Erica's Blog

The Try Something New Everyday experiment

Today I baked a cake in a mason jar

on June 4, 2014

I’m preparing a care package to mail to a friend who is deployed overseas. In my research of care packages I saw several blog posts about mason jar cakes. Whoever came up with this idea really used their noggin and I nominate them for Genius of the Year!

With a mason jar cake, you make your favorite cake recipe, put it in the mason jar, bake it in the mason jar and then, while hot from the oven, slap the canning lids on it and abracadabra you have a vacuum sealed cake in a sturdy container that can withstand an intense heat subjective, very abusive journey to it’s intended serviceman (or servicewoman)!

I’m absolutely thrilled to try this out. I found a quart size mason jar and the lids in my pantry. I sterilized the jar and lids by boiling them in a pot with water for 15 minutes and then returning them to room temperature.  I then buttered and floured the inside really good. Tip for future jar baking: use wide mouth jars. This happened NOT to be a big mouth jar. Between a silicone spatula, melted butter and sheer stubborness, I got the job done! 🙂
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Then I made a favorite cake recipe. I would love to say I used my grandmother’s county fair blue ribbon prize winning cake creation. Unfortunately, my grandmother never entered any competitions…she accepted our happy grins and full tummies as her first place win. And her recipes always called for a pound of butter and a weeks worth of a hens’ hard work in her desserts. While of course this made the BEST cake you put in your mouth, many of the care package sites discouraged using butter. They said it would spoil fast, possibly even en route, and recommend using box mixes with margarine or oils for shipping. So, as much as I would love to whip up an old family recipe, I’ll have to rely on ole Ms. Betty Crocker’s recipe to create a cake that will last the journey. I opted for the Chocolate/Vanilla swirl cake mix. I still used my fresh from the farm eggs so at least that makes me feel like it’s homemade.
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Next up, pour the batter into the jar without making a hot mess. It’s very important not to get the batter on the rim as this will prevent the jar from sealing. If you do, which I did, just make sure to remove it before you put the lids on. You also don’t want any batter on the upper part of the jar as this may burn and add an unwelcome flavor to the cake. If you do, which I did, it should be easy to remove with a butter knife right before you lid the jar. Lastly, you only fill the jar half way so the cake has room to rise. I gingerly poured the batter, trying to avoid all the pit falls but inevitably I hit each one, to the half way point.

Next up, use a cake pan or loaf pan to set the jar on for baking. This way the jar doesn’t teeter on the oven rack’s rails.

Cook as per the instructions. Many sites recommended under cooking the cake by 5 minutes siting the heat in travel will continue to cook the cake, making it perfect upon arrival. Well, I understand the rationale but I’m a bit uneasy not cooking something with raw eggs completely. I begin checking the cake 10 minutes prior to the instructed cooking time and found the cake no where near done. So I shut the oven up and did some busy work…like dishes. When I cook I end up using every dish I own. So loading the dishwasher took a good 10 minutes. I returned to check the cake…still not done. Ah well, laundry needs to be done so I transferred the wash into the dryer and folded the load from the dryer. Socks…oh what fun (<– sarcasism). Returned to the oven, still not done. Decided I could do the sudoku from today’s paper. Finished without making any notes!! Boo-yah! Returned to the oven, still not done!! Geesh!! I’ve got it…I know what will get this cake done…tatting. It NEVER fails, I will get just into the rythum of tatting a project and something ALWAYS tears me away. Sure enough…5 mins into tatting a bookmark and the timer dings. And sure enough, the cake was done.
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But it only rose 2/3 up the jar!!! What the heck?!?! I know I filled it half way, per the measurements on the side of the jar. And worse, as it cooled, it shrunk!! Oh fiddle-deedee! The jar cake has too much space and won’t create the vacuum needed to preserve it.

Good thing I was making the rest of the cake batter as a loaf cake. I’ll just get some vacuum bags and send that one.

Overall, a lovely idea 🙂 and a wonderful learning opportunity!!
Lesson 1: use a smaller jar?
Lesson 2: get a big mouth…jar that is 🙂
Lesson 3: experiment with a real recipe instead of relying on Betty Crocker
Lesson 4: fill the jar to 2/3 to 3/4 full…
Lesson 5: forego all housework and just tat
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