Birthday Cake In A Jar

Active Time:

1 hr

Total Time:

1 hr 50 mins

Servings:

8

There’s so much to love about birthday cake in a jar: It’s creative, it’s thoughtful, it makes a precious handmade gift with a pretty presentation, and it’s downright delicious, too. What could be more Southern than a sweet treat made with love and served up in a mason jar?

This birthday cake in a jar recipe combines the hospitality of homemade with the ease of store-bought: Start with a package of boxed cake mix for simplicity. Then, take it to the next level with a few strategic tweaks. (Spoiler alert: Substituting melted butter for oil and whole milk for water is a major taste upgrade, with no extra effort required.)

The icing on the cake is, well, the icing on the cake: homemade cream cheese icing that beautifully incorporates sweet and tangy flavors. Top with sprinkles for festivity and fun.

Whether you’re leaving this as a gift at a dear one’s doorstep or storing a few in your freezer for grab-and-go birthday gifts when needed, this recipe is a guaranteed hit every time.

Southern Living Birthday Cake in a Jar ready to serve with candles on top
MORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESS

Birthday Cake in a Jar Ingredients

To make the cake, you’ll need:

  • yellow cake mix
  • whole milk
  • unsalted buttere
  • eggs

For the frosting, you’ll need:

  • cream cheese
  • butter or margarine
  • powdered sugar
  • salt
  • vanilla extract

You’ll also need sprinkles (if you like), as well as mason jars with lids for the packaging.

Southern LIving Birthday Cake in a Jar ingredients
MORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESS

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How To Make Birthday Cake in a Jar

This is an easy method and can be swapped with different cakes and frostings. Here’s how they’re made. The full recipe is further below:

  • Step 1. Bake the cake: Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper. Prepare the cake mix according to our recipe for better boxed cake mix, and fold the sprinkles into the batter (if you choose). Spread the batter into the prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 23 minutes, rotating halfway through. (When done, a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean.)
  • Step 2. Cool the cake: Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting it onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Step 3. Make the frosting: While the cake is cooling, prepare the cream cheese frosting and place it in a piping bag. (You may need to do this in batches.)
  • Step 4. Cut cake circles: Place the cooled cake on a cutting board and then use a mason jar to cut 24 circles of cake.
  • Step 5. Build cakes in jars: Place a circle of cake in a mason jar, lightly pressing into the bottom. Pipe frosting on top, and then top with a second cake layer. Add more frosting, and finally top with the last layer each of cake and frosting. Decorate the top with sprinkles, and cover the jar with the lid. Repeat the process for all your jars.

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How Long Does Cake in a Jar Last?

At room temperature, a birthday cake in a jar will last just a day or two. Refrigerate it and it should last up to four days. Or store it in the freezer for several months right in the jar; this way, you’ll have a thoughtful birthday present at the ready whenever you need one.

More Great Cake Recipes

While you’re in the baking mood, make one of these favorite cake recipes:

  • Blackberry Jam Cake
  • Mama’s German Chocolate Cake
  • Classic Southern Pound Cake
  • Lemon and Chocolate Doberge Cake
  • Sea Salt Caramel Cake
  • Red Velvet Layer Cake

Editorial contributions by Alesandra Dubin.

Southern Living Birthday Cake in a Jar ready to serve with a candle
MORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESS

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 recipe Better Boxed Cake Mix (no frosting)
  • 1 cup assorted sprinkles, divided (optional)
  • 2 recipes Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 half-pint regular mouth mason jars with lids

Directions

  1. Preheat oven and prepare the pan:Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 1 rimmed (18×13-inch) baking sheet with cooking spray, then line with parchment paper. Or, alternatively, lightly grease 2 (9×13-inch) rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray, and line with parchment paper.
  2. Bake the cake:Prepare cake mix according to recipe instructions. Fold 2/3 cup sprinkles into batter if using.Southern Living Birthday Cake in a Jar adding the sprinkles to the cake batterMORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESSSpread batter into prepared baking sheets.Southern Living Birthday Cake in a Jar spreading the batter into the panMORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESSBake in preheated oven 20-23 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.Southern Living Birthday Cake in a Jar cake after bakingMORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESS
  3. Prepare Frosting and cut Cake circles:Let cake cool 10 minutes in pan, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare Cream Cheese Frosting and place in a piping bag. If all frosting does not fit in one bag, do this in batches.Southern Living Birthday Cake in a Jar making the cream cheese frostingMORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESSPlace cooled cake on a cutting board. Use a mason jar to cut 24 circles of cake; set aside.Southern Living Birthday Cake in a Jar cutting the circles of cakeMORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESS
  4. Assemble the Jars:Place one circle of cake in a mason jar, lightly pressing cake to very bottom of jar. Pipe frosting about 1/2-inch thick on top of cake layer, then top with a second cake layer.Southern Living Birthday Cake in a Jar assembling the jarsMORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESSPipe another 1/2-inch of frosting on top of second layer, then add one final layer of cake and a final 1/2-inch layer of frosting.Southern Living Birthday Cake in a Jar assembling the jarsMORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESSDecorate with sprinkles, if desired.Southern Living Birthday Cake in a Jar finishing the jars with sprinklesMORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESSPlace lid on mason jar and repeat with remaining cake, frosting, and sprinkles.