Sometimes you need cake — like, need cake – and fast! And then you realize you have nothing in your cupboard, at which point your world starts to melt into a sad version of something resembling the puddle of melted chocolate you wish you were currently eating.
But wait! You’ve got flour, eggs (or appropriate egg substitute) and some kind of sugar or sweetener, right? Or maybe there’s an ancient box of cake mix in your cupboard. Surely, you could do something genius with that, you figure.
Because the thing is, Betty Crocker got it right. Americans could benefit from having some pre-blended cake mix in their pantries, for when the urge for something sweet and delicious hit and they didn’t feel like assembling an arsenal of ingredients and spending an hour measuring, creaming, whipping, melting, folding, and blending them into submission — the ingredients, not the bakers.
So why not just make a cake straight from a mix? Because that will yield just one result: a plain cake that tastes like it came from a box. You can always tell; there’s an identifiable pre-fab flavor. But bring a Nutella chocolate cake or a marshmallow pumpkin cake to a party and no one’s going to know how little work you actually did.
To help you out in times of need — including when you just want a single serving of cake in less than 5 minutes (er … every night?) — here are some dangerously easy 3-ingredient cakes you’ll make all the time.
3-Ingredient Vanilla Cake
Ice cream, cake mix, and eggs — that’s all you need for this simple, tasty, fluffy 3-ingredient vanilla cake. Wait, you melt ice cream and use it as a cake ingredient? Yes! It makes sense when you break down what ice cream actually is: cream, sugar, and usually eggs. Those things all go in cake, too. The genius part is that you can use any kind of ice cream and end up with a completely different cake every time. There’s no need to pigeonhole yourself with vanilla. Chunky Monkey, anyone? Double fudge? How about a little caramel ripple?
Recipe author Lindsay D. Mattison also provides a whole host of icing and frosting suggestions, from pre-made chocolate sauce, caramel or dulce de leche to creamy peanut butter. And she says that you can turn this cake into cupcakes pretty easily, too. Plus, the whole thing takes just 5 minutes to prep.
3-Ingredient Marshmallow Pumpkin Cake
Pumpkin pie mix, cake mix, and marshmallow creme — that’s it! The icing for this 3-ingredient marshmallow pumpkin cake is as simple as it gets. And there are no eggs involved, so it works for vegans, too, if you use a vegan marshmallow cream or another frosting.
Not to be confused with pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie mix comes with the added sugar and spices you’ll want for your pumpkin-flavored desserts already mixed in. In addition to being harder to mess up, that keeps the ingredient list shorter. But if you can’t find the pie filling, you can always use pumpkin puree and just add cinnamon, salt, sugar, and other spices and sweeteners, but then again, if you’re going to go that far, you could also just bake a whole cake from scratch and skip the cake mix. And what would be the point of that? This wouldn’t be a 3-ingredient cake anymore, now would it?
3-Ingredient Apple Cake
The three ingredients in this apple cake are apple pie filling, cake mix, and eggs. As with the pumpkin cake above, it’s important to use apple pie filling rather than apple puree here. Or you can add cinnamon, butter, cornstarch, and sugar to your store-bought or homemade puree. The fruit adds a ton of moisture to the cake, which makes it lighter. And if you don’t have a cake mix, you can always combine flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar for a DIY version that Irma S. Rombauer would be proud of. But did you read the intro to this article and why that’s probably frowned upon by 3-ingredient cake-lovers?
The apple pieces in the cake also add some gooey texture and some hits of sweetness that make up for the lack of icing. You could always top the cake with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream, though.
3-Ingredient Nutella Cake
This super rich, 3-ingredient Nutella cake is pure indulgence and all you need are Nutella, eggs, and flour to make it. You’re probably not going to want to eat the whole thing in one sitting unless you have a lot of friends or family to help. There are two cups of Nutella in there (plus more for frosting), and a single recommended serving of the chocolate-hazelnut spread is just 2 tablespoons.
Since one serving contains 200 calories, 11 grams of fat and 21 grams of sugar, and you need 16 times that much Nutella to make this cake … well, you can probably do the math.
But it’s rich and moist, and just dense enough from the Nutella and just fluffy enough from the eggs. It’s definitely not something you want to be eating all the time, but life is too short to not eat delicious things.
3-Ingredient Keto Mug Cake
While the other cakes on this list have short prep times and long bake times, this relatively healthy recipe for a 3-ingredient keto mug cake is ready in less than 5 minutes total. You just combine 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and 2 tablespoons of monkfruit sweetener (though you could also use mashed banana) and stick it in the microwave for a low-sugar, low-fat, à-la-minute cake. Monkfruit also keeps this recipe incredibly low in carbs, since there’s no flour or starch involved. And it’s a less refined sweetener than regular sugar, with zero calories and no impact on blood sugar levels. Plus, the recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free to boot, since there’s no flour, butter, or cream in there. For more sweetness and richness in this relatively healthy, single-serve cake, you can always add some chocolate chips, peanut butter, or berries.
3-Ingredient Apple Dump Cake
Though very similar to the 3-ingredient apple cake above, this recipe for apple dump cake uses butter instead of eggs, giving you a denser, richer, and more caramel-flavored cake. The process is also a bit different than a classic apple cake. Instead of mixing the apple filling into the batter, you spread it on the bottom of a greased pan. The genius part is that you don’t even have to stir the cake mix into anything — no milk or cream or butter. Since it’s a classic dump cake, you just add it on top of the fruit and then pour over the melted butter, resulting in a cake that’s veering hard towards a cobbler. Can you hold that against it, though? Who wouldn’t want to be topped with melted butter?
You don’t need a topping here, but ice cream or whipped cream will do the trick. The hardest part of making this might be waiting for it to cool for 15 minutes before digging in.
Patience is a virtue, we hear. Sometimes.