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Jell-O for Grown-ups


Naomi Tomsky

It’s the food that wiggles and jiggles. Jell-O molds are back and better than ever. Give this easy dessert the wow factor with these top tips.

Jell-O is the ultimate easy dessert; a great family-friendly activity, and guaranteed to earn some grins at the table despite the retro vibes. You can now offer your guests a little bit of wiggly joy too with playful or sophisticated designs. Mastering the vintage art of these multi-colored creations will likely win you some well deserved admiration too.

Pick a shape

Think of putting together the perfect Jell-O mold as a choose-your-own-adventure dessert. Start by picking out a shape and design, then get creative with mix-ins—and if you’re up for an adult-version, alcoholic options. Here’s your road-map to the perfect, personalized Jell-O mold.

For a sophisticated Jell-O mold, stick to simple shapes—look for a plain bundt pan or even just a cake pan. More complex bundt pans—especially ones with a lot of height and interesting indentations—will give the mold a great vintage look. Think about individual designs for a playful version, either in small glass jars or mini-bundt pan molds.

Tip: To remove the Jell-O from a metal mold dip it upside down (so it doesn’t touch the actual Jell-O) into hot water for about 5-10 seconds. For silicone or plastic molds, leave it in the hot water for 20 seconds.

Bompas and Parr ©Ann Charlott Ommedal

Playful, retro designs or sophisticated styles are guaranteed to bring a smile

© Bompas and Parr

Playful, retro designs or sophisticated styles are guaranteed to bring a smile

Get creative with your design
The nice thing about Jell-O having not changed much over the years is that you can keep things vintage just by using the standard colors. For a more sophisticated look, mute the tones (and sweetness – likely welcomed by some adults!) by substituting half of the powder for plain powdered gelatin. Give it all a more playful look by making the colors opaque—just add a few spoonfuls of sweetened condensed milk to the boiling water when you make it.

Sweetened condensed milk mixed with boiling water and unflavored gelatin also gives a nice stripe of clean white Jell-O to a sophisticated mold. Just wait until the first layer has set and the milk has cooled to room temperature, then pour it over. You can use the same cooling and layering technique to add a second color layer to the vintage or playful versions, too.

Tip: Add even more to a playful mold by letting each layer rest on an angle, so you get diagonal swirls of color. Just tilt the mold in a cupcake tin (for individual) or bowl (for standard) while the first layer gels.

Bompas and Parr Jelly Parlor © Ann Charlott Ommedal

Tip: When choosing fruit mix-ins avoid pineapple, kiwi, papaya, or mango as they prevent Jell-O from setting properly.

Go crazy for mix-ins

Keep it simple and monotone for a sophisticated touch—cranberries in red or pink Jell-O, for example, but for vintage or playful versions, go ahead and get crazy—for the true vintage look, use a canned fruit cup.

If you’re adding alcohol, you can just sub it out one-to-one for cold water when you’re making the Jell-O. Champagne works great for sophisticated versions. For playful or vintage, just use a clear spirit or one that matches the Jell-O in color or flavor.

Need some more wibbly wobbly inspiration? Check out more from these Jell-O connoisseurs…


Bompas and Parr

British duo Bompas and Parr put together indulgent and exotic multi-sensory experiences. Jelly, as they call it, is a particular favorite of theirs and this book reveals the secrets behind their fantastical creations.

Buy the book


The Jelly Revolution

Based in Australia, Adele and Renee create decadent and unique jellies and their Instagram feed is jam-packed with wibbly-wobbly delights.

Go to Instagram