The jelly adventure

I have no factual information about jelly consumption in Australia but it seems to me that it’s not as popular as it is in my country. I get this idea from the size of the packages. Consider Jelly Lite, for instance. The box has two sachets, each one yields 2 cups of jelly. Peruvian boxes come in two sizes, and the big one (the most used) comes with a single sachet that yields 6 cups of jelly. Jelly is a very common dessert in homes and menús, cheap fixed price meals that often include entrée, main, dessert and beverage, sold in restaurants or corporate eateries. From what I’ve seen, popular dessert choices here are cakeier.

Now, I don’t love jelly. I don’t dislike it either but it makes no nutritional sense to me, so I only eat it when I must: when my gastritis has gone really bad or I have some other sort of stomach illnes, or when I can’t eat solid foods (braces, tonsils and teeth extractions in my past experience). Even in those cases, sometimes I’ve made my own healthier jelly with agar-agar and lemongrass-infused water, for example. It’s just that there are very few exceptions when using processed foods make sense to me.

Well, here’s one exception: yesterday was Alvaro’s birthday. A couple of weeks ago he mentioned that he had a craving for torta helada (translated as “chilled cake”), which is a super simple cake sold at every cheap to mid-priced bakery and cake shop in my country. It consists of (often) two layers of plain sponge cake, topped and/or surrounded by a layer of jelly mixed with whipped evaporated milk, topped with a layer of fruit and jelly. Super simple in flavours, but a bit of work to prepare because you have to wait until the jelly sets to add the next layer. Of course the price you pay indicates the quality of the cake, if the sponge is fluffy and moist or heavy and dry, if the jelly has the right consistency or feels like chewing rubber, etc. Alvaro loves a good torta helada, so I decided to prepare one for his birthday.

The first challenge was the jelly. The most common flavour used in Peru is strawberry (with fresh strawberries and/or pineapple), but he likes the all-peach version. I went to Foodworks and there was no regular peach jelly, only “lite” peach-apricot. I checked in Woolies and Coles with no luck. I bought a package of the peach-apricot one for tasting. I had to adjust the amount of water and add gelatine for flavour reasons, but it ended up alright.

Next challenge: peaches in syrup. All tinned fruit is sold in syrup in my country. I still don’t get how we have less weight problems than Aussies if there are more healthy choices available here. Anyway, I needed peaches in syrup because the syrup doesn’t get tossed away, it’s used for moistening the cake. Again, I went to Foodworks and all peaches slices were in juice. The Black & Gold brand had only apricots and mixed fruit. Luckily, my second attempt in Coles was successful and I bought the home-branded tin.

The final challenge was the assembly. As I said, it’s a time-consuming process, so I chose it to spread it throughout 2 days. On Thursday, as soon as I got home from work, I prepared half of the top layer (jelly) and put it in the tin to set while I was in the gym.

Jelly layer

When I got back I arranged the peach slices and poured the second half of the jelly carefully to avoid moving the fruit, put the tin in the fridge, and went out again.

Sliced peaches and jelly

As soon as I got home again I prepared and baked the sponge. A can of evaporated milk went into the fridge to chill.

On Friday, after work, I cut the sponge in half. Then I prepared the jelly-milk layer and poured half of it in the tin, moistened one half of the sponge with syrup and placed it over the jelly-milk. Then I put some more peaches on top of the sponge plus the other half of the jelly-milk. Finally I placed the other half of the sponge, moistened with syrup, on top of the other layers. The tin went to the fridge to set overnight.

All layers

The next day I unmolded by passing a knife around the cake and then placing the bottom of tin on hot water for a few seconds.

Because I didn’t wait for the jelly-milk layer to set, it moistened the first half of the sponge, which turned out to be good because it was delicious.

Torta helada


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