I was born in Jamaica in the 70’s, which can mean a lot of things to a kid -beautiful weather and tropical fruit trees growing in my backyard- oh yes- which allowed a lot of fresh mangoes and bananas to snack on. But being a kid in a third world country also meant regular water and food shortages, which also affected our snacks. My grandma was an enthusiastic baker and I can still taste the incredible chocolate cakes she would sometimes make for our birthdays, but not EVERY birthday; cake was very, very rare, because despite Jamaica being the top exporter of sugar in the world, there were severe shortages of sugar there in the 1970’s and sugar was heavily rationed (sadly, sugar shortages for Jamaican citizens are still happening these days). This kept my grandma from baking cakes a lot of the time. Her dessert alternative was often jello, which only required adding boiling water to the flavoured crystals, and that’s the dessert I remember her making most at special gatherings.
Jello was special; after we left Jamaica to move to Canada I remember taking the ferry to Vancouver island and buying the parfait cups of cubed jello in the cafeteria on board the ship. Almost as good as grandma’s
Of course, there aren’t any shortages here in Canada and I love to bake cakes, but I still have a lot of fun with Jello. As a mom I make jello for the kids’ preschool parties and birthdays, and it always vanishes off the plates faster than even the fancy, swirly cupcakes or cookies. The biggest bonus is jello is way faster and easier to make; I started teaching my kids around age 3 to measure the water and stir the crystals. Then once it’s set we love to play and use cookie cutters to make shapes -the extra bits left over are perfect samples so we don’t have to wait until the party. These are the jello ghosts and witches we made this past Halloween:
Last month was my son’s teacher’s birthday and we decided to bring in some jello to share with the class just like we did for my son’s birthday -why shouldn’t teachers get to celebrate, too? We got the alphabet cookie cutters out since his teacher has a really tricky last name and all the kids call him “Mr. C”.
Easy and fun! Here’s the recipe I use all the time to make cut-able jello jigglers with real whipping cream which creates a creamy layer that separates all by itself as it sets in the fridge, and makes 2 shades of colour, too. You can omit the whipping cream for a non-dairy version.
Creamy Jello Jigglers
4 small boxes of same flavour jello
4 cups boiling water
3 sachets of gelatin (I use Knox brand)
1 small carton of whipping cream (250ml)
Pour the jello and gelatine crystals into a large heat-proof bowl. Slowly add the boiling water and mix well. Slowly add whipping cream into bowl and stir until blended. It may look a little globby as it blends, but it always sets evenly. Pour mixture into a 9×12 lasagna dish or deep cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. The jello and cream layers will form naturally as it sets. Let set 4 hours, then cut with cookie cutters. Keep chilled until served. There’s so many things you can do with jello, like these layered parfait cups: