Last night for dessert, Moon Man and I had cake. It wasn’t supposed to be a Splurge Day, but a) he’d had a seriously long coupla days at work and needed a little treat, and b) we wanted to do our part for Science and for the troops (none of this would’ve happened if we hadn’t been watching The Nerdist’s Tribute to Science. That Chris Hardwick will get you, every time).
Here’s what happened: about a month ago, we baked Cakes in Jars. I’d stumbled across the idea on a forum for Navy moms (of which I am not one, but moms have the best ideas when it comes to care packages, and indeed, pretty much everything else in life), and it seemed interesting, but really, what kind of friends would we be if we just whipped up a batch and shipped it off without testing it first? I mean, c’mon, our friend is stuck on a boat in the middle of nowhere most of the time–it’s not like he can just throw together a cake whenever he wants one, and it’s just mean to promise him a cake and have him open his box to find a bizarre mold specimen in a jar. So in the name of Science and ‘Murrica, we had to try it ourselves first. It’s a hard sacrifice to make for one’s country, the eating of cake; but by gosh, we can’t let other people make all the sacrifices, now can we?
So for the last few weeks we’ve been cracking open a cake jar each week and using a highly scientific approach to analyzing the results:
1. Look at it. Does it still look like cake? If no, discard. If yes, proceed to…
2. Smell it. Does it still smell like cake? If no, discard. If yes, proceed to…
3. Eat it. Did you die? If yes, we thank you for your service and will notify your parents. If no, then congratulations! Your experiment has been a success, and you get cake as a reward.
And holy crap, it worked. For the last four weeks, we’ve been eating cake that we baked in July. We’re both still alive, and aside from some slight flavor changes, the cake had remained intact and ready for devourin’ that whole time.
In other words: one of these days, our friend will receive cake in the mail, despite the 3-to-4-week shore-to-ship mail delay. Also, in case of Zombiepocalypse, our fortress will have cake. We’ll be the coolest fortress on the plains.
Now, the careful observer may have noticed that I put the link to the site where I found the directions I followed, back there at the beginning of the second paragraph. But in case that link ever stops working, or in case you didn’t notice it, here’s the quick’n’dirty how-to, so you too can have fun with Science:
- Gather canning jars and rings–we used pint-sized, with wide mouths–and new lids (they have to be new, ’cause you’re gonna need ’em to seal).
- Whip up your favorite cake or quickbread recipe. We used a boxed mix because we were feelin’ lazy that day, but I reckon we’ll use a Real Live From-Scratch Recipe when we start making batches to send overseas.
- Grease the inside of the jars, being sure to cover the entire inside. We used the spray stuff, and it made a chemical taste develop over the last couple of weeks; so next time I reckon we’ll use the old tried-and-true vegetable oil + flour combination.
- Use a combination of wide-mouthed funnel and quarter-cup scoop to dump slightly less than a cup of batter into each jar. You’re right, that won’t fill the jar; but fear not, Science rules the day again–once the baking happens, the magic of cake expansion will happen too.
- Wipe down the interior of the jar–you don’t want any drippy batter bits along the sides, because those will be un-lovely. Also make sure the top edges of the jars are clean, because this will affect the lid’s ability to seal later.
- Bake as directed by box, recipe, voice of god, etc. You may end up with a slightly shorter baking time, y’know, since you’re breaking the big cake down into little component cakes, so start checking for doneness (with the old “stick a wooden skewer in there and check for crumbs” test) about 10 minutes early.
- Remove from oven and immediately place lids on tops of jars and screw on rings. You’re relying on the carryover heat of the jars themselves and the air inside to help seal the lids, so no waitin’ around. (No panicking, though, either–you’ve got a coupla minutes to complete this step. Just, y’know, don’t take ’em out and then go have a cup of Victory Coffee before you start the lid’n’ring process.)
And voila! That’s all there is to it. After a few minutes you’ll start hearing that “tink!” sound that indicates that the seals have held and the jars are cooling–we stood in the kitchen and listened to the tinks ’cause we’re old and boring like that–and you’ll be able to see the lids dent in (ooh! aah! the magic of the vacuum! Feel free to use this opportunity to turn this into a Science lesson for any kids you’ve recruited as sous chefs). Once that happens, just hang back and wait for the jars to cool enough to handle, then chuck ’em (gently!) into the pantry for consumption whenever you want ’em; or package ’em up (be sure to use lots of bubble wrap) for shipment to your favorite service member.
Oh! And as for the frosting, we just cracked open a container, broke out a coupla spoons, and scooped up some frosting with each bite of cake (which we ate straight outta the jar like barbarians).
So there you have it! Cake-in-a-jar, or “Science and Patriotism 101”, or “Why we’ll have the best Zombiepocalypse fort this side of the Mississippi”. And now that we’ve tested the cakes out to the one-month mark, I’m pretty comfortable sending a shipment to our friend.
…Though they do say that a good experiment should be repeatable. Maybe we should repeat this one first. Y’know, just to be sure. 😉