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Cake in a Jar for Care Packages

If you like this post, please pin it to your recipe or care package ideas pinboard. Don’t have one? Now might be a good time to start one.

With the holidays approaching, you may want to send baked goods to a deployed service member. But what will keep? Years ago, when looking for something I could send for a coworker’s brother who was deployed in Iraq, I found the answer: cake in a jar. It was a hit with her brother and his buddies. So, I thought now would be a good time to pass the recipe along.

I originally found this recipe in 2007 on Operation Mail From Home’s Troops Wish List . It was posted anonymously and with side comments by the poster, so I’m not sure who came up with the idea to be able to properly credit it beyond where I found it. Because it’s pretty far down the page, and I wanted to be able to change the wording and add the way I did things, I’m going to post an altered version here. If you’d like to see the original post, click the link above and scroll until you see “A really neat way to send a cake and it stays fresh!! They love this!!!!!!!!!”

Cake in a Jar

Carrot cakelets

I didn’t take pictures when I made the cakes, but these carrot cakes by Kim Love appear to have been made similarly.

Get 8 pint size (16.oz) wide-mouth canning jars with lids and rings. I found mine at Walmart, but you can find them elsewhere as well. Boil the jars to sterilize them before beginning.

Pick a cake mix/recipe. You can use any 18.25 oz packaged cake mix, or a cake recipe of your choosing. The one I used was a chocolate Betty Crocker mix. For the holidays, you may want to try red velvet, cinnamon streusel, or gingerbread.

1. Make the cake batter according to the package instructions or recipe.

2. Grease the jar.

3. Before you make all of the jars, you might want to make one to see how far you need to fill the jar. The original recipe said to use 1 cup of batter. The poster said she fills the jar halfway. If I recall correctly, I used a cup each and then tried to evenly distribute the leftover batter among the jars. Make sure you keep the rims of the jars clean.

4. Place the jars on a cookie sheet on the oven rack so they don’t tip over. Bake them for 30-35 minutes at the temperature recommended by your recipe, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Boiling lids and bands

Boiling lids and rings

5. While your cakes are baking, boil the jar lids (rings too if you like) in a pot of water.

6. When the cakes are done, take one jar out at a time and cover it with the hot lid. While the original poster didn’t mention it, I recommend using tongs to do this. If a jar is a little overfilled, mash the lid on top and screw the ring down. It will still seal fine. Then screw on the jar ring, tightening it slightly.

7. The lids will seal as they cool and will usually “ping” when they seal. If you don’t hear a “ping” wait until the lid is completely cool and press the top of it. If it doesn’t move at all, it’s sealed.

8. As the cake cools, it will pull away from the jar slightly. That’s okay. It just means that it will slide out of the jar easily.

9. These should last sealed and unrefrigerated for a long time. The ones I made took awhile to get to Iraq and they were still fresh. But if you have leftovers and want to freeze them, you can do so. If you want to make some for home and don’t want to use the sealing process on the jars, they can be stored in the fridge and eaten within two weeks.

10. Do not frost the cake in the jar! You can send a sealed frosting container along on the side. The frosting I sent melted, and the guys used it more as a glaze. Therefore, I recommend putting the frosting jar in a Ziploc bag and picking a flavor like vanilla or caramel that will make a good glaze if it does melt.

http://store.usps.com/media/images/products/store/LARGE-FRB-01-main-900x695.jpg

The large USPS flat rate box.

11. Make sure you wrap the jars well. Bubble wrap is best, but you can also use newspaper or clothing. I was able to fit several into one of the large USPS flat rate boxes which currently ship for $13.45$14.85  $15.90 to APO/FPO addresses. Make sure you also include plastic forks and a knife for the frosting. If you want, you can send instructions for how to get them out (unseal, tap gently, pour out). They can be eaten directly out of the jar though, which is what the guys who received mine did. My former coworker said that her brother and his buddies really enjoyed them. I hope anyone you might make them for will as well!

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25 Thoughts on “Cake in a Jar for Care Packages

  1. Beautiful photos and great idea!

  2. I’m about to make and send some out for a friend so I’m so glad I saw this post. I always sent cookies for my hubby and other goodies but now it’s time for cake in a jar

  3. That is a great idea! Never tried that! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow, this is fantastic! Never heard of it in Norway, but this is truly a wonderful idea! I had no idea cake could stay fresh long enough to be sent somewhere far!

  5. Cinthya on May 30, 2013 at 11:08 pm said:

    I let the cakes cooled dow without the lid. How can I seal them?
    This is my first time doing this Helpmme please. ASAP

    • You should still be able to seal them. It’s the lid that needs to be hot, not the cake itself. Just follow steps 5-7.

      • Cinthya on May 31, 2013 at 12:28 am said:

        i heated up the lids for 20 min and closed the jar. but they didnt make any sound and i touched the top of the lid and makes a dull sound.. :(
        how longer should i wait?

  6. Will you share the frosting recipe that you sent?

    • I didn’t use a recipe. I’m actually not sure if there is a home-made frosting that would keep long enough. I sent one of those icing containers, probably Pillsbury.

  7. Michelle on August 24, 2013 at 10:46 pm said:

    Tak you so much. I want to send my BIL something special for his birthday. So, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  8. Geryel Osorio on December 19, 2013 at 3:54 pm said:

    Hi! My boyfriend just got deployed to Djibouti and I thought this idea was fantastic, thank you for sharing everything step by step. I have a question though, we let the cakes cool completely once they are sealed? I’m scared it will creat mold….

    Thank you!

    • Hi. You’re welcome. Yes. You put the lids and rings on while the jars are still hot and leave them to cool. They’ll seal while they’re cooling. I can’t speak for every circumstance, but mine didn’t mold and I don’t know anyone who has made them who have ended up with molded ones. As far as I understand it, as long as you boil the jars first to sterilize them and you seal the cakes as soon as you take them out, they shouldn’t mold since they’ll be sealed fresh. This isn’t quite the same as the canning process for which people make things that last for a year or two though, so I definitely wouldn’t leave them around for months or something, but I shipped mine to Iraq within a couple days of making them and heard that they were still fresh and tasty upon arrival.

  9. Emily on June 10, 2014 at 3:16 am said:

    About how long would you say they last? Mail takes foreverrrrrrrrr to get to him and I want to make sure it wouldn’t go bad. Thanks!

  10. Sarah Matta on October 2, 2014 at 1:10 am said:

    I just want to clarify; (1) 18.25oz box of cake mix will make (8) pint sized jars (filling them halfway before baking)?

    I am sending them to my husband and his 5 buddies. Would pint size be considered an individual portion? Would a half pint be too small? Should they each get their own or would they just share out of the same jar? Should I send 2 tubs of icing or would one be fine?

    *disclaimer: this is my first deployment as a spouse, so I am sorry for all of the questions x_X

    • When I made it, I only used one box and it filled 8 jars. Depending on how big a piece of cake your husband and his buddies like it could be an individual portion. I think it was for the guys I sent it to. They just ate it out of the jar, but I had read that if they unsealed it and tap it gently upside down, they could put it on to a plate and split it. I think you could do half pints if you wanted to, you would probably just need to adjust the cook time. If you’re sending it to 6 guys I would send six jars so they can each have their own and they can always share if they don’t want it all to themselves. I sent whatever fit in the largest flat rate box which I think was 6 jars. It depends on how much room you have in the box. I don’t remember if I put in one jar of frosting or two, but I think it was just one, since one jar is usually enough to frost a cake and this has a smaller surface area, but if you think they may want to mix the frosting into it as they go or something I would put in two. I’d also put in spoons in case the frosting melts, so they could use it more like a glaze if they had to. No problem. I haven’t actually had a deployment as a spouse yet as I met my husband a couple months after he got back from his first one. I had made these for a coworker’s brother who was deployed at the time.

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  12. instead of baking the cake in the jar. i made the cake regularly, cut it out to fit the jar, and layered it with icing. Im wandering if it will still stay fresh. How long will it typically keep? a week? 2? 3?

    • Hm, as long as you put the cake in there quickly, boiled the lids, and heard the ping when they sealed, I imagine the unfrosted cake would still keep for at least a couple of weeks. However, with being frosted, I’m not sure how long it’ll last as frosting is supposed to be refrigerated once opened and a frosted cake out of a jar is only good for a few days. When you bake the cake in the jar, do not frost them, and properly seal them, they should be good for at least 3-4 weeks, maybe longer. If you make them again, I recommend making them inside the jars and sending an unopened container or two of frosting along with them.

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