Mini Desserts for Every Taste

Carrot Cake in a Jar.

Recipes / By Margaret M. Johnson

You like cheesecake. Your mother likes carrot cake. Your son likes brownies. If you’re facing an Easter dessert dilemma — or looking for a fresh idea for your next special occasion meal — dessert in a jar is your solution. In addition to making an impressive presentation, these mini treats offer something to please every taste. If you have Mason jars that you use for canning or preserving, use them for layering your ingredients. The 4-ounce jars are ideal for sampling one or more of these Easter treats, and they’re especially charming for a spring tea. You’ll find similar mini desserts in my Teatime in Ireland cookbook. To order signed copies, visit

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.



I like to make this dessert in 4-ounce rather than 8-ounce jars because it’s quite rich; however, if you love chocolate, caramel, toffee and whipped cream, feel free to eat two or use larger jars! You can prepare your favorite brownie recipe or use a package mix (I used Betty Crocker Supreme Triple Chunk mix that contains both chocolate chunks and chocolate chips). You will only need about half of the brownies to make 12 mini desserts.

1 package brownie mix

1 pint heavy (whipping) cream

For the caramel sauce

2 ounces butter

1 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

English toffee baking bits, such as Heath Bits O’ Brittle

Shaved dark chocolate, for garnish

  1. Make brownies. Prepare brownies according to package directions for an 8-x 8-inch baking pan. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

  2. In a medium bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks form; refrigerate until ready to assembly.

  3. Make caramel sauce. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar until smooth. Slowly stir in cream and salt; cook, without stirring, for 7 to 10 minutes, or until sauce is thick and smooth. (Store reserved sauce in a jar; cover and refrigerate).

  4. To assemble, cut half brownies into 1/2-inch cubes. Place 2 to 3 cubes in bottom of each jar. Spoon about 1 tablespoon caramel sauce on top of brownies; spoon about 1 tablespoon whipped cream on top of caramel sauce; sprinkle with toffee bits. Repeat layering, ending with toffee bits. Garnish with shaved chocolate. Refrigerate until serving time.



Like the brownies in a jar, I prefer to make this in 4-ounce jars. You will only need about half of the cake to make 12 mini desserts.

For the cake

2 large eggs

3/4 cup canola oil

1 cup light brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups grated carrots

1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the icing

3 ounces butter, at room temperature

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Chopped pecans, for garnish

Crumbled cake crumbs, for garnish

  1. Make cake. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-x 8-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray with flour.

  2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until blended. In a large bowl, whisk together baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour. Beat into eggs mixture until combined. Fold in carrots and pecans.

  3. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven; let cool completely on a wire rack.

  4. Make icing. In a medium bowl. Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or until blended. Slowly beat in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla bean paste until smooth.

  5. To assemble, cut half the cake into 1/2-inch cubes. Place 2 to 3 cubes in bottom of each jar. Spoon or pipe about 1 tablespoon icing on top of cake. Repeat layering, ending with icing. Garnish with chopped pecans and cake crumbs. Refrigerate until serving time.



Make this fruity cheesecake in 8-ounce jars; use more fruit if you wish.

For the crumb crust

1 cup graham cracker or digestive biscuit crumbs

2 tablespoons butter, melted

For the cheesecake batter

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3 tablespoons sugar

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

12 ounces fresh raspberries or blueberries

  1. Make crumb crust. In a small bowl, combine crumbs and butter.

  2. Make cheesecake. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Reduce speed to low; gradually add cream. Beat for about 2 minutes, until mixture is thick and smooth.

  3. To assemble, spoon and press crumbs mixture into bottom of jars. Spoon in cheesecake batter, alternating with berries. Repeat layering, ending with berries. Refrigerate until serving time.


Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page expands this year to “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order her cookbooks, visit