How to Mail Cookies to Deployed Soldiers

If you haven’t read it yet, please check out (and share!) my blog How to Bake Mason Jar Cakes for Soldiers. I wrote that how-to tutorial while my husband was deployed to Afghanistan last year. Well, now my little brother is deploying to Afghanistan, and since the Fifty-Two Cakes project is over, I’ve switched to Fifty-Two Cookies. Gotta take care of our soldiers, am I right? So here’s my guide on how to properly package and mail cookies to soldiers deployed overseas in your care packages!

A few military care package restrictions to keep in mind: No pork products, alcohol or exceptionally aromatic spices. All care packages must be mailed to a specific soldier, as generic packages will not be delivered.

Step 1: Bake Care Package Cookies That Stay Fresh During Transit

It can sometimes take up to a few weeks for packages to get to the more remote bases. That said, there are several ways to keep your military care package cookies fresh:

  • Butter, margarine and nut oils have been known to go bad during the shipping process, so some sources say to use vegetable shortening instead.
  • Brown sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup and other sticky sweet substances have been known to get moldy during transit, so consider using white sugar instead.
  • Do not send cookies with custards, icings or special toppings – just like when I advise not to frost cakes if you’re sending jar cakes – frostings spoil easily. If you’d like to send icing or sprinkles, send a store-bought, unopened package right off the shelf instead.
  • If it’s a cookie that normally needs refrigeration, don’t send it to your soldier. There’s no refrigeration in transit for 7,000+ miles, k?  Keep in mind the time of year that your package will ship. Melty cookies probably won’t do so great during those 100- to 120-degree summer days, but might be fine during brutal Afghanistan winters.
  • Dry, thick, crunchy cookies (think biscotti and gingerbread) ship really well, but don’t let that discourage you from other good chewy stuff (chocolate chip, oatmeal). The latter ship fine, too, with proper care taken during the packing process. If you’re sending chewy cookies and crisp cookies, pack them separately to avoid moisture transfer.
  • This is probably a given, but … airtight, people! Make sure you’re packing in airtight containers.

Step 2: How to Pack Cookies in Care Packages

No doubt your soldier will be thrilled to receive your care package regardless of whether your cookies are in pieces are not. It all goes to the same place, right? But we know you expect better and you want those cookies to arrive whole! Here are some packing tips:

  • Wrap cookies in resealable plastic bags like ZipLoc Gallon Bags.
  • Wrap the sealed plastic bags in bubble wrap and even a bonus layer of newspaper.
  • Some people prefer to layer their cookies: bubble wrap on bottom, line container with parchment paper, add cookies in layers with parchment paper between each layer, top with bubble wrap again.
  • Pack them snugly in the package, but don’t overcrowd them. Too tight or too loose and you end up with crumbs. Cookie tins are great for packing care package cookies properly.
  • Some sources say to include a description of the contents to assure mail reviewers that the package contains no restricted items. Notecards taped to the tin are fine.

Step 3: How to Ship Care Packages with Cookies to Soldiers

I prefer to send my care packages with other goodies, so I send 1-2 per month. I use flat rate shipping boxes and ship priority to the APO. Once nice thing about sending flat rate boxes to APOs is that there’s a $2 discount on flat rate box shipping, so take advantage of that. Write your soldier’s address largely and clearly, and double-check that address before dropping it off at the post office. Shipping time has been as short as 1 week and as long as 2-3 weeks to my husband in a remote province of Afghanistan, but I’m hoping it’ll be quick and easy for my brother who will be in a more populous area/larger city. You will be asked to fill out a customs form.

Regardless of what type of cookies you bake and your preferred method of packing and shipping them overseas, always tell your soldier to be careful, check them out first and proceed with caution – just in case. It’s unlikely that anything bad will happen if you follow these instructions on how to mail cookies to soldiers deployed overseas, but better safe than sorry, and the last thing you want is a soldier with a sick tummy.

We military family members have to stick together! Did you mail cookies to your soldier? Tell us in the comments which cookie recipes you used and share your experience or tips! 

How to Bake a Mason Jar Cake for Soldiers

My husband is a soldier deployed for the fourth time, this time to Afghanistan. He always appreciates the care packages his family and I send full of books, magazines, healthy snacks – and sometimes cake. Since I bake a cake a week, it would be a real shame not to share the goodies with the soldiers! Baking a jar cake is really simple, and a great way to send a special treat from home, made with love. They keep really well because the heat seals the jar so tightly and it lasts the week or two it takes for the care package to arrive where your loved one is deployed. Here is a handy guide on how to bake jar cakes to send to soldiers overseas.

Step 1: Sanitize the Mason Jar

Take the two pieces of the lid and the jar apart. Put the glass jar in a pot of hot water and bring it to boil over medium high heat on the stove. Boil the jar to sanitize it, then remove it carefully from the hot water with tongs to cool.

Step 2: Grease the Jar

Once the jar is completely cooled, spray the inside liberally with a non-stick spray like Pam or waxed paper with butter. This way the cake doesn’t stick to the edges of the jar too much and it’s easy for your soldier to eat your delicious cake!

Step 3: Fill the Jar with Cake Batter

After you’ve made your cake batter (use any of the cake recipes on this site for your cake batter – they won’t be disappointed!), fill the sanitized mason jar about halfway with cake batter. Don’t forget the cake will rise as it bakes, so remember to only fill the jar half full.

Step 4: Bake the Cake in the Jar

Bake your cake inside the jar according to the normal recipe instructions – including temperature. However, it is wise to start checking on the cake about 10 minutes before the normal done time. Sometimes the jar cakes bake a little faster than a full-size cake would. The best way to tell if it is done is to insert a toothpick or skewer tester in the center and make sure it comes out clean. Also, the top of the cake should spring back when lightly pressed.

Step 5: Sanitize the Jar Lids

Shortly before your cake finishes baking, boil the two parts of the mason jar lid just like you did the jar itself.

Step 6: Sealing the Jar

Make sure to use gloves so you don’t burn your hands on the jar! Pull your jar cake out of the oven. Run a clean, damp cloth around the rim of the jar to get rid of any crumbs or baked on cake. Screw the lid tightly onto the jar while it’s still hot.

Do not frost or decorate the cake. Pick a good, flavorful cake recipe and they won’t miss it, I promise. Some people send a store-bought container of frosting on the side. I have also baked pumpkin bread and other breads in jars, and it turned out fantastic. Let your jar cake cool and then ship it out as soon as possible! The sooner the jar cake gets there, the better. Your soldier can run a knife right around the edge of the cake and plop it out of the jar – or if you’re lazy like me, you can just eat the cake right of the jar.

Edit: One reader below said it might not be safe to bake breads and cakes in jars because the temperature doesn’t get high enough to guarantee baking off all potential bacteria. She linked to a white paper on the safety procedures that you should read. Mail takes about 1.5 to 2 weeks to get to my husband in Afghanistan and the cakes have been fine, but there is some risk involved. If you do decide to go ahead and bake jar cakes, be sure to sanitize those jars and seal those lids tight, and advise your soldier to check them carefully before consuming!

Like this tutorial on how to bake mason jar cakes for deployed soldiers overseas? Check out (and share!) my tutorial on How to Bake, Pack & Ship Cookies to Deployed Soldiers Overseas in Care Packages.

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