Welcome to the best “new” dessert of 2022.
Jello Mold
Credit: Getty / Edith64

Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. Fond memories from childhood, or wistful wishing for simpler times can often deeply impact food trends. So, it's not surprising to see that molded gelatin is starting to make a nostalgic comeback.

Perhaps it's the season: Lighter desserts take over when the weather warms. Maybe parents—exhausted from home-schooling and baking projects—need something new to do with the kids. Maybe we've just remembered how fun and delicious a wobbly dessert can be. Regardless, I am delighted to see the molded gelatin dessert is back, and I, for one, am embracing them and dreaming up upgrades to get us past the wobbly ring studded with canned fruit cocktail (not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that). 

Check out these ways to have some nostalgic fun with gelled desserts this spring and summer.

Wow with a terrazzo-style mold  

Remember those rainbow-layered gelled molds from back in the day? You can recreate that colorful magic, but my new favorite is a "terrazzo" style of Jello mold. Here, several flavors of chopped Jello suspended in milky white so that they look like a terrazzo floor. Showstopper! 

And it's easy to make! Here's all you do: 

1. Prepare 4-6 different colors of Jello according to package directions and cut into small cubes.

2. Bloom 2 packages of unflavored gelatin in ½ cup of cold water, then add to 1 ½ cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. 

3. Add 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and blend well. Set aside to cool.

4. Combine colored Jello cubes carefully (you don't want them to break down too much) and carefully transfer to a lightly oiled mold of your choice. Pour over the cooled milky gelatin mix and shake so that it fills in all the gaps between your colors. Let set. When sliced, you'll have bright colors looking like stained glass among the white.

Update the fruit and gelatin mold as a terrine

A gelled terrine dessert is a lovely, updated way to serve a fruit-forward meal-ender. Fill a loaf pan with the fresh or canned fruit of your choice—mixed berries are great, as are mixed citrus or tropical fruits like mango, papaya, and pineapple. Fill the loaf pan with either a complementary Jello flavor or with unflavored gelatin combined with fresh fruit juice like apple juice, orange juice, or cranberry juice. Let set, and then unmold, slice, and serve.

Create a stunning single flavor

One of the best ways to get a bit of an upgrade is to create a gelled dessert that focuses on one flavor. Gelled pear nectar with canned pear cubes served with a pear brandy enhanced whipped cream will never remind anyone of diner Jello with cool whip. Go for fresh fruit juices or nectars set with unflavored gelatin.

Add cream for dreaminess 

Adding dairy delights like whipped cream, sour cream, and softened sherbet to your gelatin molds are always a wonderful way to bring in some extra creamy goodness. Start with a traditional gelatin base in a flavor of your choosing, and let it set about halfway (loose but not liquid). Then mix in some creaminess with a hand mixer to blend and aerate before letting set firm. Or go for an even fancier, lightly set gelatin enhanced dessert like a blancmange or bavarois.

Make it boozy 

Finally, if you want to take the nostalgia of the Jello shots of your youth and make them a dessert worth having today, think about making boozy gelled molds with wine, aperitifs like Aperol or Campari, or in dessert-style drink flavors like espresso martinis. If half the volume of your liquid base is non-alcoholic—juice, water, or coffee, for example—the mix will set. Use 1 packet of unflavored gelatin to set 2 cups of liquid.