Every year, I am invited to a night at Girl's Camp. Awesome, right?
And I have the privilege of bringing dinner with me. I guess by the end of the week, the girls are tired of camp food. I love to cook. They love to eat. It's a win win. To make it even more fun, one of the girls was celebrating their birthday at camp, on the very day that I was to go. So, I knew that I wanted to make a special birthday cake for dessert. It needed to be portable because camp was nearly forty-five minutes away. It also needed to be easy to serve and clean up. Hmm.
Birthday cake in a Bottle! Or in this case, mason jar. It worked perfectly. We were able to stack them in a cooler and transport them without any problem. When we were finished, we stacked the empty bottles back up and I hauled them home to my dishwasher. There was just one hitch to the whole thing. My camera was in a duffel bag with my daughter forty-five minutes away in the mountains. So, you are going to have to use your imagination as we go through the process. I was able to snap a few instagram pictures with my son's phone before I left home. And I got a few more with my own camera once I arrived in camp.
First, you will want to bake a cake. Or two or four. Depending on the crowd. I needed to make fifty servings, so I made four cakes. Make your own favorite recipe from scratch, or use your favorite boxed mix. I won't judge. Truth be told, I used a mix. Instead of baking them in rounds you will want to spread the batter thin and bake it in a jelly roll pan or a cookie sheet with substantial sides. It only takes about fifteen minutes to bake. Let the cake cool completely.
Second, you need to cut the cake into appropriately sized rounds. I used a small tomato paste can to cut out my cakes. Empty the contents of the can (save it for pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce) and wash the can thoroughly. Then use the can as a cookie cutter of sorts. It makes a cake round that fits perfectly into the mason jars. I placed the rounds back onto a clean cookie sheet lined with parchment and wrapped the whole thing tightly in plastic wrap. I made the cakes over the course of a few days, and froze my cake rounds in the freezer until I was ready to assemble. I decided to give the girls some options and made two different cake flavors...chocolate and french vanilla.
(For heaven's sake, don't discard the scraps after you cut out your cake rounds. I tossed them into a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer. I have been using them for weeks now, for all kinds of lovely desserts and trifles.)
Third, you will want to make a filling to go in between the cake layers. This was the trickiest step for me. I tried butter cream frosting and it was just too sweet. Next I tried a homemade cream filling of twinkie fame. Too blah. Finally I tried a marshmallow based filling (see the recipe below) and much to my surprise it was my favorite. The marshmallow is not overpowering at all. In fact, most people won't even know it's there unless you tell them. I liked it best paired with the chocolate cake. So, what to do about the vanilla cake? I decided to make a pudding based filling. Whip up a batch of vanilla pudding and gently fold in a half of a tub (the smaller size) of Cool Whip. Easy peasy. And delicious.
To take your little cakes over the top, you will want to make a batch of chocolate ganache. Just dump a cup of chocolate chips (I used a mixture of semi-sweet and milk chocolate) into a bowl. Measure and warm 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream. You want it to be very warm but not boiling. Pour it over your chocolate chips and stir until it comes together. It will be beautiful and smooth. If you need to thin it a bit add 1-2 tablespoons of corn syrup.
Fourth, assemble your cakes! Let's do the chocolate version first. Drop a chocolate cake round into the bottom of your jar. (Make sure that your jars are washed and completely dry!). Drop a tablespoon of ganache onto the cake round. Top with a mound of marshmallow filling. I scooped my filling into a disposable cake decorating bag and snipped off the end about an inch from the tip. Then I just squeezed a dollop onto the cake. Next you will want to drop in another cake round and push it down gently. Finally, add another cute dollop of filling to the top and sprinkle it with...sprinkles!
I needed to be able to put the lids on my jars for transport. But if you don't mind the last layer peeking out of the top, you could add a third cake round.
Fifth, decorate your jars. Not necessary, but definitely fun. I added a simple paper topper to the lid and tied it with some variegated pink yarn that I had in my stash. I thought it added the perfect touch. Don't forget to pack some plastic spoons or forks!
The girls loved the birthday cake! The chocolate version tastes a lot like the Hostess Suzie Q's. Remember those? (I am probably showing my age.) The vanilla version is similar in taste to a Boston cream pie. It was hard to decide which one I liked the best. Give them a try and tell me what you think!
(King Arthur Flour The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook)
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup butter
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup marshmallow cream
Beat together the shortening, buttter, salt, vanilla, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the corn syrup a bit at a time until well blended. Beat in the marshmallow cream until just blended.