Since my sister and BIL left for duty in Afghanistan in March of this year, I have been experimenting with how to best send them baked goods. I had some success in the past with vacuum sealing using a Reynolds vacuum sealer, until the last time I sent her peanut butter bread. When she called me last month, she said she opened up the package and it smelt so good. She was all ready to take a big bite…until she saw the mold. Boo.
Determined to send her something besides cookies, I have had this cake-in-a-jar project on my list for a while and just hadn’t gotten around to it until this weekend. For my first attempt, I made a very simple cake. Once I hear from her that it worked, I will fancy it up.
Here’s how I did it:
I boiled a big pot of water to sterilize my half-pint jars, lids and rings. You can also use pint jars, which will just result in a bigger cake serving per jar. It’s okay to use cleaned old jars. Just make sure to use new lids and rings.
While jars are sterilizing in the boiling water (about 15 min.), preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare cake batter. I made pineapple cake. It seems that most any type of cake will work. Next, I want to try a zucchini bread or carrot cake. (My sister always says she always feels she doesn’t get enough fruits and vegetables over in A-stan.)
Carefully, remove jars from water (leave lids and rings in the water) and dry. Grease the jars well. I used Pam cooking spray. Then, carefully fill jars halfway with cake batter. Since I used half-pint jars, I filled my jars with a 1/2 cup of batter (up to the 4 oz mark on the jar). Wipe the insides and tops of the jars if there is any batter that got messy. Place the jars on a cookie sheet. After filling 6 half-pint jars halfway with batter, I still had some batter leftover. I could’ve made more, but didn’t want to wait around to sanitize more jars. So, I just put the rest of the batter in a loaf pan and made myself a mini pineapple cake. (Well, I had to make sure it passed the taste test, right?)
Bake the jars for about 30 minutes. If you have lots of time (and who doesn’t?) then it might be a good idea to do a test jar to see how far up your cake rises. You don’t want it to overflow because then you won’t get the needed seal. Since I was doing this around 9 or 10 pm at night, I just prayed to the imaginary cake gods that mine wouldn’t overflow.
After baking them, remove them from the oven. Luckily, mine had not overflowed, but they came close. Quickly, dry a lid and ring. Place the lid on a cake jar and screw in place. You will need to use your oven mitt in doing this as the jars are very hot. Immediately, after placing the lids and rings on the jar, you will notice that the “button” in the middle of the jar still pops up and down if you push on it. Probably around the time you get around to placing the lid and ring on the last jar, the first jars would have sealed. You will know that they have sealed because the “button” will no longer pop up and down when pressed upon.
And that’s how you make cake-in-a-jar!
I mailed the cakes out this morning and hopefully, they will last the trip in the mail (speaking of “mail”, see note below) over to A-stan, which takes between 2 and 3 weeks. When opened, the cakes should just slide out. I could’ve made and sent icing along too (especially if it weren’t 10 pm at night). Now, I have heard that these cakes-in-a-jar can last on the shelf for up to 6 months, but there have been some that have been concerned with food safety, while others think it’s no big deal. Well, I probably wouldn’t advise leaving them for 6 months and I highly doubt once these goodies arrive in Afghanistan that they will even last 6 hours (at least I hope so.) I sent out 5 of the cakes-in-a-jar and kept one for myself to open in 3 weeks just to see how fresh (or unfresh) they taste.
Now, if you wanted to give these as gifts, you could fancy them up. All you need is some fabric scraps, cotton balls and ribbon. After the jars have cooled, unscrew the rings, leaving the rings. Then place a few cotton balls on top of the lid, underneath a piece of fabric that is just a little big larger than the top of the jar. Hold this in place by screwing the ring on. Tie some ribbon around the jar and wah-lah, a cute (and delicious ) little homemade gift.
Note: When I went in to the campus post office to mail my package this morning, Mike the Mailman, saw that I was mailing a package to my sis and BIL and pointed over to the wall and joked with me that I again, baked something and didn’t bring him any. You see, Mike the Mailman has a Cookie of the Month contest. People from all over the campus bring him cookies and try to win each month. If they are declared a winner, they get their name in indelible (Sharpie) ink on the Cookie of the Month poster. I have no idea what the criteria are or how many cookies you have to bring in. I’ve thought many times about bringing him something in, but just keep forgetting. Well, you probably think that I gave Mike the Mailman one of my cakes-in-a-jar. (Well, if I remembered, I probably would’ve.) Well, when I looked over to the wall to see what it was that he was pointing at, I saw that I was a Cookie of the Month winner for September! It took me just a 1/2 second, but then I realized that I had won for the jar of Shrek Juice that I had brought him to try last month. I then joked with him that I bet I was the first person to be a winner and never have baked anything! Well, that task wasn’t officially on my bucket list, but I’m going to put it on there, just so I can cross it off!