and other questions, would be answered, same bat time, same bat channel…if you do not get the reference, we certainly cannot be friends.

Ovens cook/bake using Fahrenheit, or Celsius (metric) units which is basically temperature increase or decrease, under standard atmospheric pressure.  Microwaves, however, work using wattage which is electrical energy transferred over time.  While ovens are standardized, microwaves are not; cooking speed increases dependent on the power (wattage) of the microwave.  So, when using a microwave-based recipe, results will not be the same if using a wattage different from what the recipe states, if it states one at all, and most do not.


Back to the chocolate cake; the list of ingredients, and directions, were simple, so decided to give it a try.  The author did not list what size microwave used, so my baking time actually doubled from the time indicated.  Other than that, the cake itself came out moist, not too dense, and pretty tasty by itself.  Of course, after adding on the frosting, it was even better.

Happily, my baking skills were not challenged, nor diminished, and my learning of patience continued.

Does microwave baking work?  Trial and error, and patience, will give the answer.




5-Minute Chocolate Cake

(Youtube Channel - Emma’s Goodies)


1½ cups all-purpose flour

⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¾ cup granulated sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

½ cup + 1 Tbsp. oil or melted butter

1¾ cup + 2 Tbsp. warm water


Prepare your dish (microwave-safe container, around 9- to 10-inches in size) by lining with parchment paper, then greasing and lightly flouring the inside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, and baking powder in a bowl.

Stir in the sugar (I used a combination of brown and white sugar for more flavor).

Add the oil followed by the water and combine using a whisk.

Pour into your prepared dish and microwave 5 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Chocolate Icing


1-ounce square unsweetened chocolate

1 Tbsp. shortening

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

½ tsp. vanilla


In a small saucepan melt chocolate and shortening over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in powdered sugar and vanilla. Add boiling water to make a spreadable consistency.

Mary Cokenour