Living away from home can sometimes feel a little... less home-y. College is a time where nearly everyone experiences this feeling, so why not do something for your friends to remind them just how loved and appreciated they are?

On top of that, buying gifts - especially around the holiday season - can get costly quick. But baking ingredients, as they usually come in bulk, provide the resources necessary for creating multiple gifts in one attempt while still keeping a low budget!

milk, dairy product, cream, flour, sweet, dairy, dough
Katherine O'Malley

I don't know about anyone else, but I oftentimes find leftover birthday cake going to waste. Making a cake in a dorm room presents some challenges, one of which being size, but this issue actually presents an innovative new idea: Mini cakes for small crowds or even mug cakes as personalized gifts! Who wouldn't love receiving a cake meant for them and no one else?


I know that mug cakes are pretty trendy right now, so why not jazz them up with personal touches and give them to friends? Not only can they enjoy their entire treat by themselves (a true delicacy), but they'll also have a mug to make their own cakes in again and again! Try topping these tiny wonders with packages of candy, small trinkets (washed, of course), skewers of chocolate-covered fruits or marshmallows - the beauty here lies in the customization!

Kayleigh Bounds

Trying to throw a small surprise party for a friend or roomie? Making a treat for extra points on a class presentation? Look no further than your teensy, less-than-twenty-dollar rice cooker! I myself have probably one of the smallest models, and I adore the size cake it produces (though any size cooker will work). Mix up a boxed cake or, better yet, make one from scratch - stay tuned for a rice-cooker-sized cake recipe that'll blow any party-goer's mind. 

Rice-Cooking a Cake

If you're using a boxed mix, whip it up and pour half of it into your rice cooker. This will create one whole, relatively dense cake. Save the other half for another friend (or for later), or cook afterwards for a double-decker cake. If you're looking to cook the layers separately, which will make them slightly fluffier and reduce cooking time for each layer, pour a quarter of the batter in. I opted for the former, which turned out moist and smooth and spongy but closer to banana bread than cake in texture. 

Kayleigh Bounds

Once baked, cool, slice layers (unless you portioned them prior to cooking), and decorate! For my first attempt, a lemon boxed mix, I went with store-bought lemon frosting - but mix it up! You can even make your own frosting if you've got a hand mixer at your disposal, or more easily icing with powdered sugar and a small amount of liquid. Go crazy with it!

Kayleigh Bounds

For my second attempt, using the homemade vanilla cake recipe below, I decorated the cake with marshmallow Funfetti frosting (always a solid choice) along with a few surprises on the inside.

Kayleigh Bounds

To stuff a cake like this, realign the layers after cutting them (I had mine in two), and use a cup to remove a circle from the top layer. Then, press the cup lightly into the bottom layer (directly under the top circle that's been removed), just enough to mark the area. Remove the top layer (carefully!) and scoop out a small portion of the bottom cup outline. Frost the outer edge of the first layer, then top with the outer ring of the second. Now's the fun part - fill that baby up! Top with a halved (width-wise) piece of the circle and frost normally

Bonus Recipe!

This recipe makes one cake, which can be cooked either in one batch or in multiple as layers. 


1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 c. salted butter, cubed

1 c. sugar

2 eggs

1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. milk

Butter and flour the inside of the rice cooker. In a bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Mix in the butter a little at a time, mashing it into the dry ingredients to create a sandy texture. Mix in the sugar, then the eggs. Add the milk and vanilla and stir until most of the chunks are dissolved.

Pour into the rice cooker and turn it on, letting it run a few cycles until the top (soon to be bottom) of the cake looks solid and holds firm when poked. Cooking time will vary depending on your individual rice cooker and how you divide the batter. 

Remove the inner sleeve from the rice cooker and cool for ten minutes, then invert to reveal your masterpiece! Refrigerate for at least a half an hour or let sit at room temperature for at least an hour before slicing layers (if necessary) and frosting.