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book review, recipe

Jell-O Girls + Layered Strawberry Jello Cups

When I went to the library recently, the brightly colored cover of Allie Rowbottom’s Jell-O Girls caught my eye. I took it down to flip through it, and the blurbs proclaiming it as “an artfully crafted feminist excavation of an American legacy” and “an important and honest feminist history for right now” sealed the deal.

Jell-O Girls: A Family History by Allie Rowbottom

The book is part family memoir and part nonfiction. In turns, it focuses on Allie’s family history and the so-called “curse” that plagued their men — the family’s fortune earned when her great-great-great-uncle bought the patent for Jell-O for just $450 in 1899 — as well as Jell-O’s history through a feminist lense.

Where Jell-O Girls shined the brightest was in the latter sections of the book. Rowbottom skillfully uses Jello-O, its transformation over time and its advertising as a barometer for American women and their struggle against the patriarchy. Aside from that, I thought her storytelling was disjointed. Her family’s history certainly had its shocking moments, but their repeat poor decision-making did nothing to create empathy on my part.

As I read the book, I went back and forth about whether to make a recipe to go along with it. Jello certainly wouldn’t be hard to make, and as Rowbottom points out throughout, it has a bit of a nostalgic flair. Once I’d decided to make something, I was convinced I would need to buy a Jello mold, something similar to the cover. But, since I rarely eat Jello — I can’t remember the last time I have, in fact — I looked for a recipe that wouldn’t require a one-time-use mold.

I found plenty of recipes for various Jello squares and Jello “salads” and even toyed with the idea of making one my new favorite holiday recipes (Raspberry Jello Pretzel Salad, similar to this one). Ultimately, I wanted to make something a little more photogenic, a little more impressive, so to speak, and landed on Layered Jello Cups (from a recipe by The First Year Blog).

Though they were time-consuming to make, they were actually quite simple (and hands-off). I made them over the course of two days, starting them Friday after work and finishing them up Saturday morning. The jello cups require just 3 ingredients if you use the strawberries as a garnish (2 if you don’t) plus water. If you know how to boil water, this is a recipe you can definitely handle.

For the first layer (and third and fifth), you just make strawberry jello. To the box of Strawberry Jell-O powder, you add 1 cup of boiling water, stirring until the powder is dissolved, followed by 1 cup of cold water, stirring until combined.

You set out your glasses — I used 4 stemless white wine glasses and then 2 stemless red wine glasses when I had extra left on a few of the layers — and simply pour in the jello mixture until the layer is as thick as you’d like it. Place in the fridge for 1-2 hours until set.

Jello Cups

For the second layer (and fourth), you repeat the steps from the first layer, except that once the jello mixture is made, you also add in 1 cup of Cool Whip, stirring until the Cool Whip combines with the liquid to create a lighter pink mixture.

You pour that mixture on top of the previous layer, placing it in the fridge again for an hour or two until set.

Layered Strawberry Jello Cups

Repeat the layers in alternating order, ending when you have 5 layers, with the jello layer on top.

Layered Strawberry Jello Cups
Layered Strawberry Jello Cups
Layered Strawberry Jello Cups

Then, if you’d like, top each parfait with a dollop of whipped topping and enjoy!

Layered Jello Cups from Jello Girls

Layered Strawberry Jello Cups

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Total Time 11 hours

Ingredients

  • 5 packages of Strawberry Jello mix plus water
  • 2 cups of Cool Whip plus more for topping
  • strawberries (optional) to top each parfait

Instructions

  • Layer 1: Combine 1 cup boiling water in a bowl with a packet of strawberry jello mix. Stir until the mixture is dissolved. Add in one cup of cold water and stir. Evenly divide this mixture among the cups you’ll be using. Refrigerate until set, 1-2 hours.
  • Layer 2: Combine 1 cup boiling water in a bowl with a packet of strawberry jello mix. Stir until the mixture is dissolved. Add in one cup of cold water and stir. Add in 1 cup of cool whip, and stir until mixed. Evenly divide this mixture among the cups you’ll be using, layering on top of the previous jello layer. Separation may occur, causing a lighter and darker layer. Refrigerate until set, 1-2 hours.
  • Layer 3: Combine 1 cup boiling water in a bowl with a packet of strawberry jello mix. Stir until the mixture is dissolved. Add in one cup of cold water and stir. Evenly divide this mixture among the cups you’ll be using. Refrigerate until set, 1-2 hours.
  • Layer 4: Combine 1 cup boiling water in a bowl with a packet of strawberry jello mix. Stir until the mixture is dissolved. Add in one cup of cold water and stir. Add in 1 cup of cool whip, and stir until mixed. Evenly divide this mixture among the cups you’ll be using, layering on top of the previous jello layer. Separation may occur, causing a lighter and darker layer. Refrigerate until set, 1-2 hours.
  • Layer 5: Combine 1 cup boiling water in a bowl with a packet of strawberry jello mix. Stir until the mixture is dissolved. Add in one cup of cold water and stir. Evenly divide this mixture among the cups you’ll be using. Refrigerate until set, 1-2 hours.
  • Before serving top each parfait with cool whip and a strawberry.

Notes

From: The First Year Blog
Depending on how many cups you are making, and how think you want each layer, you may have leftover jello from each layer. Either pour it in a different container to set, or throw it away.
You may also use other flavors of jello (or multiple flavors to create different colored layers) if you’d like. 

This post contains affiliate links. This does not increase the price you pay, but I may receive a small commission for any products you choose to buy. Purchases made through affiliate links help to cover my blogging costs. Full disclosure here.

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3 Comments

  • Reply Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku January 8, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    I haven’t heard of this book before, but I can understand why the cover would capture your attention! I didn’t grow up with Jell-O. In fact, I never even ate it until I was an adult, so there is no nostolgia for me when it comes to this dessert. But I am intrigued by this book after reading your review. How does the advertising for Jell-O reflect the American women’s struggle against the patriarchy?

    • Reply Megan January 8, 2019 at 3:17 pm

      I don’t have the book handy at the moment (returned it to the library), but much in the way all retro (50s/60s) advertising speaks to women’s place in the patriarchy — in that their place is in the home; their worth is in what they can cook/bake or how they keep their home or how they look outwardly; they are second to men.

      • Reply Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku January 8, 2019 at 3:20 pm

        Yikes. Part of my is curious and wants to look up what this advertising is… but at the same time, nope! We’ve moved on a a society for sure.

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