Cake in a Jar

May 5, 2011 · 64 comments

in Baking, Presents, Recipes, School, Why Hildie's tired, Yum


It’s Teacher Appreciation Week! In the past some Room Moms have turned it into more of a Parent Extortion Week with requests for gift cards and hardcover books, but this year we’re keeping it simple. My kids will be doing thank you notes and these lovelies: Red Velvet cake in a jar. Yes, the cake is baked in a mason jar. And eaten from a mason jar. It’s such a cute, fun idea. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it’s super easy. But it’s not too bad; it’s worth it. Plus these are unique and homemade and that’s my favorite kind of gift to give.

Step 1: Decide on your cake flavor. I made these for five different teachers. One hates chocolate. So I decided on Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting. For the other four teachers I also added a layer of homemade hot fudge. I usually do from-scratch cakes but I decided to make it easy on myself and did a doctored red velvet (recipe at the very end, if you are interested). Whatever recipe you use, please for the love of everything holy, make the frosting from scratch. Frosting is not hard to make and when it’s being put in a jar, the consistency doesn’t even matter. Frosting from a can is horrendous. There is no circumstance I can imagine where I would ever use it. I will get off my high horse now. But I’m serious.

Step 2: You will need glass canning jars. They can be whatever size you like but they must be wide-mouthed (that means they are straight up and down. Don’t even bother using traditional jars with the smaller mouths. They don’t work too well.) I chose pint-sized. I got five cakes out of one batch of cake batter. The half-pint sizes are nice too but are more of a single cupcake size. You’ll get more cakes out of one recipe, though, so think about what your needs are. (This picture shows all three kids of wide-mouth jars compared to a Coke can so you get a sense of size). If you live in Texas, H.E.B. has all three kinds of jars. They’re sold in a box of a dozen for about $7-10.


Step 3: The most important step. Grease those jars! You are going to be hating life if you don’t.


Step 4: Make your cake batter and fill each jar halfway. Bake at 350º for 25-30 minutes for a pint jar (no, they won’t break! Set them on a shelf in the middle of the oven and they’ll bake just fine). A great thing to use for a tester is a piece of uncooked spaghetti. Some people on the internet recommend baking cakes in a jar in the microwave. Actually they don’t taste that bad but the texture is really spongy. They do cook in about 90 seconds but they make the most hideous mess; the batter puffs up and then leaks all over the outside of the jar. It’s better to just bake them in the oven. It saves time in the long run.


Step 5: Remove cakes from the oven and let them cool completely. As they cool they’ll shrink a little bit and if you’ve greased your jars well, they’ll pop right out. While the cakes are cooling, make your frosting. Again, frosting is not hard to make; no excuses (recipe at the end). Once the cakes have cooled, cut off the weird end. (You should probably eat it as a reward for being so selfless by making nice gifts for people.) Cut the rest into two (or more) sections.


Step 6: You’ll want your jars to be nice and clean. Either wash them or get out a few more from the case that are already clean. Either way, place a piece of cake at the bottom. Top with some frosting. I suggest putting your frosting in a ziploc bag and snipping off the corner. It’s a lot neater and easier to fill up the jars this way instead of using a spoon. (I’ll leave the amounts up to your discretion.) Repeat again. If you happen to have some matching sprinkles, add some to the top frosting layer before you put on the lid.


Step 7: If you’ve completely screwed your jars up and they look terrible, don’t worry. Now is the time to pretty things up. Ribbons and bows cover a multitude of sins.

I wanted these jars to have a summery feel since it’s the end of the school year. I printed up some paper labels, cut them with a fancy punch, and ran them through my Xyron Create-a-Sticker.


There were some cute and semi-flat daisies that I found in the scrapbooking section of Hobby Lobby (they have wires on the back to attach easily to things). Adding a spoon is a nice touch, too, especially so the recipient can bust open the jar and eat their cake immediately.


Red Velvet Cake recipe:

1 box white cake mix (“pudding in the mix” variety)
2 Tbs. cocoa
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 whole bottle of red food coloring (1/3 jar of paste or gel coloring)

Mix all the ingredients together on med-high for two minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Grease jars well. Bake at 350º til tester comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from jars.

Cream Cheese Icing:

1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
1 8 oz. pack of cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy (about 2 minutes. It will be very dry and then suddenly will come together.) Add cream cheese then beat another 30-45 seconds. Beat in vanilla and salt.

{ 63 comments… read them below or add one } May 5, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Fantastic idea! I love it. Perfect so many gifts. Thanks for the inspiration!


Selwyn May 5, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Fantastic! Now to try and find canning jars and a similar cake mix!


CNHolmberg May 5, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Is it a bad thing that I don't like cream cheese frosting?

But these are adorable. Win.


Susan December 5, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I often just use vanilla or buttercream frosting on red velvet and love the way it tastes. I’ve also served it that way after dinner and no one has ever commented and seems surprised later when I mention it.


dalene May 6, 2011 at 1:11 am

Those look so YUM! Nicely done!


Brooke May 6, 2011 at 1:16 am

yum, jennie! i'm way impressed by your manicure.


Brooke May 6, 2011 at 1:27 am

lol re: my comment. yum = cake in jars. impressive = lacquered fingernails. man it's been a long day.


Lisa May 6, 2011 at 1:59 am

Great idea – and really cute. I'm going to file this one away for when James starts school this fall.


MissMel May 6, 2011 at 3:50 am

Now we can all have our cake and eat it too. THIS IS SO WONDERFUL, JEN!


Cheri May 6, 2011 at 5:00 am

Okay, it's midnight and I want one of these. NOW.


Ethan May 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm

How cute! I just got Jonas's teacher a Target gift card. I also never ever make my own frosting and do not have a manicure. You rock and I am a slacker. (I say that with no jealousy or self-loathing in my heart, truly. It's more a statement of fact.) :-)


Ang May 6, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Aaaand I just posted with my son's login. See? Not cool.


L. May 6, 2011 at 4:38 pm

WOW, I'm impressed! An amazing idea! You did not add a step about how to get the baked cake out of the jar. Does it have to be completely cool? Do you cut around the edge first? Do you just shake it out?


Wen May 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Loved the idea!! I have one question though, when you place the jars in the oven, do you use a container with water to put them inside? Or just put them in the oven and done?


jennie w. May 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Wen–The jars can be placed directly on the oven rack, no problem.

Mom–the cake pops right out of the jar. Unless you forgot to grease it.


Omgirl May 6, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Those are very impressive. I feel like I need to make soaps still since I just bought a bunch of new molds try try (loaf style) and printable soap paper. But I have totally lost my mojo for it. Maybe cakes in a jar are the ticket.


Rebecca May 6, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I skipped Teacher Appreciation Week this year. But this will make up for it at the end of the school year. I'm copying this idea exactly. Thank you!


Jack May 7, 2011 at 3:35 am

Someday, if I ever get settled from our move, I am going to make these. Fantastic!


Kelly May 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm

How DARLING, Jennie! These are so cute!


Kelly May 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Did I miss a step? It looks like there is a layer of chocolate in between the cream cheese frosting and the cake. What is that?


olga May 7, 2011 at 9:14 pm

I just love this idea.. So cute.. I can get many uses from this idea.. Thank you so much for sharing.. Keep them coming.. Thanks Olga


Lori A. May 7, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Great idea! I'm going to try this.

Kelly – "For the other four teachers I also added a layer of homemade hot fudge."


Cris May 7, 2011 at 9:17 pm

made something like that but I called Cake in aMug! Check it out:


Kat May 7, 2011 at 9:19 pm

this is just sooooo cute! I don't have any kids that need teacher gifts (yes that means I'm old :0) but I'm thinking this would be great just to keep on hand – and stay fresher – for a nice individual serving instead of seeing that cake sitting on the table saying "eat me" ……



brenna May 7, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Love this idea. I'm gonna do this for my next Christmas gift lists for the neighbors instead of making cookies.
Thanks for sharing.


Kelly May 9, 2011 at 5:58 am

Thanks, Lori A! I missed that little sentence the first time.


Jessie May 10, 2011 at 2:45 pm

How long can they sit before they HAVE to be eaten?? I'm thinking AWESOME seating card idea for my wedding. Obviously everyone will already have cake that night, but they can take it home and have it another day?!?!?!


jennie w. May 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Jessie, that's a lot of work, especially if you're doing it yourself. I'd really recommend doing something for your wedding that can be done way in advance. Trust me on this!

I think that if you used regular buttercream icing it would keep just fine for a few days, but cream cheese icing might be a little iffy.


Jessie May 10, 2011 at 6:53 pm

ah, ok…thanks for the tip. I'm only having 28 people…so it wouldn't be THAT bad, but ya, I want something that would keep a little longer.


Sandy November 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm

This looks fantastic! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

If I am using 1/2 pint jars, how long should I bake the cakes?


Kristen November 29, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Love, love, love this idea!


Do the jars have to seal? Do you need new lids? If I wanted to make this as a Christmas gift, how long will it keep? A week? A couple of days?


Amy March 2, 2012 at 5:59 pm

These are so cute!! How long do they last without the icing? Is there anything that I can bake in a jar and send to Afghanistan? It takes normally 7 days to receive.



jennie w. March 2, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Cake gets kinda grody after a week. Maybe try brownies with a store-bought frosting. Commercial icing tastes worse but it’s a lot more shelf-stable and forgiving. Brownies taste really good a few days later. Good luck!


courtney June 3, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Amy Freeze the cakes before you send them (freeze for an entire 24 hrs before sending them out) They will thaw and still be fresh by the time they get there.


Suz May 18, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Love this idea and really want to try it! How long would you say the cream cheese frosting will hold up? If I make it the night before, keep it in the fridge and then give it out the next day? Thanks!


Hildie May 19, 2012 at 9:24 am

The cream cheese frosting will be fine for several days, especially if refrigerated. The cake will get stale after about four days, though.


courtney June 3, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Do you know what the shelf life of these are? I made some like this for my husband a few years ago while he was in afghanistan but I bought the store bought frosting and shipped it separately. Well needless to say I have to ship over seas again and thought that I could send them like this since it saves package space. Oh and would the frosting keep if its been frozen? I freeze the cakes after baking to extend the shelf life (because of how long it take to get there it actually thaws in time)


Marie Houlridge June 30, 2012 at 8:27 am

Hi Hildie,
what can I say; I was searching the internet for fabric bird patterns when I came accross your site. I loved the introduction and as a busy mum of 5, 4 grown up with children of their own it caught my attention. Oh how I wish i had found your site earlier; what an inspiration you are. I really love the cereal tradition, what a fab idea, having so many children money can be tight, this is a fantastic idea i wish I had done this when my children were growing up. I love traditions Christmas is a favourate with us, so much so my eldest daughter moved to Holland last year and hated Christmas because she wasnt with her family. This year she is coming home for Christmas with her own little little family yeah!!!!!! If it’s ok with you I will be watching your site for more fantastic ideas. Thankyou for sharing xxxxx


Hildie July 2, 2012 at 11:19 am

Thanks for visiting the blog, Marie! I hope you can use some of the ideas with your grandkids. Have a happy day!


kallasimpson July 16, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I am going to ATTEMPT these for party favors for my daughters 1st birthday..wish me LUCK..any tips?!


Hildie July 18, 2012 at 11:22 am

Just make them a couple of days ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. Good luck!


Vicky September 16, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Merry Christmas is a good idea


Malinda October 8, 2012 at 9:00 am

How long do you think they would keep? I’m thinking maybe I’ll make one and (Attempt) to mail it to my dad upstate. Total of a one or two day mail trip…. lol.

I’m assuming I should probably use regular frosting as well – since it sits on store shelves just fine….


Hildie October 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm

If you make it and pop it in the mail, and the weather isn’t too warm, you should be fine using regular frosting. As a frosting snob, I would never dream of using store-bought unless I had no choice. But regular cream cheese icing will be fine for up to five or six days, especially if it’s kept cool.


Cara December 11, 2012 at 6:22 am

Made these last night for Christmas gifts. Can’t believe how well they turned out! Definitely took some work but they look amazing. I just used boxed red velvet mix + your frosting recipe and they taste great. Love the cream cheese frosting, much better than store bought. Thank you for a thoughtful, elegant gift idea!


Hildie December 16, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Glad your cake jars worked well! Did people totally rave about them? Whenever I make these I get mountains of compliments!


Michelle December 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Thanks for the awesome idea! Just finished making two dozen for a Christmas party!!


Connie January 17, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Love this idea! I have been looking for a simple “idea to make” to send to a few friends. This is perfect, can’t wait to make, and send them!!!!


Amanda January 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Love this! Going to try it out and send them to my husband overseas! Perfect for his birthday! Thank you!


Hildie February 1, 2013 at 10:44 am

I hope it turns out well and that it still tastes great when he gets it. You might want to use store-bought frosting if it’s not going to arrive for more than a week. It doesn’t taste nearly as good but you don’t want to poison the guy!


Becky Elliott June 8, 2013 at 7:14 am

This is such a wonderful gift idea! Because of the cream cheese and butter in the frosting, do these need to be refrigerated?


Hildie June 9, 2013 at 10:37 pm

They should be refrigerated for taste and to make them last extra long, but they’re fine if left out for a day or two. Cream cheese and butter aren’t going to go bad right away but they will eventually. Use your best judgement.


Cyd paz September 22, 2013 at 5:02 pm

I have a question I want to make some to send my husband to Afghanistan how long can they be in a box like -mailbox – cuz the shipping time is about 14 days to there !


Hildie September 30, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I would definitely not send this overseas. While the cake may still be edible, the frosting will go bad long before then. Plus it’s in glass and it would be such a bummer to have it break. Better stick with some other kind of goodie. Bummer!


Yuki Lyle December 12, 2013 at 1:02 am

Thank you for the inspiration and recipes. It’s a great ideas for the upcoming christmas. I will try to make individual christmas pudding in a jar.


Hildie December 12, 2013 at 11:02 am

Good luck! I think you’ll be very happy with the results!


Laura January 14, 2014 at 11:07 am

Thank you so much for the clear, concise directions! I’ve been looking for something cute to give my teacher and her team for an upcoming birthday celebration. This should be a hit!


jhen rio November 5, 2014 at 9:07 am

i really love this idea of baking the cake straight of the jar. is there a specific “type” of jar that is oven-safe? im just a little bit worried it might break or shatter inside the oven.


Monica M December 21, 2014 at 10:38 pm

I gave it a shot at making these…everything went perfect (the cupcakes slid right out of the jars as planned, the cream cheese frosting turned out awesome, I was able to cut the cupcakes into sections correctly…) UNTIL it came to frosting them. I used the ziplock bag method and put the next cupcake layer on top and repeated until I finished and my frosting looked all smeared all over the jar. It didn’t turn out all neat in layers like yours did. lol. Do you have any additional tips when it comes to adding the layers of frosting that could result in a neater product? Thanks for sharing your idea!!!


Michelle D. May 2, 2015 at 8:51 pm

I’m going to try to make these for Teacher Appreciation Week for my daughter’s teachers. Do you have any other recipes besides the one you posted? I’d love to make chocolate cake with chocolate icing.
Could I use a “pudding in the mix” chocolate cake mix and homemade Wilton Chocolate Buttercream icing?
Please advise or share any other recipes you’ve used.
I’ m so excited!! Thanks for sharing!


Hildie May 13, 2015 at 9:51 am

Oops, looks like I didn’t catch this one in time for teacher appreciation week. You can use any cake recipe you like: boxed or homemade. But I would beg you on my hands and knees to please–PLEASE–make homemade frosting. You really can’t mess it up too badly; it’s not going to burn or anything and it doesn’t take but five minutes to make. And it tastes so, so, so much better than store-bought.


JMartin May 12, 2015 at 12:23 pm

In your opinion would this hold up to be shipped overseas? I’ve read before about cake in a jar lasting a good amount of time and sending overseas perfectly fine but I’m wondering about the red velvet w/ icing already on it, if that would still taste good after about 10-20 days shipping? lol – also do you have a special recipe for your fudge/chocolate one?!


Hildie May 13, 2015 at 9:55 am

I really wouldn’t send these overseas. The glass is iffy and I wouldn’t want to eat cake or icing that’s three weeks old. Would you? I mean it I were on some godforsaken army base, maybe I would, but I would definitely prefer some Pepperidge Farm cookies that are made to last and still taste great.

If you want to make some cakes in jars to give to local people, I highly recommend the recipe from Cook’s Country for Wellesley Fudge Cake. You might have to have a subscription to access it, but it’s hands-down my favorite chocolate cake recipe. The frosting is great too.


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