When you’re looking a fun new way to present cake, then look no further to cupcakes in a jar. Whether it be cupcakes you’re wanting to bring to a picnic, easy snacks for kids on the road, or favors for a wedding or shower, this should be an idea you get comfortable with!
The humble mason jars’ purpose before Pinterest seemed to be simply for canning and drinking glasses. Ever since Pinterest really took off, they’ve also showcased salads in jars, cakes in jars, pies in jars and various other culinary treats. The mason jar is making a comeback thanks to creative minds finding amazing uses for them.
How this idea really took hold in my life was when I moved to Missouri. I found that I wanted to sell something at our local farmers market, and find a way to get immersed in the community to meet new people. There was so many talented individuals selling at our market, but I quickly realized that a unique and thoughtful presentation would help win me customers on whatever I decided on. After spending weeks agonizing over what would do well in the heat and humidity of Missouri, represent what I could do, and follow along with state regulations, I found that baked goods- specifically cupcakes in a jar would be the winning idea.
The table I setup at the Farmington Farmers Market includes cupcakes in jars which vary every week and are the highlight of my table. I also have four packs of cupcakes I bring for those who like the more traditional form of cupcakes. In addition, I source out the best ingredients and vary my flavors weekly so that there is a continual flow of ideas and inspiration. While my ideas change based on the feedback I get, I keep going back to bring my passion for cooking and baking to the constituents of Farmington each week.
The beauty of a small city like ours is that these new ideas can provide inspiration. While I would love to make money and be sure that people are coming back to me for their cupcake needs, I found a greater pleasure in sharing all I have learned. It’s is exactly the reason I’m sharing my “secrets” with everyone. If you can bake, this idea isn’t very difficult by any means and can be done at home pretty easily. Heck, even Wicked Good Cupcakes got a winning deal on Shark Tank with their cupcakes in jars- and they charge $8.95/jar!!!
First you have to get ahold of the mason jars. While you can buy new sets of mason jars (which I do), you can also source out jars at yard sales, flea markets or other secondhand shops. I work with 8oz jars which are typically the size of about one and a half cupcakes. You can also do cupcakes with the 4oz sizes too.
The next thing I highly recommend is time. Cooking in high sided jars is not the same as baking a cake in a glass pan. It has similarities in that it takes longer to bake, but the high sides can sometimes prove problematic. Here are some of the problems I’ve encountered, and general tips I can offer regarding the baking aspect:
- Clean Your Jars– Most jars will be pretty spotless inside, but the last thing you want to find is dirt caked into a cupcake, or on the outside of your pretty display. The dishwasher is your friend so wash before you bake.
- Decide What to Bake– Most recipes which yield twelve cupcakes will give you between six-eight cupcakes in the 8oz size. The tips below will help you decide just how much batter you’ll need, but it’s best to keep this general rule in mind.
- Know Your Recipe– Sometimes your cakes will rise correctly, but upon cooling, the cakes may invert and you’re left with a hollow hole. I found these to be less problematic than if you were making conventional cupcakes. While I wouldn’t sell these, I would just fill them with something yummy and serve it to friends- no one is any wiser 🙂
- Fill Height Matters– Some recipes rise REALLY high and overflow, so fill height on your batter is majorly important. This means don’t plan on making these the day of your event or when you’re planning on serving them. Assume you’ll need at least two tries to make it perfect or you’ll need to make samples to see what fill height works best for what you’re trying to achieve.
- Be Aware of the View– Because your container is clear, you’ll be able to see right through it. This can be fun in terms of layering, but where it goes bad is if you don’t place your batter into the jar cleanly. I use piping bags to divvy up my batter. You could also pour your batter into a Ziplock and cut the corner. If any stray globs are caked up the side of your jar, try wiping it down with a wet paper towel.
- To Oil or Not to Oil– While it would make sense to Oil or Butter your jars, I don’t recommend it. The first reason being, because of the view. The last thing you want is the Oil to settle out somewhere, or the Butter to darken the sides of your jar to make a less than pretty view. The second reason is because you’re not needing to lift the cake out of there. The purpose for the jars is so people can eat directly out of there, so let them get in their with their spoons!
- Sheet Up– To get your jars in and out of the oven, use a baking sheet. I recommend placing no more than a dozen on a sheet at a time. They WILL slip and slide, so either use caution, or line your baking sheet with a Silpat or silicone mat before placing the jars on the baking sheet.
The next part of making these cupcakes in jars is planning your cake presentation. Decide what you want it to look like when it’s finished looking on the outside in.
- Striped– You can create a marbled effect, rainbow or otherwise. This just means using separate piping bags to fill your jars to create the look.
- Sprinkled– Adding sprinkles to your batter can create a fun confetti look once it’s baked.
- Chunked– Adding dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts or chocolate can create another great look once baked.
- Sandwiched– This actually would mean you make your cake on a sheet pan and cut out the size of your jar and layer your items- cake, frosting, cake, frosting.
- Frosted– Make sure your baked cake is about half to three quarters up the side and allow to fully cool. Frost using your favorite frosting, glaze or ganache.
- Filled– You can do “filled” cupcakes two ways. The first is removing the center of your cupcake and filling them. Or, you can make sure your cake is no more than halfway up the side once baked, add a layer of filling, and then a layer of frosting on top.
- Topped– You can top your cupcakes with just about anything. If you want someone to see your toppings from the outside, then you’ll need more of it (sprinkles, colored sugar, cinnamon, cocoa) so just be aware how this may affect the taste. If you want them to be surprised when the open up the top, then you can add just about anything- candies, dried fruit, sprinkles, daubles, sugar, cocoa nibs, fondant shapes, etc.
Then you have to think about overall presentation of the jar.
- Fabric Swatches– You can put fabric swatches between the lid and the band similar to what many people do when canning jams and presenting them as gifts.
- Labels– You can add labels to the top, or to the sides. I actually hand punch labels out all of my “labels” on card stock and seal them in between the lid and band. I do this so I can print on the back and people can reuse the jars without having to scrape gummy junk off. Avery’s 5294 labels or templates work great.
- Ribbon– You can always tie ribbon on the outside for a bit of flair, or to match colors of what you’re doing.
- Utensils– You can also add a utensil such as a small spoon, wooden spoon or other cutlery to help someone dig into your creation that much faster.
Some last pointers I can offer you are in terms of storage. Just like a real cake, don’t let them sit out in the sun, the frosting especially start to collapse and then your hard work is all for naught. When done baking and cooling, you can absolutely put the lids on and store them in the fridge till you’re ready to frost. Because of the lids, the cake won’t dry out as normal cupcakes would which helps them last a bit longer. If you take them to a picnic, placing them in a small chilled cooler works just fine.
I think I have given away all my secrets so everyone can start making cupcakes in jars! But in all seriousness, I do hope this helps many of you bring forward your inner creativity and bring something new to your family or next event. Wishing you lots of luck and success, and as always, I’m here anytime for questions.