Thursday, February 25, 2016

You Can Bake a Cake in That?

Well, it's official, I've finally gone postal. Let me rephrase that into less of a "no duh" cakes have finally gone postal. And to think, this dream made possible by one of those government-mandated vacations my husband has to take regularly. I may not be the world's greatest wife, but when you're married to a woman who best shows her love via her cooking, you better believe she's gonna find a way to ship you baked goods from clear across the globe. I have a great cookie recipe that my husband swears even after two weeks of shipping still are totally edible and not at all hockey puck-like. He could be lying to save my feelings, but he probably wouldn't request them if they sucked, so I've got that going for me. Since I sent those literally the day after he left, I figured it was once again time to force my love upon him all the way from the Western Hemisphere. Can someone feel suffocated by love if they're not in the same country as you? Because that's what I'm going for. No need for the sappy Facebook posts that make all your friends want to vomit when you have an ace up your sleeve: mason jar cakes.
I know, cakes in jars with labels and twine...who am I if not really freakin' Texan.
In case you didn't pick up on it in the last blog, this is what all my secret squirrel business was that I swore I'd tell you about. Essentially, these are so quick and easy to make that you can make an entirely separate dessert for yourself while they do their thing. Because you know what you need, nay, deserve while your spouse is deployed? Calories. All of 'em. But preferably in sweet, sugary form. Am I using dessert as a replacement for companionship? Probably. I'm assuming this is what I would be doing anyway if I was single, so all roads inevitably led to this anyway.
Oh Betty and Duncan, even in an alternate universe, we'd still be besties.
I know what you're thinking. Boxed cake mix to show your husband you love him...what is this, amateur hour? Hear me out...I am honestly a little worried that even after wrapping my jars in loads of bubble wrap and cushioning (remember, I know what I'm doing--I worked for FedEx 85 years ago) that the USPS may still somehow work its usual magic and break everything. So these are test cakes, really. I'll be less sad to hear box cakes were ruined than say, my delightfully delicious Baileys cake. How many link-backs is this now? I feel like I'm heading for a blogging record. Anyway, one box cake will yield four mason jar cakes. All you have to do is prep your batter using the tried and true cake-jacking method of an extra egg, milk instead of water, and butter instead of oil with the amount doubled. Be sure you've washed out your mason jars before putting any batter in them. No one wants a janky, dirty jar.
Messes were made.
Regardless of what the cake mix says, preheat your oven to 400. While your batter is blending, spray the ever-living bejesus out of the jars with some Baker's Joy or Pam. I used both because I'm the queen of overkill. You want to fill the jars up halfway. If you have a large squeezy bottle, 10/10 would recommend. You don't want to get any batter on the outside of the jar or around the inside rim, so precision is key. Know who's accident prone and not precise at all? Mhm, me. I ended up using a 2/3 measuring cup to scoop batter and plop it into the jars. This worked...sort of. I had to wipe down a few jars.
Why am I reminded of marshmallow Peeps right now?
To keep from tipping all of the jars over, place them into a deep baking pan. Make sure they're not touching the edges of the pan or each other so they bake evenly. My oven cooks hot, so these were done at the 25 minute mark. Check to see if the cakes are done by placing a butter knife in the middle of one and seeing if it comes out clean. Add more time as needed. They may dome up higher than the lid, just slice any excess spillage off. Mostly so that you have excess spillage pieces to eat. Have to ensure quality standards and whatnot.
My, what foxy towels you have.
While the cakes are baking, take JUST THE LIDS, not the rims, and put into a pan with water. Bring to a boil, shut off, and cover with a lid. This is what makes the rims waxy enough to adhere and seal to the jars, creating pretty heavy duty suction.
Tongs definitely necessary.
The moment the cakes are done in the oven, use some tongs to take one lid out and place it on top of one of the jar cakes. I screwed them down just a little, but holy mother those things get hot they're made of metal or some element that conducts heat... So finish sealing the jar by using two hot pads, one holding the jar, the other twisting the lid shut. Repeat this for all of your jars. You will hear lots of pings. Pings are the noises of success! This means the lid is tightly fastened and sealed. 
Oh look, mini cream pie bites.
It really went against everything I believe in as a baker to put the lid on these cakes while they were still hot. It made me a little twitchy. But finally, oh sweet relief, move them to a cooling rack to finish cooling as cakes were made to do. 
I'm clever. I know.
While the cakes are cooling, finish making your own personal dessert or write out cute, gag-inducing tags to place on each jar with some twine. I did both. Because I'm awesome. I also wrapped each jar in decorative Scotch tape first since everything looks better with sparkles. Sparkle tape was my stand-in for sprinkles in this cake.
Straight outta Southern Living.
Were you wondering where in the hell the frosting came into play? You know Kate don't bake no cakes without frosting, sucka. But in this case, frosting in the jars would absolutely turn into goo by the time it made it overseas. The best thing to do in this case is buy a few tubs of frosting and keep them unopened for shipping purposes.
Did you know bubble wrap comes in BLUE? Clearly I did not.
Once you've got cooled cakes and decorated jars (or not, be lazy, see if I care. My husband knows I went the extra mile because of the glitter tape...), take a long section of bubble wrap and fold it in halfsies. In half. God, I'm turning into the southern version of Martha Stewart. No, that's not Paula Dean. To my knowledge, Martha isn't a white supremacist. 
Pleeeaaasseee don't break.
Roll each individual jar cake up with long sections of bubble wrap half. I was able to fit six mason jar cakes in bubble wrap and three tubs of frosting all in one large flat rate USPS box with extra bubble wrap lining the bottom of the box (again, I was a professional). The other two jar cakes fit into a medium box with some other tightly packed odds and ends. We'll know in two weeks time whether or not they show up in one piece or many and whether they're edible or not (clearly not if broken glass is involved). These were simple and actually quite a bit of fun to make. I now have a higher respect for moonshiners...mason jars really are a blast to work with. I promise I'll update once my husband has been able to quality inspect each cake. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!

UPDATE: All 8 jars arrived sealed and in one piece, so you can officially thank me for this awesome method of packing. Now your significant other can hoard cakes or use them as currency. Their prison but tastier and less terrifying.
Guys, I'm afraid I might start really going over board with twine after this.

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