Chocolate Cake in a Jar

My mom's birthday was two weeks ago. Because we live so far away from one another, we haven't spent a birthday together in quite some time. However, this year to celebrate, I sent my mom a cake in a jar.

She tells me that she is going to make it next week with my littlest niece, just as something to do while my mom is babysitting her. How lovely. This cake gets to be for both my mom and the littlest of our family.

A few years ago a good friend of mine sent me a lovely sage blackberry jam from this cookbook (Food in Jars) as part of a Secret Santa care package. I slathered it on toast, and it was oh, so good. I admit I may have even eaten it with a spoon. Immediately, I started following Marisa McClellan's blog, and while I wasn't ready to commit to canning, I was living vicariously through those who do. I made a mental note to snap up this cookbook if I ever saw it in the used bookstore. Lucky for me, a month or so back Pegasus books had a copy on the shelf. What joy.

While this recipe, which sits squarely on page 215, isn't true canning, it is the perfect introduction to laying food by without the oodles of hot water and specialized equipment required of canning. And it was fun to put it together. Layering the sugar and the flour with the cocoa powder and the instant coffee makes for a pretty little jar for gift giving. Hand write the recipe steps on a cute note card, and voila, a lovely way to celebrate someone, or maybe even two someones, even from afar.

And it has inspired me to do some actual canning as well (more posts to come soon!). (And canning holds a special place in my heart, as my grandmother was a champion canner--as I posted about here.)

A couple of notes: the recipe says not to use Dutch-process cocoa but recommends black cocoa--which happens to be Dutch-process cocoa*. That's confusing. I used regular Dutch process cocoa for this cake, and it was delightfully fine. However, if you choose to search out true black cocoa powder, King Arthur Flour sells it if your local grocery store does not.

*What's the difference between Dutch-process cocoa and natural cocoa powder? Dutch-process means that the beans have been washed in a potassium solution, neutralizing their acidity. For more information, see David Lebovitz, guru of all things dessert related.

The end result (complete with applesauce and two full cups of water--among other wet ingredients added to these dry ingredients) is a spongy cake, a texture much like those Hostess cupcakes of youth. Such a result is not necessarily a bad thing (I'll admit, though, I wasn't a huge fan of the texture), but it was a surprising thing. Consider yourself forewarned. I also thought the whole thing could have been a little more chocolate-y, but that might be because I didn't use the black cocoa, which is known for its intense chocolate flavor. If you try it with the black cocoa, let me know how it goes.

Happily, I made the cake this past weekend as part of our first barbecue of the year (where we had lamb kebabs and sweet potato salad). As the sun began to go down, it got chilly outside, so we moved inside to the living room. I dished up some cake atop a simple raspberry syrup (recipe below as well), and I sprinkled chocolate shavings over the top. We sat around the table and chatted books and movies and trips to Spain and Ireland (my in-law's future and my past, respectively).

While I didn't get to eat the cake with my mom, I did get to eat it with family. And she'll get to eat it with the littlest of nieces.

What a lovely way to celebrate her birthday.  While celebrating with her would have been better, this is the next best thing.


Chocolate Cake in a Jar

Adapted from Food in Jars

Makes 1 1-quart jar, 1 9x13-inch cake

1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
2 cups (255 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (70 g) cocoa powder 
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 heaping Tbsp instant coffee

Starting with the sugar, layer the ingredients into a clean 1-quart (1-liter) jar. Gently tap the bottom of the jar on the counter or a table before you add the next layer, to ensure that everything will fit. No matter what, it will be a snug fit. Apply the lid and store in a cool place until ready to use or to give.

Attach the following instructions to the jar:

To use this mix:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13-inch cake pan.* In a large bowl, beat together 2 large eggs, 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce, 2 cups hot water, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Add Chocolate-Cake-in-a-Jar mix and stir until combined. 

2.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan (batter will be runny). Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. 

3.  When the cake is cool, top with your frosting or sauce of choice. Peanut butter or raspberry flavors go particularly well with this cake.

*I used two 9-inch round cake pans. They worked fine.

Raspberry Sauce

2 cups

12 ounces frozen strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp Framboise liqueur

1.  Place the raspberries and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. 

2.  Smash the cooked raspberries with the back of a wooden spoon until they are broken up. Add the lemon and Framboise.  Chill.


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