Tag Archives: strawberry Jell-O

Virgin Recipe: Kicky Cooler, Snack Cups

In the spirit of the Halloween season, today’s Jell-O recipes are “Especially for Junior Cooks”.

Kicky Cooler

two dessert dishes with strawberry Jell-O & scoop of chocolate ice cream on top

Kicky Cooler

Don’t ask me about the name on this one. Since this is “for Junior Cooks” you know there’s no alcohol in it. It’s pretty simple, so it’s not like anyone would get a kick out of making it. You just prepare a single batch (three ounce package) of strawberry Jell-O per the instructions on the box, divvy it up between four dessert glasses (make them kind of small, this is only a half-cup of Jell-O per glass), chill it in the fridge until it’s firm, and serve it with a scoop of ice cream on top.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, Jell-O á la mode is kind of weird. The combination of textures makes for a peculiar mouth-feel. On the other hand, the recipe doesn’t specify an ice cream flavor, so you don’t need to go with boring old vanilla if you don’t want to. Since the Friendly’s ice cream was still on sale at this supermarket this weekend, we picked up a carton of Forbidden Chocolate (formerly Double Chocolate). Flavor-wise, at least, this went well with the strawberry ice cream. We used up the whipped cream, so we ate this one without and it was fine, but a little spritz would not have gone amiss.

I can imagine a kid liking this. Okay, so it’s Jell-O, but at least you get to have some ice cream with it…

Snack Cups

Snack Cups is more a premise than a recipe. You make a batch of Jell-O, any flavor, chill it until firm in paper cups, and add toppings to it before eating. There are topping suggestions:

…prepared whipped topping, sundae sauce, flaked coconut, chopped nuts, chopped or sliced fruit, marshmallow sauce, miniature marshmallows, colored sprinkles…

Actually, this sounds like something you might make for a kid who’s severely lacto-allergic and can’t have a proper ice cream sundae.

package of Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers Minis

Somewhat unconventional choice of worms

There’s enough latitude in this recipe that I decided, in honor of Halloween, to make this one as Dirt Cups, with cookie crumbs and gummy worms as the toppings. I didn’t use the official Kraft recipe, which includes Cool Whip and specifies Oreo cookies for the crumbs. Instead, for the Jell-O I used Devil’s Food flavored Jell-O instant pudding, and for the topping I used crumbs made from Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (a less sweet, deeper cocoa flavor than Oreos), and Trolli mini sour gummy worms (mainly because I couldn’t find the traditional life-size gummy worms, and also because I thought the minis would fit better in the snack cups.)

Rather than paper cups, I decided to go with clear plastic because part of the fun of a snack called Dirt Cups is getting to see how much it looks like a cup of dirt. Another part of the fun was hiding some of the worms between the pudding layer and the cookie crumb layer. Bryan assumed that the worms he could see at the top of the cup were the only ones, and he was amusingly surprised to find more of them burrowing down there in the dirt.

cup of chocolate pudding, chocolate crumbs, and gummy worms

Snack Cup, a/k/a Dirt Cup

The Dirt Cups were fun to make, fun to eat, and tasty, although the gummy worms did make for an odd overall texture. On the other hand, it’s Halloween, so what better time to be eating worms in dirt? It was nice to have a Halloween win after last year’s abject failure.

Unfortunately, I find I can’t help but think of my Dirt Cup experience in contrast with a video I saw of our president in the Oval Office hosting children of the press corps for a Halloween event. The children were in costume, and the president was going to give them candy, but first he needed to speak with them. Did he compliment their costumes, or ask them what their favorite candy was, or ask if they went trick-or-treating? Nope. He told them that it was amazing that the press produced such beautiful children (i.e., talked smack about their parents), and asked them how the press treated them. (I wish there had been at least one fearless wise-ass kid to pipe up, “My mom sent me to bed without dinner once…”) Setting aside the way he has of always making everything about him, you have to wonder if he remembers being a kid (we know he was one once because there are photos), or if he outright killed his inner child at some point. Halloween is a great time for adults to let themselves be more kid-like. The president had this perfect opportunity to have a little fun, and he just couldn’t do it. That’s genuinely sad.

Your Humble Narrator, with t-shirt, purple tutu skirt, black Chucks, black wings, heavy eye makesup, and a sneer

Punk Fairy

With everything that’s been going on this year, I have to admit that I haven’t been feeling Halloween as much as usual. I didn’t bring candy to the office (for which my waistline thanks me), and for the annual party I ended up putting together a costume out of bits of previous costumes. With some heavy eye makeup, a lot of hairspray, and a Billy Idol sneer, I created my Punk Fairy. I feel like it captures the zeitgeist pretty well this year. It wasn’t my first choice, though. Inspired by the appearance at Target of adult-size onesie pajamas (I don’t know why, and I don’t want to know) I had thought I might work up a “Toddler Trump” costume, but then I couldn’t find a plain, non-cartoon-franchise onesie, and when I tried to do the classic Trump pout, I discovered that I couldn’t do it. It kept ending up looking like duckface, and even I had to admit that I’m too pretty to impersonate Trump.

Oh well. There are two more Dirt Cups in the fridge, a bag of Halloween candy in the cabinet (in case we get trick-or-treaters at Freak Mountain), and Killer Clowns from Outer Space on the DVR, and my old ass is having a fun holiday, because what’s the point of life without fun?

Virgin Recipe: Jiffy Cooler

Well, it’s been another one of those weeks. It seems like most weeks are “one of those weeks” lately, so it was nice to get back to another “Especially for Junior Cooks” recipe.

But before I get into that, I’d like to direct the reader to Jellied Salade Niçoise, where just a couple of days ago I received a very nice comment from songwriter George Potor, who had written a song about Jellied Salade Niçoise and then happened upon my blog post. He included a link to his song, which seems to capture the essence of the dish. It made my weekend, really. He also mentioned a song about SpaghettiOs Cupcakes, which I found in this Bon Appetit post. Who knew weird processed food recipes could be such a deep mine for creativity? It occurred to me briefly that The New Joys of Jell-O could be made into an album, but that would be a multi-disk set that no one would listen to. Probably best not to go there.

plate of Oreos and dish of Jiffy Cooler with whipped cream

Jiffy Cooler, with serving suggestion

Jiffy Cooler would surely be a very short song. It’s just a softer Jell-O (“red flavor”, prepared with a full cup of cold water) made into a bavarian with a pint of vanilla ice cream. When we went to the supermarket, the Friendly’s ice cream was on sale, so we bought a carton of vanilla, and also a carton of peppermint stick, which is my favorite and, unfortunately, only available for “the holiday season”. I gather that’s started already. (I don’t want to get too far off topic, but it’s only mid-October and I’m already seeing Christmas-themed ads on television – way too soon, people! It feels like Mallomar season has barely started.)

I chose strawberry for the red flavor, but raspberry would have been fine. One might even consider branching out from the red flavors and try this with peach, or Berry Blue, both of which go well with cream. (It’s just hitting me now that Jiffy Cooler made with Berry Blue would make a nice visual match for my Blue Heaven dish ware.) The “Jiffy” part is not random, or a misnomer. This is actually a pretty quick recipe to make, since you just make the Jell-O, melt the ice cream into it, and chill it for an hour or so. Mine was in the fridge for more like two-and-a-half hours while I was at the gym, and it still turned out to be a fairly soft jelly dish.

I was even looking forward to tasting it when I got back from my workout, not least because I decided to serve it with whipped cream and Oreo cookies on the side. (Shh! Don’t tell my trainer!)  I definitely recommend that. Bryan and I both wound up dipping our cookies in the Jell-O and cream, and it all went very well together.

Maybe it’s the endorphins talking, but for once I feel like I’m ending the week on a high note. The Jell-O was good, we have Oreos to eat, I got to hear one of the recipes made into a song, and now that this one is done, I have thirteen recipes left in the Project. Thirteen! The end is in sight…

Virgin Recipes: Cool Cubes, Banana-Marshmallow Special

Today we’re back to the kids’ stuff, and doubling up to get that much closer to finishing by the end of the year.

Cool Cubes

parfait glasses with grape Jell-O layered with green grapes, topped with whipped cream

Cool Cubes

Cool Cubes is an Orange Boycott recipe that originally called for orange Jell-O and mandarin orange sections. Luckily, this is a pretty simple recipe that’s easy to make with other flavors and fruit. All it is, really, is Cubed Gelatin layered in a tall glass with fruit, so I went with grape Jell-O and, for contrast, green grapes. In my not so humble opinion, this was probably nicer looking and tastier than the original recipe, which would have been quite boring.

Somehow, there was whipped cream left over from last week’s Fruit Flavor Flakes, so I used it to top our Cool Cubes. To be honest, though, grape Jell-O doesn’t go as well with cream as the berry or peach flavors. It wasn’t bad, just… I mean, you wouldn’t make an ice cream float with grape soda, would you?

I asked Bryan if he liked cubed or flaked gelatin better. He was noncommittal.

Banana-Marshmallow Special

small plastic cups of Banana-Marshmallow Special

Banana-Marshmallow Special

Banana-Marshmallow Special was the more kidlike of these two, probably because of the inclusion of miniature marshmallows.

It wasn’t as simple to make as Cool Cubes, which is why, I imagine, I managed to screw it up a little bit. The recipe says to make a single batch of strawberry Jell-O and chill until almost set, to prevent the marshmallows from floating to the top. Well, I was using the trusty cold-water bath method to chill the Jell-O, but I didn’t have quite enough ice, and I was getting a little impatient, so I added the banana slices and marshmallows when the Jell-O was thick, but not quite almost set. I added extra marshmallows and banana slices, so there wasn’t so much a problem with solid ingredients floating to the surface, but the powdered sugar coating on the marshmallows came off in the viscous Jell-O and formed a sort of colloidal suspension in the gelatin, which is why the Jell-O part looks a bit cloudy. I wonder if a kid would do better, but I rather doubt it.

The Jell-O with marshmallows and bananas in it gets put in glasses, dishes or paper cups to set. There’s another Junior Cooks recipe coming up that says to put the Jell-O in paper cups, and that got me to thinking that maybe I could use Dixie riddle cups for these recipes. That just goes to show how far away from any kid-centered orbit I am, because it turns out that Dixie riddle cups went away a long time ago, and failed to stick around past a short-lived revival twenty years ago. The designs on modern paper cups just don’t appeal to me, so instead I got some reusable plastic cup containers, which will make it easier for me to bring the leftovers to work for lunch.

I added some mini-marshmallow to the top of the Jell-O in the cups – I don’t know why, because it’s not like this wasn’t sweet enough already. It’s what kid-me would have done, for sure.

We ate Cool Cubes and Banana-Marshmallow Special in one sitting. Unsurprisingly, Bryan preferred the Banana-Marshmallow Special, mainly because of the marshmallows. I think I preferred the Cool Cubes, though, and this was more because of the bananas. I don’t love bananas in Jell-O. It’s mainly a texture thing. Although I like bananas, there’s something a little creepy about them. They make me think about bugs, especially the more ripe they are. The bananas I used in this recipe were ones I had bought at the supermarket the same morning I made the Jell-O, so it’s not like they were very ripe, but they were a weird texture in a dish that was, let’s be honest, all weird textures, very firm Jell-O and marshmallows that had softened a bit from contact with the thick-but-not-set gelatin.

Still, there was something about Banana-Marshmallow Special that really said “1970s” to me. I think kid-me would have really liked it. 50-year-old me wasn’t so keen on the way the sugar had coated my mouth when I was done eating it. I’m starting to understand why people might be keen to recapture their lost youth.

Virgin Recipe: Strawberry Supreme

photo from book

Strawberry Supreme, circa 1974

Strawberry Supreme isn’t a particularly seasonal recipe. I probably scheduled it for this time of year because it’s just barely past fresh strawberry season here in New England – which doesn’t really matter, because Strawberry Supreme calls for frozen strawberries. Jell-O has no season.

This is one of those two-parters, with half of the gelatin in straight jelly form with fruit suspended in it, and the other half (the top half) a bavarian with vanilla ice cream. The recipe says to prepare two packages of strawberry Jell-O and then separate the liquid gelatin into two parts to make the two different components of the dish. I’ve been in this game long enough now to know that this can be tricky, timing-wise, and I decided to prepare each component separately, one Jell-O package at a time. It probably takes a little longer, but at least this way I didn’t suffer from premature gelling.

The first part, the jelly part, was prepared the usual way, dissolving a package of Jell-O in a cup of boiling water, adding a cup of cold water, adding ten ounces of frozen strawberries (the only kind that comes in ten-ounce packages at the Super Stop’n’Shop is some fancy-dancy organic brand, but the berries were actually decent) and then chilling until thickened over an ice-water bath. The gelatin was doled out into dessert glasses (the recipe specifies “sherbet glasses”, which I don’t have and am not sure what they are) and stowed in the fridge during the preparation of…

The bavarian part was a package of strawberry Jell-O dissolved in a cup of boiling water, with a half-cup of cold water added. The recipe says to then chill until slightly thickened and then add a cup of softened ice cream. I guess I didn’t read it carefully enough, because I just saw the part about adding ice cream, thought that it was stupid to add ice cream to already-chilled gelatin, and just added what I was estimating was a half-pint from a pint of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla bean with a small scoop to melt into the hot gelatin liquid. (After I finished making the dish, I ate the rest of the ice cream, straight out of the container like in my college days, and it seemed as though there was more than half the pint left in there…) The bavarian part also included one and a half tablespoons each of rum and brandy, and two tablespoons of Cointreau. Once the ice cream was pretty well melted down, I chilled this over the ice-water bath, beating it with a whisk in a desperate, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to achieve the “bubbly” consistency described in the recipe. Maybe I should have recruited the MixMaster Junior to help out, but I think if the bavarian part had achieved a greater volume, it wouldn’t have fit into the glasses with the jelly part.

three glasses of different sizes with layered strawberry gelatin

Strawberry Supreme á la Freak Mountain

Incidentally, while we already had brandy and Cointreau, there was no rum in our oddball assortment of liqueurs and liquor, so we had to make a special visit to our friendly neighborhood hipster liquor store. (Due to popular demand, they now stock “pong balls” and red Solo cups.) I now have nearly a quart of rum. And a lot of mint growing wild in the yard. Anyone got a good mojito recipe?

In the end, Strawberry Supreme was not very different from the other strawberry bavarians I’ve made so far in the Project. Bryan described it as “relatively inoffensive”, and after taking the time and expense to get the rum, the booze was barely detectable – a hint of citrus flavor, a slight burn on the tongue. The absolute best thing about Strawberry Supreme, honestly, was that during this long weekend of “beach weather” it felt good to hold and eat something cold.

Part of the reason I’m posting on Monday instead of Sunday is that I was thinking I’d say something about the 4th of July, since I’ve been having Thoughts. On the other hand, I’m pretty burnt out on politics, and reluctant to lecture anybody. If you’ve been following NJoJ for a while, you know how I feel about the current regime. I’ll just say, if you’re wondering how I feel about my country these days, “It’s complicated”.

I do have a couple of links to share. One concerns that fellow Frederick Douglass, who I hear is being recognized more and more, and I guess that’s why his July 5, 1852 speech in Rochester, New York has gone viral. Seriously, though, while we celebrate our independence tomorrow, I think we should give a thought to all the people who didn’t benefit from it 241 years ago, and the people who are still struggling for a place at the table for a fair share of freedom’s rewards.

The other link is for Stephen Colbert’s #AmericanGreatness hashtag on Twitter. (Even better, if you use Twitter just check out the @StephenAtHome feed, as he seems to be filtering out trolls.) People from all over the country have been posting an amazing and inspiring variety of photos of the things that make the U.S. truly great, from natural beauty to thriving cities to more intimate shots of family moments. Politics is transitory; these are the things that will endure. I’m so grateful to Colbert for doing this. It’s something we really need right now.

Virgin Recipe: Strawberry Bavarian Pie

white Squier strat

New arrival at Freak Mountain

So, I’ve been trying to take advantage of a long holiday weekend that has turned out to be far too short. On Saturday I finally got an electric guitar, a Squier (budget-range Fender) stratocaster, and a cool little practice amplifier that has a USB port (for digital recording, hopefully) and a bunch of built-in effects to keep me happily distorted until I’m ready to start shopping for pedals. I have a strap and some lesson books on order, so I’m on my way, though I tend to think that probably I’ll end up being to the guitar what Inspector Clouseau was to the violin. But we’ll see.

Meanwhile, our cat Ida has been slowly recovering from what appears to have been some sort of mental breakdown a few weeks ago, during which she decided that she hated our other cat, Sam (her offspring), and took up residence on top of the kitchen cabinets. Feeding her up there was fine, but she perceived coming down to use the litter box as a journey fraught with peril, and this was not a situation that we could allow to continue. On Friday evening we got her down and set up in the bedroom, where she seems to be gradually getting back to normal, but we still don’t know what happened. Even the vet seems mystified so far.

Just to add to the fun (and freak out the cats some more), a little while ago we had a plumber here trying to deal with our weird European tankless furnace/water-heater “combi” unit because the hot water suddenly cut out yesterday. The plumbing issues always seem to crop up on long holiday weekends, so that they’ll be as expensive as possible. $300 so far, and we still have no hot water.

So I’ve been a bit less focused on the Jell-O this week, but I did make a Strawberry Bavarian Pie for you.

strawberry pie in chocolate crumb crust with ugly-ass Cool Whip dollops

Strawberry Bavarian Pie á la Freak Mountain

To be honest, this wasn’t very interesting, just another Cool Whip bavarian, with frozen strawberries mixed in. The recipe calls for a nine-inch pie shell, but again I decided to go with a chocolate crumb crust because that makes this dessert a little more of a treat. As you can see, I attempted to use leftover Cool Whip to garnish the pie, and I’m way off my dollop game.

photo of pie from book

Strawberry Bavarian Pie circa 1974

It occurs to me that despite everything else I had going on this weekend, I was still able to prepare this dessert, so in a way it was fulfilling the function for which it was intended. On some level, I was emulating the housewives for whom these recipes were created, women who were busy taking care of their families and felt that a nice dessert was part of a good family dinner (anyone else remember back in the day when it was usual and expected that families would eat dinner together?) but didn’t necessarily have time for something fancier. Actually, Strawberry Bavarian Pie would have been kind of a special dessert after supper when I was a kid.

Bryan and I tasted this after the plumber left, and for us it wasn’t so special. I told Bryan about how the recipe calls for an addition of a tablespoon of sugar to the gelatin, which I think might have been meant to balance out tartness in the strawberries. We both thought it was odd, given how sweet Cool Whip is, but then it occurred to us that Cool Whip might not have been quite as sweet back in the day. Looking at the history of high fructose corn syrup, it’s likely that these Jell-O and Cool Whip “no-bake pies” were developed before HFCS was widely adopted as a sweetener in mass-produced food products. (That might help explain why, much as kids my age were junk-food junkies back in the 1970s, few of us were obese.) We mulled over how it might be possible to find out what the ingredients in Cool Whip would have been in 1974, thinking that perhaps it would be possible to find vintage tubs on eBay or something like that. I didn’t find any vintage tubs, but I did fall down a rabbit hole of vintage Cool Whip commercials going back to 1966, when Cool Whip first hit the market, including the “Tucker Inn” series, which any child of the 1970s will remember. This one is especially relevant:

Recipe Reboot: Strawberry Yogurt Whip

two dishes of indeterminate Jell-O variant with dollops of Cool Whip on top

Pink stuff with Cool Whip dollops, circa 2009

I call this a “recipe reboot”, but I still have my notes from when I made this the first time around, for posting on October 5, 2009. In fact, it was the first recipe where I made notes as I prepared and tasted it. I must have decided to reboot it because I don’t have photos – or, rather, I have some photos of something pink that might have been Strawberry Yogurt Whip, with a time-stamp from around the right date, but whatever the pink stuff is, it doesn’t look very “whipped”, so I can’t be sure. Anyway, Strawberry Yogurt Whip is one of those “Nice Easy Things to Do with Jell-O”, so reprising it now is no great hardship.

The recipe lists four ingredients, two of which are water, so this is basically Jell-O, slightly thickened, whipped together with yogurt and chilled until firm. Sounds simple enough, but another reason that I decided to reboot this is because I was not entirely happy with the result using strawberry yogurt as specified in the recipe. Back in 2009, I used Stoneyfield Farms lowfat fruit-on-the-bottom, and regretted using the lowfat version. Also, individual-serving yogurt cups were downsized from eight ounces to six ounces some time ago, so I had to buy two servings, mix them together, and measure out a cup. Boo hoo.

three clear glass teacups with bright pink, frothy Jell-O in them

Strawberry Yogurt Whip, circa 1974

Also, I found myself wondering about yogurt now versus yogurt in 1974. As I recall, in the early 1970s, yogurt was still fairly exotic to the middle-American palate. It was health food, or food for “nut’n’berry freaks”. The only time I ever had yogurt back then was when I was playing at the home of my friend who lived next door. Her mother was kind of a hippie, and a single mom when that sort of thing was much less common than it is today. They had furniture made out of big electrical wire spools (that I envied then, and still do), a lot of artsy-crafty things to do, and for snacks, crunchy-granola things like yogurt. My family were kind of the opposite of hippies; we had Ethan Allen furniture, and no yogurt.

Having googled it just now, I see that there’s a little more to the history of yogurt in the U.S. than my recollections suggest. I was thinking that maybe yogurt that was available to users of The New Joys of Jell-O in 1974 would be more “pure” than a lot of yogurts today that are full of sugar, thickeners, and preservatives. Not so, according to this New Yorker article from 2013 about the recent Greek yogurt trend. Manufacturers were adding thickeners and sweeteners to yogurt during the 1950s and 1960s, even as it was being marketed as a health food. However, it took Dannon’s ad campaign in the 1970s touting yogurt’s longevity-granting health benefits to push it into the mainstream.

So yogurt in 1974 was probably a lot like yogurt that’s available now, apart from the package size. Even so, I decided to use plain Fage full-fat Greek yogurt, which turned out to be a good call. The tartness of the plain yogurt balances perfectly with the sweetness of the Jell-O, giving Strawberry Yogurt Whip an almost-real strawberry flavor. I’m not too worried about the fat in the yogurt; I figure it’s got to be better for me than thickeners and extra sugar, and has a better flavor, too. My guess is that Strawberry Yogurt Whip is more of a “health food” than a lot of yogurts on the market today.

three glasses of whipped Jell-O garnished with strawberry slices

Strawberry Yogurt Whip á la Freak Mountain

This one also has very nice visual appeal (a pleasant pink color, as opposed to the neon pink of the photo from the book) and, to my mind, an interesting texture. I’ve liked the whipped gelatins from the first one I did, although Bryan disagrees with me there. He thinks they’re weird. I think when you’re making over a hundred Jell-O recipes, the more variation you have, the better. I will admit that this can be weird, texture-wise, if you don’t put them in the dessert glasses quickly enough. I think you can kind of see in the photo how the foamy part becomes a “head” on top of some more placid Jell-O, especially in the kitty-kat glass. I ate one of those, and found myself a little creeped out by the transition from foamy to smooth Jell-O.

Still, if you have kids and you’re trying to get more calcium-rich foods into them, this might not be a bad way to do it. Strawberry Yogurt Whip is a bit of all right.


me, Sonya, and Maura on bass; behind Sonya, awesome drummer Julie

First – and last – performance by the Silver Daisies. April 9, 2017 (ONCE, Somerville, MA; photo by Wei Yu)

Incidentally, if you noticed there was no post last week and expected a nasty Jell-O this week, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I took the weekend off Jell-O’ing to do a “rock camp”. I mentioned it a few posts ago, and I’m happy to report that I did not get demoted to cowbell, although I was given a standard-tuned electric guitar and expected to play proper chords. The whole thing turned out to be a mixed bag for me, but I’m glad I did it – and also glad it’s over and done with, though I really enjoyed jamming with the Silver Daisies and am wondering how I can get more of that into my life.

Virgin Recipe: Alaska Surprise

… featuring guest taster JB!

This recipe sounded like it might be a good one for company, and as it happened our friend JB was in need of some diversion, so we invited him to Freak Mountain for a lunch of Bryan’s baked mac’n’cheese, and Jell-O. JB is one of the people who helped to convince me to reboot the blog, so this was long overdue.

Given what we’ve been doing here, it probably won’t come as much of a surprise that Alaska Surprise is baked Alaska, but with Jell-O (any red flavor) instead of ice cream. (Surprise!) The preparation is a little time-consuming because it’s in three stages, done hours apart. First, there’s a batch of clear Jell-O made with a half-cup of ginger ale instead of cold water, which has to be chilled until firm and then cut into cubes. Second, there’s a batch of Jell-O made with a pint of vanilla ice cream instead of cold liquid, which is thickened, and the cubes of clear Jell-O are stirred into it.

Jell-O mold, pink creamy gelatin with darker cubes in it

Alaska Surprise – the naked mold

This is put in either a load pan or a four-cup mold and chilled until firm. The Jell-O gets unmolded and chilled again. As I think you can see in the photo above, I experienced the same problem I had with Crown Jewel Cake, where the creamy gelatin didn’t adhere to the clear Jell-O cubes, which led to cracking and separation.

pink Jell-O with red cubes and meringue on the sides

Very soft meringue around the sides of the mold. The growing crack in the top is clearly visible here.

The third stage is the meringue, done shortly before serving. The directions in the book don’t call for cream of tartar, and I tried whipping up a meringue as directed without it, but it wouldn’t stiffen up properly and I ended up adding a little cream of tartar, which helped, although I think my meringue was still a bit soft for this.

(While I made the meringue, JB raided our cookbook collection for Bryan’s stash of vintage ice cream recipe books. For nearly 30 years, JB has been hosting an annual weekend-long event of camping and creative ice-cream-making that makes the Project seem tame.)

Jell-O mold covered in meringue

Jell-O mold covered in meringue

The mold is sitting on a round of foil because I wanted to be able to transfer it easily from a plate onto whatever I was going to use to put it under the broiler. I mulled over this a fair bit. The book says to put the mold on a board covered with foil. I don’t know who might happen to have a board laying around the kitchen that’s the right size for this, but I sure don’t, so I ended up sliding the mold onto a baking sheet.

very well done meringue

Blink, and suddenly you’ve got blackened meringue…

The meringue ended up very well done on top, and hardly at all on the sides. In my defense, this is my first time using our broiler, and Bryan was not particularly forthcoming with advice on how to use it. The over tends to be slow, so I guess I was assuming the broiler would be, too, especially since it’s electric (in a gas oven, what?), but the coils heated up quickly.

Alaska Surprise with a serving spooned out of it

Alaska… Surprise!

Even though this was only in the oven for maybe a minute and a half, the creamy Jell-O got all melty, not quite liquid but very soft, and the Jell-O cubes were kind of swimming in it. I made regular baked Alaska once when I was a teenager, and the ice cream didn’t melt this much – but, of course, part of the trick to baked Alaska is that you make sure the ice cream is frozen hard before you coat it in meringue and broil it, The Jell-O isn’t as cold, so it starts out closer to melting temperature. That’s science, people.

Bryan and JB thought that maybe I wouldn’t have had so much of a melting issue if I had broiled it on something less heat conductive, but I’m not so sure, because the baking pan didn’t actually get that hot. One thing that might have helped that’s a usual part of baked Alaska is a layer of pound cake on the bottom. A round of pound cake underneath the mold might have insulated it from any heat transferred from the baking sheet, and also soaked up some of the melted Jell-O, which would have been rather nice in its own right. I considered trying that, but after last week’s major deviation from the plot, I wanted to follow this recipe more closely. If anyone really wants to try making their own Alaska Surprise, I would advise going with the pound cake bottom.

For eating, this was intensely sweet. I used strawberry flavored Jell-O because it’s my favorite red flavor, but in retrospect maybe raspberry, which is a little more tart, would have been better. I didn’t care much for the combination of textures, but JB seemed to find it interesting. Both he and Bryan ate all of the servings I gave them but didn’t go for seconds, and we all needed something to drink afterwards.

One thing I realized was that the ginger ale wasn’t noticeable in the clear Jell-O. When I mentioned it to JB, he mused that maybe using something with a more intense flavor would have worked better. I told him about how I’d tried substituting ginger beer for ginger ale once and found that the stronger ginger flavor didn’t really do anything for the recipe. He had an interesting insight, that maybe the ginger ale is meant to enhance the flavor of the Jell-O (as bay leaves do in savory dishes), rather than giving additional flavor to it. That sounds plausible. Let’s go with that.

Afterwards, the sugar coma we experienced lent itself to a viewing of a couple of episodes of series one of Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. If you happen to be out of your favorite recreational substance, it turns out that Alaska Surprise is a reasonable substitute.

A big thanks and hugs to JB for Jell-O’ing with us today!