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Cake in a Jar

October 28, 2011

When my son was deployed, he missed his Mama’s home cookin’ – and especially one of his favorite cakes. Fortunately, I knew how to make “cake in a jar” and have been doing so to give as Christmas gifts for several years.  So, in anticipation of the holidays – and the possibility that you too may have a deployed soldier who would LOVE something homemade – I thought I’d share the instructions on how to make and bake a cake in a jar. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


What you’ll need: 

Pint size (16 ounce) wide-mouth glass canning jars. They are usually sold in packs of 1 dozen.

Any cake or quick bread recipe or mix. (I’ve got one of my family’s favorite recipes included with this post.)


Wash the jars, lids and rings in the dishwasher or in boiling water for 15 minutes. Make sure they
are thoroughly air dried before using. Check for any chips or cracks in the glass.

Spray the inside of each jar with a flour & oil combination baking spray like “Baker’s Joy”.

Pre-heat oven.  Set the temperature 25° below the recipe or mix recommended baking temperature. For instance, if the recipe/mix calls for a baking temperature of 350°, set the oven temperature at 325°. Set oven rack to the lowest position.

Prepare recipe/mix and fill the jars with about 1 cup of batter or no more than ½ way full as the batter will rise and double. Tap each filled glass jar against the palm of your hand to release any air bubbles and to even out the batter.

Evenly space the jars in a metal, oblong cake pan or on a cookie sheet 6 at a time. They usually
cook fairly quickly so set your timer for 20 minutes to check on them by opening the oven door. If they look done, use a bamboo skewer all the way through to the bottom of the cake to test. It should come out clean with just a few crumbs clinging to it.  If they don’t look done or when tested are not quite done, close the door and keep baking, checking visually every 5 minutes until they look ready and/or the skewer comes out clean. Depending on the recipe that you use, sometimes it can take 40 – 45 minutes for the cakes to bake. Make sure that your cakes are completely baked as the cakes must remain at a high temperature for a certain period of time in order to kill any possible bacteria that could be in the food.

While cakes are baking, bring a small to medium sized saucepan of water to a boil and carefully add jar lids and rings. Remove from heat and keep lids and rings in hot, boiled water until ready to use. Do NOT continue to boil the water after adding the lids and rings.

When done, remove jars from oven one at a time keeping remaining jars in oven. Make sure jar rims are clean because if they aren’t, the jars will not properly seal. If rim isn’t clean, wipe it with a clean paper towel dampened with hot water. Remove a lid and ring from the hot water and blot dry with a clean and dry piece of paper towel. IMMEDIATELY put a lid and ring on top of the jar.  “Finger tighten” the lid which means to screw on until it is tight but don’t over-tighten. Repeat process until all of the jars have lids on them. Now repeat the entire process with the remaining jars of baked cake. CAUTION: the jars, lids and rings are VERY hot!

Within a few minutes of placing the lids and rings on the jars of baked cake, you should begin to hear the lids pop as the jars will seal as they cool. After the jars have cooled completely, test the lids for any give by depressing the center.  If the center goes up and down, the cake has not been preserved.  Don’t despair – it just means the cake in that jar will have to be eaten sooner rather than later! Unsealed jars can and should be stored in the refrigerator with the lid and ring on and eaten within 2 weeks. Sealed jars may be stored with other canned food or placed in a freezer. A properly sealed cake/quick bread will stay fresh for up to one year. When ready to serve, unscrew the ring, remove the lid and slide the cake out onto a plate. It should slide out easily.

SPECIAL NOTE:  The cake is safe to eat as long as the jar remains vacuum-sealed and free from mold. They should be stored in a cool, dry place just like other canned foods that does not experience extreme changes in temperature (like a kitchen pantry) and is out of direct sunlight. If stored this way, check the seals on your jar cakes about once a month.  Do so by pushing on the center of the seals. A seal which does not have any give – go up and down – should be fine, while a seal which will  go up and down is no longer secure, and the cake should be thrown away immediately. If for any reason you are concerned about the safety of storing your cakes, an alternative is to store them in the freezer. Be sure to pass any storage tips on to the ‘receiver’ if you give the cakes as gifts.

Here’s my soldier’s favorite cake-in-a-jar recipe.  It is a pound cake recipe made famous – or infamous – by my Uncle Gary who is an excellent cook and baker.

Gary’s Sour Cream Pound Cake

3 cups sugar

1 cup butter – softened

6 eggs at room temperature – separated

1 ½ cups sour cream

1 ½ tsps. vanilla extract (I use Mexican vanilla extract)

½ tsp almond extract

3 cups flour

½ tsp. soda

½ tsp. salt

Pre-heat oven to 325°.

Grease and flour a tube pan, 2 loaf pans OR 9 pint size (16 ounce) wide-mouth glass canning jars (after mixing batter together, follow the baking instructions above). If using a tube pan or loaf pans, use the baking instructions below.

Whisk together flour, soda and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Separate eggs, placing yolks in a small bowl and whites in a large mixing bowl.  Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form and set aside. Beat egg yolks with a fork and set aside.

Combine softened butter, sugar, 6 beaten egg yolks and mix well in a large mixing bowl with a mixer at medium speed.

Add sour cream and extracts to butter mixture and mix well.

Gradually add flour mixture to above mixture and beat for 4 – 5 minutes on medium speed.

With a rubber spatula, gently fold in beaten egg whites into the mixture.

Bake for 1 ½ hour if using a tube pan and 1 hour and 10 minutes if using loaf pans.

Use a bamboo skewer to test for doneness.

When done, remove from oven and cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 – 10 minutes before removing from pan and cooling on a wire rack completely before serving/slicing.

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