Cakes! Made in a coffee cup

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When the cookbook "Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth" by Leslie Bilderback landed on my desk, I knew I had a gold mine in my hands. I mean, who wouldn't love the ability to cook up a sweet treat in just seconds?

But the cookbook turned out to be an even bigger treasure to me: It taught my sons how to cook. I let my boys -- now 7 and 9 -- and my husband pick one cake each they'd like to try from the many beautiful photos in the cookbook.

We landed on a Fluffer Nutter, a Caramel Fleur De Sel Mug Cake and a White Chocolate-Macadamia Mug Cake. We'd go on to make many more, including a PB and J Mug Cake and a few chocolate varieties (OK, those were for me).

The day after our mug cake extravaganza, my 9-year-old asked if he could make one. He insisted on doing it all on his own. As he reasoned: "I can read, and I can use the microwave." Turns out, he was right. After one failed attempt because he misread 1/4 cup of sugar as 1 1/4 cups, he was creating cakes for the whole family.

A few days later, his little brother followed suit, creating his own cake recipe using cinnamon and orange extract.

Some of the cakes from the cookbook were successful, some not so much. All were quite easy to make. Just mix the ingredients and pop in the microwave. Because microwaves heat differently, just be sure to watch your cake, taking it out once it is risen and firm. And because you mix the cakes in the coffee cup, cleanup is easy.

But make no mistake, these are not culinary masterpieces, nor are they meant to be, writes Bilderback in the introduction. "This book is here to fulfill the cake craving you have after a long day at work, or in the middle of the night, or when the plumber presents you with a $900 invoice."

Or when hungry kids want a little something sweet on a special occasion and think making it themselves is just as big a treat.