American Classics

Lost classic desserts from our wide and varied past.

American Classics: Sparkling Jell-O Mold

[Photograph: Alexandra Penfold]

The holidays have come and gone and 2013 is officially upon us. Perhaps you've indulged in about all the cookies and 'nog you can manage for the next year, but you're still looking for something to tame that nagging sweet tooth. Might I suggest a light and festive Jell-O mold, to keep some good cheer in the New Year?

I'll admit that when I hear Jell-O mold, the phrase conjures up visions of wobbly red and green towers studded with Mandarin orange slices and canned fruit cocktail. But it doesn't have to be so. While Jell-O may have taken a turn for the worse in 60s and 70s, the form is older, much older. Peter Cooper, inventor extraordinaire and founder of Cooper Union college, obtained the first patent for gelatin desserts. Cooper sold the patent to Pearle Wait who added color and flavoring and sold it as a pre-packaged dessert mix and first marketed it as Jell-O. And plain gelatin desserts? Those date all the way back to late medieval times, with molds being first introduced during the Victorian period.

Jell-O molds can be as clever and sophisticated as you can imagine. Last year for the Mad Men Season 5 premiere, I whipped up some cocktail based Jell-O shots which turned me on to the idea of making a sparkling Jell-O mold. This mold shuns dyes and artificial flavorings to focus on booze and fruit, geling prosecco with white cranberry juice, a bit of sugar and raspberries for a light and refreshing treat. And honestly, what better way to kick off the New Year than with some booze and fruit?

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Sparkling Jell-O Mold »

Got a favorite classic American dessert recipe you'd like to see featured here? Email us with the subject: "American Classics."

About the author: Alexandra Penfold is mild-mannered literary agent by day, food ninja by night. Never one to skip dessert she's the Brownie half of Blondie & Brownie and a Midtown Lunch contributor. You can follow her on Twitter at @blondiebrownie.

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