This is the most excited I have been about baking for at least a fortnight…
I can’t recall when I first thought of the idea of cakes in jars, but it may have had something to do with receiving the lovely Meg Rivers catalogue and being introduced to the concept of postal cake. I found myself wondering, in all seriousness, if I might have done better at University had I, rather than baking through my revision schedule, kept my head down and awaited a weekly delivery of postal cake. The answer is probably ‘yes’.
I have some friends that live far, far away. I thought they would love to have some homemade postal cake but fretted about how to get it to them without it squishing, mouldering or incurring the wrath of customs officials. I found the answer to these problems on the Instructables website (check it out, the Food section has loads of cool little experiments to try) in the form of cakes in jars.
Traditionally sent by American military wives, I thought ‘brilliant’! Not only would the cakes stay in one piece, they’d be air-tight and – as you boil the jars and lids beforehand to get rid of any nasties – stay fresh long enough to make an overseas trip. I decided to order some cute 1/2 pint jars from Amazon and get baking.
My jar cakes were destined for 3 different people in 3 different places so I made up 3 different recipes. Louise in Somerset would get apple & cinnamon cake, Ben in San Fransisco would get chocolate chip loaf and Matt in Wellington, NZ, would get vanilla sponge with elderflower icing*. I’d love to work out how to jar-ify a victoria sponge or baked cheesecake but that’s a project for another day.
If you want to ice your cakes in jars, remember not to overfill them with mix. Another thing to remember is to carefully watch the baking times – this was my first attempt and it turned out OK but I imagine these are really easy to overcook. If you choose not to ice your cakes, you can seal the jars when they’re hot out of the oven and – in theory – the cake should last for months in a cupboard (or even longer if you freeze it).
I carefully packaged up my rather twee-looking cakes, labelling them with hand-written luggage tags and tucking them into boxes with plenty of bubble wrap to avoid breakages. Having sought out the correct customs forms and popped them in the post, I can’t wait to hear from the recipients. My hope is that not only will they love the cakes, but they’ll re-use the jars by posting a long-distence pud back to me!
*if you’re interested in trying any of these recipes, I’ll be posting them here shortly.