On the go cake: how to build cake in a jar or cup

This week, Jill Washburn, our Jill of All Trades, shows us a clever way to take cake on the road.  It's cake in a jar! Yeah. It's a real thing!

Jill used 8-ounce canning jars and started by placing a cupcake in in the bottom. Jill advises pushing it down a bit. Then she piped a layer of frosting on top of it. (Get her frosting recipe below.)

Next, she added a second cupcake. It can be the same flavor and/or color as the first one, or completely different.  

For the 4th of July holiday, Jill made a batch of vanilla cake batter and then split it in half. She used gel cake tints to make one bowl of batter bright red and the other one navy blue.

To achieve the navy color, Jill tinted the batter blue, which generally comes out a little on the teal side. To get the color all the way to navy blue, Jill added a tiny bit of purple tint to the bowl.

That brings the color up to that rich All-American blue that Jill was looking for.  For the red, she just used straight red tint.

After the second cupcake is in the cup/jar, top it with another layer of frosting. Finish it off with a some sprinkles, or colored sugar, and pop the lid on.

Boom! Dessert that travels! It's great for picnics, cookouts, etc. Some people do them for showers, weddings, and other celebrations. They give your guests the option of eating dessert there or taking it home for later.

Not a fan of giving a glass jar to little kids? Or want to take them to the beach or poolside? You can do the same thing with a clear Solo-style cup and top it with the matching lid.

You can even freeze them in the cups, so that you can enjoy them later.


To watch Jill take you through the process, click on the video player above.


1 cup softened butter
1 cup Crisco
14 cups powdered sugar
vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
almond extract
water or milk

Whip together the butter and the shortening.  Then slowly start adding the powdered sugar, a little at a time.  Add a splash of water or milk when necessary to keep the consistency smooth.  (I probably do not add more than about 1/2 cup of liquid.)

Finally, add the vanilla bean paste and the almond extract.  Honestly, I don't measure those, but you could start with about a teaspoon of each and work from there.  I usually just add a blog of one and a splash of the other, whip it, and taste test.  I continue that process until I get the flavor that I want.  I aim for a blend of the two tastes.  I usually can taste the vanilla first, and then an afternote of the almond.  When those two are pretty balanced, I know I've hit the mark.

One of the reasons that I don't measure is that extracts vary from brand to brand and batch to batch.  Some are stronger than others, so I just go by taste, but I've been doing this a long time.

Once I get the taste and the consistency I want, I add several shakes of salt.  (I use pink Himalayan salt, but that's what I use for everything.)  I find the salt helps bring out the flavors and it balance the sweetness a bit.

There you have it.  It makes a pretty big batch, so you may want to cut the recipe in half.  I generally bake in volume, so I go through this pretty fast.  It will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks, if it's in an airtight container, and I've even frozen it, at times.