Cake in a jar

The first time I ever had cake in a jar was in Tokyo. The people who would become my friends and colleagues were kind enough to stock my apartment refrigerator when I first moved in. They filled it with things they thought a Westerner would like to eat. At the time, I had no idea what half the stuff was, but it was all delicious.

The first little cake in a jar was a revelation. It was so moist and flavorful, I didn’t miss the icing at all. I hunted in the fridge for a second jar and was thrilled to find it.

After I moved back home, I spent many years trying to replicate other delicious dishes I had there — shabu shabu, yakitori, tonkatsu, sushi — at home. (Honestly, the hunt has never ended.) It wasn’t until nearly a decade later, when a friend handed out little cakes in a jar as Christmas gifts, that I remembered those little cakes from my first days in Japan. She shared her recipes, which came from the Cookbook Cupboard in Austin.

Paige helped me make a pile of little cakes last weekend so I could bring them to work to help us get through election night. (She asked whether it was possible to make up your own mixes and skip the boxes. Yes, I had done that in the past and it does improve the recipe. But more on that later.) The original recipe calls for the cakes to be baked in pint jars, but if you want to do a single serving, put them in half-pint jars. The amaretto cakes will cook up a little faster, but the kahlua cakes still take nearly an hour.

Amaretto Cake

1 box of classic white cake mix

1 small box of vanilla pudding

1 cup of canola oil

4 eggs

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup amaretto

Kahlua Cake

1 box of classic yellow cake mix

1 small box of chocolate pudding

1 cup of canola oil

4 eggs

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup kahlua


Directions for both:

Whisk cake and pudding mix in a large bowl, add remaining ingredients and beat well for several minutes. Fill greased jars about 2/3 and bake at 325 F. for about 45 minutes.

Place lids and rims on the hot jars. If storing for more than a day or two, keep refrigerated.


  1. Linda Horne on March 3, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Peggy I love your blog. Thanks for posting the cake recipes.

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