Are you looking for a way to send home baked goods to your servicemember without risking them spoiling or turning into nicely wrapped packages of crumbs? I have the perfect solution for you: cake in a jar.
Never heard of it? I hadn't either.
Maybe I've been living under some sort of rock where awesome care package items are not allowed. But thanks to the internet and a recent care package project, I've finally gotten with the program. Yesterday I made a batch just so I can walk you through it.
How to Make Cake in a Jar for Care Packages
You may have seen the super cute and yummy jar cakes floating around Pinterest and thought "Yes! I shall make and send that!" They have layers of delicious icing and whipped cream spilling out of them. And they look amazing.
But those are not the kinds of cakes you want to send overseas in a jar. I'm betting the icing wouldn't be quite as delicious after several weeks in a box. For this care package treat we'll leaving the icing separate.
1. Gather your ingredients
Here's what you'll need:
- 1 cake mix (or more if you want to make several different flavors as I did).
- Wide mouth, pint-sized mason jars. These are the perfect height for the large flat rate USPS boxes.
- 1 can of frosting (or more if you want to include options). You'll add this to the box when it's time to pack it.
- Plastic knives and forks for eating/spreading frosting.
- Ribbon to make the whole thing attractive.
Ready ... set ... go!
2. Wash your mason jars.
We don't want unsanitary jars -- so make sure you wash them with soap and hot water.
3. Mix your ingredients.
Follow the mixing instructions on the box.
While you're doing this, turn your oven on to heat to 400 degrees. The box probably says "350 degrees." Ignore that and obey only me.
4. Grease your jars.
Using whatever spray you have on hand (I had the kind that smells like hot popcorn. Yum.) coat the inside of each jar. This will allow the cake to slide out later.
5. Put the batter in the jars.
Fill each jar about halfway full to leave room for the cake to rise.
6. Bake those bad boys.
Place your jars in a 9x13 baking pan to make it easier to put them into the oven and take them out. This will also keep you from being a total klutz like I am and knocking them over. I can use all the help I can get.
Put the pan with the jars in the oven.
Set your timer to 30 minutes.
Godspeed, jars of delicious cake!
7. Boil your lids.
While you're waiting for the cake to do its baking thing, prep your lids. You want to do this for two reasons: It'll make sure they are sanitary and heating the wax on the lid is what will let the jar seal later.
Place just the lids (NOT the rings -- just the lids) in a pot of water, set it on the stove and heat it until boiling. Then turn it off. This primes the lids for sealing on the jars.
8. Remove cake from the oven.
Check to make sure it's done by inserting a butter knife or something else long and smooth into the middle. Not done? Leave them in for a few more minutes and check again.
Done? Take them out.
Don't worry if the cake has risen beyond the mouth of the jar like it did for me. It's not going to be a problem.
9. Put the lids on the jars.
As soon as you take the cakes out of the oven start putting the lids on.
To do this you'll want to grab some tongs so that you can pull each lid out of the water while keeping the other ones hot.
Pull a lid out. Dab the bottom with a towel to make sure it's dry.
Holding the hot mason jar with a hot pad (safety first, y'all), place the hot lid on top of the jar. Grab a ring and screw the lid down. If the cake is higher than the top of the jar just smash it down as you screw the lid on.
10. Let them cool.
As the jars cool you may hear a little "pop." That's the sound of the lid sealing. You may also note the cake pulling away from the side of the jar, too. No worries, that'll just make it easier to slide out later.
A note on canning sanitation: these are not just like twinkies that you can keep on your shelf forever. They are sealed well enough to make it fresh to the 'Stan or wherever your service member is. But I wouldn't hold on to them for months on end or anything like that.
11. Decorating time!
I picked up a spool of patriotic ribbon from Hobby Lobby, some twine and some little labels.
Using my hot glue gun I secured ribbon around each jar, added the tag and then tied the twine in place.
Think your service member doesn't need the tag? Skip it.
12. Package it.
What we really don't want is for the jars to break in shipping.
I lined the bottom of my box with a few folds of bubble wrap. I then folded a line of bubble wrap in half and wrapped it around each jar. Since that didn't look very fancy, I wrapped a little ribbon around the outside of the bubble wrap.
13. Stuff the box with the rest of the cake kit.
Since I made several kinds of cake, I wanted to include several kinds of frosting options.
Four jars of cake, forks and knives and some icing, and the person getting this box should consider himself well-fed.
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