I wanted to do something festive since it is Christmas and scoured my recipes (even ordering a special holiday cookbook from the 1950’s) before deciding that I was now experienced enough (3 recipes down!) to delve into the world of Jello cooking. The horrors of retro gelatin cooking have been described in great detail all over the internet (see here, and here, and again here, and then here…you get the idea). I wanted something that was actually edible so that the food would not go to waste. After reading a few cookbooks and obtaining a Joys of Jello cookbook (9th edition, which is undated but most on the internet estimate it was published around 1963), I decided to attempt to make a Crown Jewel Dessert.
On a scale of Jello horror with a “1” being plain Jello and a “10” being Ring-Around-The-Tuna or Chicken Mousse this one rated a “2” and seemed harmless enough.
See, it could have been worse.
The recipe is as follows:
I prepared the Jello according to the instructions the night before and decided to go with two lime flavors and one cherry so that my finished product would look like Christmas.
The next day I was very excited to prepare the dessert and the entire day fell apart, as things seem to do around the holidays. Still, I pushed through because dangit, I was going to have my dessert!
My lime and cherry Jello was set and ready to go, so the next step was to combine a package of lemon Jello, sugar, and the remaining cup of boiling water (I laughed about this, because the recipe reads as if the boiling water should be left over from the night before) and stirred until the ingredients were dissolved. I added the pineapple juice and put it in the refrigerator. I was supposed to chill until it was “slightly thickened” but while doing this a repairman came to the house, the cat got into a fight with another cat and required a bath, my parents came to visit, and I broke down in tears.
As a result, the lemon Jello/sugar/pineapple step had to be repeated because I left it in the refrigerator too long and it formed a solid mass.
I opted to make two versions of this dessert. I did not think I would have enough lemon Jello/Jello chunk mixture to make two versions of this but wanted to try both versions described here. I decided to make little pie versions and make a version with ladyfingers as the base layer as described in the recipe (from Lidl..so they felt like international ladyfingers). As a result, I did not have to make the crumb and butter mixture to line the bottom of the pan and instead just lined the container with my ladyfingers.
The next step was to cut the red and green Jello into cubes, which was much easier said than done. After that, I got to prepare the Dream Whip topping.
I consider myself to be a whipped topping connoisseur but a lazy whipped topping connoisseur. I am also an inexperienced cook, which has been well-established in every post on this blog. As a result, I somehow had never encountered Dream Whip in my dessert topping adventures. It was created in 1957 by a division of General Foods and never “wilts or separates” according to advertising. I wanted to be efficient and just add Cool Whip instead of going to the trouble of mixing this but the verdict online seemed to be that Dream Whip should be used if a recipe calls for it. I added milk (whole milk, but the package recommends 2%, lowfat, or skim) and vanilla extract and used the handheld mixer to whip the topping for 4 minutes until it was thick and fluffy and my kitchen was covered in little milky dots of Dream Whip splatter.
I retrieved my second batch of lemon Jello/pineapple juice/sugar mix and blended it with the Dream Whip and added my Jello “cubes” from earlier. I poured the mix into my wee little pie tins and a larger container with assistance from my Mom.
(As an aside, neither my Mom nor my Dad said that they remembered eating this in the 1960’s, which makes me wonder how popular some of these recipes actually were. However, there are lots of these cakes and pies prepared on the internet, so I suppose it was somewhat common).
This process also resulted in little sticky splatter spots all over my counter. My cooking is very messy!
I let everything chill overnight and bravely tried it the next day.
The little pies were fine but not very “stained glass” in appearance:
The side of the larger container looked as I expected:
The top not so much:
But when I cut into the actual mold as described it all fell apart:
Yuck! Why is it that everything I have made on this blog has been a creamy blob? Well, the appearance doesn’t matter as long as it tastes good, right? It didn’t. I thought it tasted like lemon bathroom cleaner smells. My husband thought it was fantastic and that it reminded him of recipes from his childhood. He said it tasted like a lemon pie. I’m not sure what kind of lemon pies he has been served in his life but I pity him if this is similar to any of them. I think that if we had frozen the dessert it might have remained more solid and not fallen apart. I also think I needed more ladyfingers and a different size on the larger container.
Time Travel Experience: Between the Jello and the Dream Whip I felt transported back to the 1960’s. I would have felt more confident in the authenticity of my experience had two people who were alive in the 1960’s said that they had actually eaten this or something like it. I did like the Dream Whip though and had fun researching it and watching old commercials for it.
Overall Verdict: Me: 2/10 because I got to eat ladyfingers and make little pies. It didn’t even look cool, which was the most disappointing part for me. Husband: 8/10 (he even had a second helping, bless his heart). I don’t think I will be making this again. Ever.
Merry Christmas! This was my Christmas present to myself. I really do enjoy writing because it gives me an outside focus and an escape from work. I wanted to get it done before Christmas because it would not have made sense to post a Christmas recipe after the holiday. Yay for getting it done!