cake jarIf you have kids, you have birthday parties…

And even if your family is totally dedicated to eating in a smarter and skinnier way, what’s a birthday party without cake!?!

So here’s a little concoction that has much less fat and sugar than ordinary birthday cake and is far more special and fun because each guest makes their own!

I have to admit, when my children were small (and I wasn’t), I loved making their birthday cakes from scratch. Thomas the Tank Engine Cake? Did it.

Beach Blanket Bingo Cake? Yep, did that one, too…


A Cake made of Cupcakes?

A Cake resplendent with Butter-cream Roses?

I did ’em all…

But once my kids discovered ice cream cake, there was no turning back and I had Baskin-Robbins on speed dial every birthday after.

ice cream sailboat cakeSo when we started eating healthier, and I realized a 4 ounce slice of my kids’ favorite cake had up to 420 calories and 16 grams of fat, I had a true  dilemma: How could I give my kids the butter-cream frosted and ice cream stuffed birthday cake they wanted…but without the butter-cream frosting and ice cream…? Hmmmm…

Then, thanks to my favorite recipe site, Foodily, I found a really clever technique for making “Birthday Cake in a Jar…”

But instead of using the ingredients in that recipe–boxed cake mix, canned icing and food coloring (which, after reading this Fine Cooking piece by Ellie Krieger, was banished)–this technique allowed me to get creative with ingredients I am more comfortable with…like angel food cake, fresh fruit, frozen yogurt, and healthy (okay,” healthy-ish“) toppings.

birthday cakes in jar sallAnd, since the cake is contained in a jar, I could skip the prepared frosting entirely. (It has a whopping 140 calories and 6 grams of fat in just 2 tablespoons!)

So before before you hit speed dial to order an ordinary ice cream cake for your child’s next birthday party, consider this sweet and extraordinary alternative..It’s not only a festive and healthier dessert, it’s a fun party activity the kids will love…and they do all the work! Now that’s worth celebrating!


FROZEN YOGURT BIRTHDAY CAKE IN A JARThis is not really a recipe,  just a guide…

I’m not calling for specific measurements–types of fruit, toppings, or flavors of yogurt—you’ll adjust according to your child’s favorite fruits and flavors, what’s in season  and how many guests you’re having…but here are a few ingredient ideas and the technique…


Empty mason jar with silver cap isolated on white background1. Mason Jars with lids…Most grocery stores sell them by the dozen for about 10 bucks.

For small children, get the 1/2 pint jars. For bigger kids, like the ones I entertained this week, I used 8-ounce jars–but I really policed the building of the jars to make sure half of what they added was fruit and not toppings!

angel food cake2. Store-bought Angel Food Cake, cut into small pieces.

(Angel Food Cake is made with sugar but, unlike pound cake or boxed cake, it’s not made with butter or oil so is always fat free.)

3. Fruits of your choice: Strawberries, bananas, peaches, mango, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries…whatever your kids like best…

marinated strawberries
marinate blueberriesAnd for more juicy deliciousness, prepare some of the fruit the day before, adding a splash of fresh squeezed orange or lemon juice to help the fruits release their own natural liquids. (There’s no need to add sugar because the juices will be soaked up by the angel food cake which is very sweet on its own!) You can also add a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg or a bit of vanilla bean or vanilla extract to make it more interesting..

(By the way, frozen blueberries almost work better than fresh for marinating…as they thaw, they create their own dark and rich juice that the kids love to spoon into the jars..)

frozen yogurt3. Frozen Yogurt of your choice…

You can buy the grocery-store type and let it thaw a bit before the kids use it or, do as I did here, and get the soft serve kind from your local Frozen Yogurt Shop…

(Flavors will vary from store to store, but there are usually many that are low fat, fat-free or sugar-free to choose from.)


4. Fun but (mostly) healthy toppings…If there’s a Whole Foods Market near you, you can buy as little as a 1/4 cup of all sorts of healthy toppings…

I used nuts, carob chips, flaked coconut, dried fruit, granola, even dark chocolate-covered almonds, and carob-covered peanuts.

tasty toppingsI also used products that were already in my pantry for my kids’ lunches…organic and GMO-free cookies, gummy snacks, and snack bars made by Tasty Brand.  Once only found in Whole Foods, they’re now available in Target stores, Safeway Stores, even Costco.

(Full disclosure: one of the moms who created Tasty, Liane Weintraub, is a friend.. but I wouldn’t recommend her products if they weren’t terrific!)

5.  Sugar Free or Fat Free (or both) Cool Whip  This is optional, but kids like whipped cream so I always provide it.


All you have to do is wash the jars, set at all the ingredients in bowls and platters… and let those kids do the work!!

After they’ve built their custom cakes (which won’t all be beautiful, but will be exactly what they want), you can label the jars with tags or use a Sharpie on the lid and put them in the freezer for no more than 15 minutes…(Don’t hold them there longer or the fruit will freeze again and won’t be fun to eat!)

Stick a candle in one or all and celebrate!

Leave a Comment