The last few years, small desserts have become big business. Brownie bites, cakepops -- decorated cake balls on a stick -- and cupcakes are just a few that have become popular. Take a look in the baking aisle at the bookstore and you'll see a proliferation of books dedicated to the concept of diminutive desserts. There are even cooking classes on the topic for the home baker.
I recently took a "Baby Cakes" class at a local cooking school. I learned how to make individual pudding cakes, chocolate bouchons -- a two bite cake that resembles a cork (bouchon) -- and decorate petit fours. The recipe that got my creative juices flowing the most, however, was mini Mason jar cakes.
Mason jars are glass jars with flat lids and screw top bands that are traditionally used to can food. They can also be used to bake and serve individual desserts such as cakes, cobblers, pies and crisps. You aren't canning the desserts, but using the jars as vessels to bake the desserts. The desserts should not be stored for long periods, but eaten within a few days of baking.
Jars are available in a variety of sizes, but the four ounce jars are wonderful for mini desserts. The serving size is enough to satisfy your sweet tooth without feeling as though you're indulging.
You don't need a special cake recipe to make mini Mason jar cakes, but you do need a lot of jars. I used a cake mix and ended up with 25 cakes. If you don't have enough jars, use the remaining batter for cupcakes or miniature loaves. If you're making a cake from scratch and it can be halved, you can do that too.
Prepare the cake batter according to the directions. Coat the clean jars with nonstick cooking spray and add approximately 1/4 cup cake batter, wiping any excess off the rims of the jars.
To make it easier to move the jars into and out of the oven, set them on a rimmed baking sheet. I put them in a 9 x 13-inch pan. Don't let the jars touch each other; air needs to circulate to ensure even baking.
Once the cakes are completely cool, they can be frosted or left plain. If you leave them plain, there's enough room in the jar to add a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream when the cakes are served. To frost the cakes, spread your favorite homemade or store bought frosting over the top of the cakes, wiping the rims to remove any excess frosting.
When you're finished, put on the lids and the screw top bands.
You can leave the jars as is or go one step further and decorate the lids. Use some fabric -- something that coordinates with the party theme or season is a nice touch -- to cut circles or squares to put on top of the lids before the screw top bands are added. If you don't have enough fabric, cut a circle that fits only the lids with no overhang when the bands are added.
© Margaret's Morsels