Recipe review: Chocolate cupcakes in a jar


A couple weeks ago, I happily volunteered to help fill the sweets table at the bridal shower of a family friend. When I asked the bride-to-be about her favorite cakes or pies, she said “Banana creme pie. Or anything chocolate!”

I really worked on the banana creme idea for a while, but because of a busy schedule that weekend, I needed to make the desserts a day in advance, and depend on someone else to deliver them. I was afraid the bananas would be brown and nasty in that time, so I went for something chocolate.

I decided to try this recipe for Super Easy, Super Moist Chocolate Cake from SimplyRecipes. It’s an old recipe, and because it’s made without eggs, butter or milk, it has been popular in times and places where dairy is hard to get. For that reason, it’s sometimes called “War Cake” or “Depression Cake.” It would also be a great cake for someone who’s allergic to eggs or milk.

It uses vinegar to help give it the rise (along with with baking soda), but don’t let that scare you! You won’t taste it at all. 

Since I was making this for a shower and wanted something that would look cute on the table, I decided to bake them in 4 oz. Mason jars. Another advantage of cake in jars over cupcakes, is that little kids can eat them with a spoon, making much less mess than unpeeling a cupcake liner and stuffing into little mouths with little hands!

I followed all the directions on the SimplyRecipes version. (Except subbing cider vinegar for white vinegar. Not a significant different in taste or acidity between the two.)

Then I filled up some jars, sitting on a cookie sheet. This is the first batch that I made, using a scant 1/3 c. batter for each jar:

Those came out pretty tall, so for the second batch, I used a scant 1/4 c. of batter. Here’s the difference between how the two batches came out:

So if you want tall cakes that pop out the top of the jar, go with the larger amount. If you want them shorter, use the smaller amount — perhaps even less, if you want to frost them and then put the lids on for transport.
Elise at SimplyRecipes says to cook them for 18 to 20 minutes. I tested them using the toothpick test. (Insert a clean, dry toothpick in the center and pull it back out. If it’s clean or just has one or two dry crumbs, the cake is done. If there’s batter on the toothpick, put it back in for a few minutes.) I checked them first at 15 minutes, and added 5 minutes to the first batch; just 3 or 4 for the second. 
Elise also said the cake is so moist it doesn’t really need frosting. She includes a recipe for a chocolate icing, but I decided to just melt some white chocolate chips and pipe decorations on top. I melted Ghirardelli white chips over simmering water in a double boiler, taking it off the heat when it was mostly melted but still with a few lumps. Then I stirred till the lumps were gone, and stirred a few minutes more, till I thought it was cool enough to not melt a baggie. Poured the chocolate into a sandwich baggie, snipped off just a tiny corner, and went to town: I piped a heart on most of them, and “L” and “M” on a few random ones, for the bride’s and groom’s initials.
I tasted them after they were cooled: I thought they were okay, but I wouldn’t call them super moist. (Maybe hers came out better than mine. Quite possible!) I was thinking/hoping that after sitting closed up for a day, they might get moister. After tasting them the next day, however, I wish I would’ve done some icing or frosting before applying the initials. But they were cute, anyway!
If you’re looking to do something similar for a baby shower, here’s a simple decoration from Martha Stewart:
The “pacifier” on top is just two mint Lifesavers candies and one jellybean, held together with a bit of royal icing. I think these would be cute with pink and/or blue jellies for the passy, on top of chocolate icing!

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