816 North Diversions

August 12, 2014

Emily Parnell:Hosting a party? Let them eat cake. And ‘Cake in Jar Bar’ lets them build their own

You provide the ingredients. Guests take just what they want. Everyone goes home happy.

Do you like cake?

I think I’ve already established that I like cake. Some might say I like it too much, but I would argue that the right amount of cake is subjective, and I have not yet reached my cake quota.

Not everyone is such a cake fan, I realize. For those who are not, I recommend reading on as a matter of understanding those of us whose entire existences can be overwhelmed by the mere thought of cake that takes root then grows throughout us and soon we find ourselves dreaming about cake, putting on brown sweaters with polk-a-dots so that we are now dressed like chocolate cake with sprinkles, googling photos of cake that we pin to our special Pinterest “Cake” board, and eventually driving to a cupcakery, crashing the neighbor kid’s birthday party, or baking our own.

It’s like an earworm —an obsessive thought we cannot escape until we finally partake. Although I hesitate to call it a cakeworm — because that brings a tragic image to mind: one of a worm squirming around in my cake, eating it, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to let a worm eat my cake.

I recently hosted a baby shower for one of my fellow cake enthusiasts. She knows I know what we both know: Delicious cake is the cornerstone of any successful get-together. I know her favorite kind of cake, her required type of icing, and her preferred doneness of the cake. Obviously, nothing short of providing her cake nirvana would do.

The problem was, my ideal cake and hers are not the same. Nothing is worse than attending an event where the cake is disappointing in any way. Dry, overly sweet wedding cake, for instance. Or store-bought cake that misses the culinary target. Or the worst, someone who tries to pass off fruit as a cake replacement.

The idea of disappointing myself at a shindig I was hosting was too much to bear. Of course, the honoree is more important than me. But, I reasoned, if the cake ran the risk of disappointing me, others might likewise be heartbroken by the absence of their object of confection — and I refuse to be that kind of hostess.

So I would need to make two cakes. Right? But which two flavors? And frosting? Should they have fillings? How would I decorate them?

At long last, I arrived upon the only acceptable answer. I would settle for no less than offering a wide-enough variety of cake that every person in attendance could have their very favorite cake of all time. At least, that was the goal. And my genius idea made this an attainable goal.

In lieu of a sheet cake proclaiming a sugary message in brightly colored icing, I set up a “Cake in a Jar Bar.” It was entertaining, delicious and very simple to do. Most of all, if anyone was disappointed in their cake, it was their own fault, because they made it themselves!

Cake in a Jar Bar Instructions:

Bake cakes (or try brownies) of two or more desired flavors. Slice the cakes into cubes, and place in the prettiest bowls you own. (Keep flavors separated in their own bowls.)

Assemble a variety of cake toppings and fillings. Suggestions: icing, pudding, a can of whipped cream, fruit pie filling, lemon curd, sprinkles, nuts, cheesecake filling (see below), crushed graham crackers, caramel sauce, chocolate shavings, crushed candy bars — be creative!

Provide mason jars (8 oz. is perfect — small enough that guests won’t feel bad going back for seconds) and instruct guests to build their own Cake in a Jar.

It was great fun, and most of all, everyone got their cake habit satisfied. Success.

Overland Park mom and freelancer Emily Parnell writes weekly.

For the cheesecake filling, beat together:

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

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