Freedom, fireworks and food

Yum!: Cel­eb­rate Fourth of Ju­ly with some de­li­cious desserts.

As Amer­ica cel­eb­rates her 238th birth­day bash, and fire­works light up the sky, fun foods will cer­tainly be on the menu. This red, white and blue day calls for a dessert that shows off those col­ors. Serve a dazzling dessert that in­cor­por­ates our pat­ri­ot­ic col­ors. Make a 4th of Ju­ly Poke Cake.

Poke cakes, born in the USA in the late ‘70s, are easy to make, provide bursts of col­or and def­in­itely qual­i­fy as fun food. It seems these cakes are en­joy­ing a bit of a re­sur­gence these days. Pick a col­or, and the cake can be ad­ap­ted to any sea­son­al oc­ca­sion with just a few pokes. The col­or comes from Jell-O.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, an ad slo­gan con­tains some truth. Jell-O really is one of “Amer­ica’s fa­vor­ite desserts.” Be­sides, Jell-O is used to make a myri­ad of salads, molds and vari­ous good­ies. Who knew that the ex­trac­ted col­la­gen of cow and pig hooves, bones and hides (yes, it’s in Jell-O and gelat­in) could con­trib­ute to make something as pop­u­lar, use­ful and tasty as Jell-O?

Dur­ing the Vic­tori­an age, only the priv­ileged wealthy dined on desserts made from gelat­in. Thomas Jef­fer­son served gelat­in desserts at his home in Monti­cello. Peter Cooper, the in­vent­or of the first Amer­ic­an-built steam en­gine, also pat­en­ted “Port­able Gelat­in” – gelat­in dessert powder. (Talk about Amer­ic­an in­genu­ity.)  His pat­ent was sold. Fruit fla­vors and the name Jell-O were ad­ded. After an­oth­er product sale, Jell-O was heav­ily mar­keted in the Ladies Home Journ­al as “Amer­ica’s fa­vor­ite dessert.” Jell-O spokes­man and Phil­adelphia nat­ive Bill Cosby prob­ably ate a lot of the jig­gly stuff dur­ing his many years of en­dorse­ments. Jell-O is Utah’s of­fi­cial snack food.

Serve the fol­low­ing treats as a fi­nale to your Fourth of Ju­ly cel­eb­ra­tions, and en­joy the un­flag­ging de­vo­tion of the dessert de­votees who de­vour them.


1 pack­age white cake mix

1 pack­age (3 oz.) Jell-O Cherry or Rasp­berry Gelat­in

1 pack­age (3 oz.) Jell-O Berry Blue Gelat­in

2 cups boil­ing wa­ter (di­vided)

1 (12 oz.) con­tain­er Cool Whip Non-Dairy Whipped Top­ping, Thawed

- Pre­pare cake mix ac­cord­ing to dir­ec­tion on pack­age, bak­ing in 2 well-greased and floured 9-inch lay­er pans at 350 de­grees for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans 15 minutes. Poke cakes with fork at ½-inch in­ter­vals. Use a straw for wider veins of col­or. Do not re­move cake from pans.

- Dis­solve each pack­age of gelat­in sep­ar­ately in 1 cup boil­ing wa­ter. Pour dis­solved cup of cherry or rasp­berry gelat­in over one poked lay­er. Pour dis­solved cup of berry blue gelat­in  over the oth­er poked lay­er.

- Chill the cakes for 4 hours.

- Un­mold one lay­er onto a serving plate. Top with 1 cup of the whipped top­ping.

- Un­mold second lay­er onto first.

- Frost top and sides with re­main­ing whipped top­ping. Chill.

- Gar­nish with the fol­low­ing: Jell-O Gum­mies and/or with blue­ber­ries and rasp­ber­ries.


2 cups sug­ar, plus ex­tra for coat­ing the stars

1 1/3 cups apple­sauce

2 pack­ages (3 ounces each) red Jell-O gelat­in

2 en­vel­opes Knox (un­flavored) gelat­in

1 tsp. lem­on juice

Small star cook­ie cut­ter

-Spray a 9-inch x 13-inch pan with cook­ing spray. Set aside.

- In a large sauce­pan, com­bine sug­ar, apple­sauce, red gelat­in, un­flavored gelat­in and lem­on juice, and let stand for 1 minute.

- Bring to a boil over me­di­um heat, stir­ring con­stantly.  Boil for 1 minute.

- Im­me­di­ately pour mix­ture in­to pre­pared 9x13-inch pan.

- Re­fri­ger­ate for 3 hours or un­til very firm.

- Loosen sides of gummy mix­ture from pan us­ing a spat­ula. If ne­ces­sary, use spat­ula to gently loosen un­der­neath.

- Care­fully turn over gummy mix­ture onto cut­ting board or waxed pa­per that has been dus­ted with sug­ar. 

- Use star (or any small) cook­ie cut­ter to make shapes.  (Or cut in­to long lengths and then in­to 1-inch squares.) 

- Dip cut­ter in sug­ar and cut out stars.  Rinse cut­ter in warm wa­ter, if it be­comes too sticky.

- Place stars on sep­ar­ate waxed pa­per-lined sheet. Dry at room tem­per­at­ure for 6 to 8 hours.

- Coat or roll stars in sug­ar. 

- Store in air­tight con­tain­er.

Un­like cutout cook­ies, you can­not re-roll gummy scraps.  However, these bits and pieces are equally tasty when rolled in sug­ar.

Have a Happy 4th of Ju­ly!

Eat well, live long, en­joy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at Whats­cook­in­ or in care of the North­east Times, 3412 Pro­gress Drive, Suite C, Ben­s­alem, PA 19020)

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