How to bake just enough cake for one or two people

Being single ain’t easy. You get to do whatever you want, whenever you want, never asking permission or having to consider anyone else’s plans. You can run around your house bum-nekkid if you feel like it, and you never have to compromise on the firmness of your mattress.

It’s a rough life.

But where it really gets tough is in the kitchen — specifically, in the oven. And even more specifically, in the cake pan.

Single ladies and gentlemen, you know what I’m talking about: It is dang near impossible to conveniently make a celebratory dessert for just one or two people.

I once tried using a boxed cake mix that could serve 12-20 people; I would scoop out a half cup or so of the mix at a time and try to deduce the right amount of water and vegetable oil to use (math: not my strong suit). Then it came time to add in the eggs, and how the heck do you really put a third of an egg into anything? ‘Twere a pain in the rear end, and the results were not so hot.

So to get a really tasty mini-cake or small batch of cupcakes, you truly have to start from scratch and build up a cake recipe that will work specifically for those sizes.

I recently had cause to help a fella celebrate a fun personal milestone, and here’s the recipe I used. It’s heavily adapted from a recipe I found in the April issue of Bon App├ętit, and it’s perfect for those times when you want a dessert, want to celebrate, or simply just don’t want to have to bother with eating a single cupcake by yourself then trucking 20 leftover cakies to the office to share.

Enjoy in good health, my housewifeys.


makes six cupcakes or two small cakies

1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
1/2 cup white flour
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick butter, cut into pieces and warmed to room temp.
1/4 rounded cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. white sugar
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. orange marmalade
Zest of one large (scrubbed) navel orange
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. buttermilk, half-and-half, or cream (you can use milk in a pinch)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare six cupcake papers in a muffin tin, or grease two mini cake pans.

In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries and Cointreau. Let ‘em simmer for a couple minutes, then turn off the heat and let them sit as you make the batter. The cranberries will soak up most of the Cointreau and acquire a delightfully orangey tang. It’s the little things.

Sift together the flour, corn starch, baking powder, and salt, and set aside in a small bowl.

In a larger mixing bowl or 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup, use a hand mixer to cream together the butter and sugars until they look light and fluffy. This should take 3 minutes or so. Next, beat in the juice, marmalade, and zest, periodically scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Next, add in your egg and beat thoroughly.

Finally, spoon a third of your flour mixture and beat until combined. Then, drizzle in half of your milk or cream and beat again. Add in another third of the flour; beat. Then, add in the last of the milk and any Cointreau that the cranberries haven’t absorbed and beat them in. Finally, throw in the final bit of flour mixture and beat one more time, scraping down the sides to make sure everything is well combined.

Last, fold the cranberries into the batter. Spoon the batter into your cupcake papers, filling 3/4 full (these guys won’t rise too much).

Bake for 15-22 minutes, depending on the size of the cupcakes or cake pans, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one cakie comes out clean. Let them cool thoroughly, then ice them and decorate.

I used storebought vanilla buttercream frosting, colored orange and piped on with a pastry bag. I also had some gold sugar sprinkles on a couple of the cupcakes. It’s also quite pretty to mix any leftover orange zest with white sugar; you get a pale yellow-gold, aggressively orange-tasting crumble that looks gorgeous sprinkled on top of white frosting.

Any extras will keep in a plastic storage container on the countertop or uncovered in your microwave for a couple days.


If you prefer lemons over oranges, try these substitutes: Use limoncello instead of Cointreau, lemon juice and zest instead of orange, and bump the white sugar up by an extra tablespoon to offset the sourness. You could similarly experiment with raspberries, Chambord, and raspberry jam, using lemon zest instead of orange zest.

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3 thoughts on “How to bake just enough cake for one or two people

  1. those cupcakes look yummy! i understand your pain…that’s why i never baked when i was single. even now that i’m married, whenever i bake, i usually half the recipe and we still end up giving the majority away to my sister, in-laws and co-workers. love your blog background, btw. :)

  2. I’m single too and I constantly have to beg my friends to take all my baked goods away because nobody is going to eat it at home! Am currently trying to bake with quail eggs instead to make the recipe even tinier! Lol.

    • I also discovered that it’s a bit easier when you work with liquid egg substitute rather than eggs. Get a pint carton and measure it out; 1/4 cup of substitute = 1 smallish egg.

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