I announced earlier that in honor of March Madness, I decided to create a dessert bracket with 16 styles of desserts. I’ve invited 16 great chefs to each take a category and make a recipe to enter into battle. I ranked the 16 based on my view of which was the favorite and like any bracket, the favorites are matched against the lower seeds. I won’t give you my seeding because I do not want to artificially impact your choices.
I will post a pairing each week on Wednesday and Thursday and open the polls for voting. The polls will be open from Thursday until the following Wednesday (before the next pair posts). The winner of each matchup with the most votes will move on to the next round and the chef will produce another recipe for their new matchup. The overall winner will receive any prizes I can acquire. To date the winner will receive:
- Dodo Book for Cooks
- A beautiful Bamboo Cutting Board with a Butterfly Motif, graciously donated by competitor Lindy (The Kozy Nook)
This week’s pairing is:
Cake (Chocolate Varieties) vs. Jell-O (and other gelatin)
Today we have Jenee from JCooksGlutenFree was assigned the Jell-O category. Here is what she made….
When I got an e-mail congratulating me on my acceptance into the Diced! Dessert Bracket competition, I was seriously excited (I know, no life). Then I saw that my category was Jell-O, and I thought, “…oh.” And then I saw that I was competing against the cake category (CHOCOLATE, nonetheless), and I thought, “…I’m screwed.” (Well, I might have had a few other choice words.) I can’t win, I know this. But that doesn’t mean I’m not goin’ down without a fight.
My first instinct (after making this face) was to search Pinterest, naturally. I found out all kinds of things about gelatin, things I don’t think I needed to know. From coating your hair with it to coating chicken with it (yes, it’s real), gelatin has oh so many uses.
I almost threw in the towel, I’m ashamed to admit it…
…but THEN I found this recipe, and the wheels started turning. I have no idea how it happened (an excuse I use all too frequently in life, like, “Oh, all the cupcakes are gone? I have no idea how that happened…”), but this crazy recipe started coming to me. Since I’m too cheap to buy gluten-free ladyfingers and do it as is (I have a handful of food intolerances), I decided to make some sort of thin, sponge-like cake instead, and then, with the whipped cream filling, that kind of reminded me of strawberry shortcake. I called up my trusty co-blogger to talk out the idea, gathered my ingredients, and spent most of my Sunday afternoon cooking, waiting, drinking, assembling, and enjoying my creation:
Strawberry Jell-O Shot Cake
(see what I did there?)
I have to admit, it turned out much better than I expected, though not quite as pretty on the inside as I had hoped. I definitely made a mistake, which I’ll explain when I get to that part, that did affect the overall appearance, but the flavor was really something else. The texture and hint of vanilla from the sponge cake, the light fluffiness of the whipped topping, the sweet and tang from the strawberries and champagne, it was kind of divine, reminiscent of summer…or I “tested” the bubbly a little too much along the way, that could have been it, too.
Either way, I set out to make something different, and that I did. I even learnt myself some nifty new tricks, like cutting a cake in half with dental floss (really, it’s a thing). So, even if you don’t like Jell-O or don’t care to make this dessert, I hope you enjoy reading about my process and that you’ll get inspired to make something whacky in your kitchen, too.
Sponge Cake (I found a link to this recipe on reddit. It was super simple and really allergy friendly, so I thought I might as well try it):
- 175 g gluten-free all-purpose flour (about 1 ¾ cups, mine is rice flour, tapioca flour, and potato starch)
- ⅓ cup of butter, softened
- ⅔ cup of milk (any kind)
- 60 g granulated sugar, or a scant ⅓ cup
- 3 teaspoons of baking powder
- ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
Strawberry Jell-O “Shots”:
- 2 boxes of strawberry Jell-O
- ½ to ¾ of a box of strawberries, diced
- Rest of the box of strawberries, sliced in half, for decorating
- 1 ½ cups of champagne or sparkling sweet wine (divided, 1 cup + ½ cup)
- ¼ cup of granulated sugar
- 1 cup of boiling water
- ½ cup of cold water
- 12 ounce package of whipped topping (dairy free) or cool whip (not dairy free), room temperature
- 1 box of unflavored gelatin (3 ounces)
- 1 cup of pineapple juice
- ¼ cup of granulated sugar
- ½ cup of cold water
Work on your Jell-O first, since it will need a few hours to set in the fridge.
Batch One: In a large sauté pan, add the strawberries, sugar and one cup of champagne, simmering over low heat until almost syrupy in consistency (about 10 minutes). Place a mesh sieve over a bowl or a measuring cup, and pour out your strawberry mixture. You should have roughly a cup of liquid still, now that the strawberries have released a lot of their juices. Set aside the strawberries for a moment, and add one of the boxes of strawberry Jell-O to your strawberry juice (and by “box” I mean the powder inside of it…you know, just in case), and stir until dissolved. Add the ½ cup of cold water (if you didn’t have a full cup of strawberry juice, add a little more cold water, or vice versa, so that you end up with 1 ½ cups of liquid).
Now, you have two options for setting your Jell-O: I used silicone ice cube trays to form mine into ready-made cubes, but you can pour your Jell-O into a well-greased baking pan, or Tupperware, and then cut them into cubes out of that, but it might be a little more difficult and labor intensive. Whatever you use, grease ‘em up first, then place the strawberries down, about a tablespoon worth, and then pour the Jell-O liquid over them (I used one ice cube tray for this batch). Place in the fridge to set.
Batch Two: Bring 1 cup of water to boil (I did it in the microwave, on high for 3 minutes), and add the other box of Jell-O, stirring until dissolved. Then add ½ a cup of champagne, give ‘er a stir, and then pour into your second well-greased Jell-O vessel. Place in the fridge to set.
Now, you can work on your sponge cake, or take a little champagne-TV break. No rush.
When you’re ready, preheat the oven to 375 and grease a small round cake pan (mine has a loose bottom for easy removal, but not easy cleaning). Cream the butter and sugar in a small bowl, and combine the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Add the milk and vanilla extract to the creamed butter, then pour into the flour, gently stirring until fully combined. Scrape batter into the greased cake pan, and bake for 18-20 minutes (will be lightly browned around the sides, toothpick comes out clean). How easy was that?! Remove to a wire rack and let cool completely (we’ll be cutting it in half).
Now for the filling. Bring the pineapple juice to a simmer over low heat, and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Add the gelatin, stirring again until dissolved, and then pour into a cup of some sort and add the half cup of cold water.
Here’s where I made a mistake. The original recipe said to wait for this Jell-O mix to get “syrupy,” about 45 minutes in the fridge, and then to stir it into 8 ounces of the softened whipped topping (we need the other four ounces for “icing” the cake). But mine didn’t really get syrupy, it went straight from liquid to Jell-O, so I heated it up in the microwave, stuck it in the freezer real quick, and then tried to stir it into the whipped topping when it was half Jell-O, half liquid. Bad idea. As soon as it hit the whipped topping, it turned fully into Jell-O, so I had little pineapple-y Jell-O chunks all up in what was supposed to be a smooth, creamy filling. Whoops. So, I recommend you leave your pineapple Jell-O out on the counter to cool to room temperature, then mix it into your whipped topping. If it’s too runny and you need to let it set for a few minutes, that’s ok, since we need it to be soft enough to pour but stiff enough to hold a shape when we assemble the cake.
Phew, tired yet? I know this is a lot, but I like recipes to be thorough and clear. Sorry if I’ve lost you by this point, but then again you wouldn’t be reading this so…..my apology means nothing. Just kidding.
Ok, back to the cake. You’ll need to cut it in half (hotdog not hamburger), so unless you have awesome knife skills, you might want to try this equally-as-awesome trick: dental floss. I read about it somewhere, so I thought I’d try it. (You only live once, you know.) Since this cake has a little crust, you’ll need to get a slit started in the middle of one side first. Then, holding the dental floss (unflavored, by the way) at both ends, “slice” the cake all the way through. Now you have two evenly cut pieces!!
Assembly: I used the sides of my cake pan as a form for the cake, and I lined the insides with wax paper so it wouldn’t stick too much, but this isn’t really necessary, just helps to make it perfectly straight.
Lay down the bottom half of the sponge cake, place 6-8 cubes of Jell-O (alternating between strawberry-filled and plain) on the cake, and cover with half of the whipped topping mix. Using a spatula, smooth it down in between the Jell-O pieces, to the edge of the cake, and form into an even layer, about 2 inches thick. (If you feel that your filling is too soft, place in the freezer for a minute to let it set more, before moving on.) Place the second cake layer on top, and repeat with Jell-O and filling. “Ice” the cake with the remaining whipped topping, and refrigerate for a few minutes, before placing your sliced strawberries on top, so you don’t smoosh the top too much when you press them in.
Voila! Slice and serve.
Keep leftovers in the fridge for about 4 days (the sponge cake starts to get hard, like most gluten-free baked goods). But I bet it won’t last that long. J
I really hope you enjoyed reading about my process, or at least looking at the pictures. And if you don’t feel like trying this kind-of-labor-intensive recipe, why don’t you go get yourself a glass of bubbly, some strawberries, and a bowlful of whipped cream, and call it a day. It’ll still count in my book. (Or just make the Jell-O, because it’s awfully good with champagne.)