The Joys of Jell-O: Rainbow Cake

Darlings, I feel like I’ve been away from you for so long. And perhaps I have been. In lieu of writing I’ve been out doing–Honfest, the gym, art shows, food truck rallies, and parties, and dates, and a trip to DC to see NKOTB(!). But I’m back. For a bit, anyway. I’m totally broke so that means a lot of time indoors on the ol’ laptop.

But I digress!

This is a very special DiS! post! It’s special because it’s been almost 2 years in the making. And it’s especially special because June is Pride Month–and what’s more Pride-ish than a rainbow dessert? More on this year’s Baltimore Pride at the end of this post.


Here is the back story: I became a little obsessed with the Rainbow Cake since my boss, Kate, and I spotted it in the August 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Magazine. The article was about collecting vintage recipe pamphlets, and, of course, she thought of me. One of the pamphlets (although it really is a cookbook) was the 1961 edition of The Joys of Jell-O. 

Martha promised to provide the recipe for this gelatin marvel, but instead she featured her own version:


Which is just gorgeous. But her recipe was all fancy-pants, with layers of frozen, pureed fruit. I wanted the one with Jell-O! I wanted the one with completely not homemade frosting! And that is why I tracked down and ordered my own Joys of Jell-O cookbook. Which I found. And have used for many a DiS! post. 

So the rainbow cake became a joke with me and Kate. Oh! Rainbow Cake, you say?–who is going to make the Rainbow Cake? Has anyone ever made the Rainbow Cake?

Well, this month I finally had a reason to make the Rainbow Cake (because I wasn’t going to make a 5-layer Jell-O for someone who wouldn’t appreciate it) it was Kate’s birthday.

So this is how it went down:


I can’t believe I forgot to take my own pictures from this book.
(image from retrolife)

BTW, I did the Rainbow Dessert variation and made mine in a 10-inch tube pan. Here is a transcription of the notes that I took while making this. They might not make any sense. Prepare yourself for the insanity.

  • 5:30 Begin 1st layer. Going to check every 15 minutes for consistency.
  • 6:22 Strawberry Jell-O looks to be “very thick.”
  • 6:30 I whipped strawberry and it is the mold. Making lemon layer
red layer

Whipped strawberry in mold

    • Strawberry layer gets to the not quite set very quickly. Taking it in and out of fridge to not get fully set. Trying to speed-chill the lemon with ice and water.
    • 6:38 start lime. Speed set with some ice cubes. Which will be ready to whip first–lemon or lime?
    • 6:52 Lime in an ice/water dish in the fridge.
    • The strawberry layer is still sticky! 
    • Directions say you can whip a “slightly thickened” in a bowl of ice to make it go quicker…hm.
    • DSCF5280

      lemon Jell-O being whipped while in a bowl of ice water

    • 6:55 I feel like I’m losing the red layer stickiness
    • 7:00 Lemon layer is on the red. Boiling water for the orange. Lime isn’t quite at “egg-white”. But it worked!
    • 7:11 waiting on orange to be set!


  • 7:19 it’s done. In the fridge. Now to sit overnight. 
  • My prediction: Strawberry and lemon will slide off of each other. Lime and lemon will slide. Orange and lime will stick.

This was intense. All the speed-setting and whipping. Screw all yinz guys that are running marathons and 5ks and bragging about it on Facebook. The muthafuckin Rainbow Cake is a test of endurance. It’s like long-distance running–slow, slow, steady, then SPRINT! This dish exhausted me. 

But here is the final product:

rainbow cake

rainbow cake

Isn’t it amazing? It came out in one piece! I can’t believe that it didn’t break.


My co-worker, Sabrina, frosts.



I just can’t get over the fact that it actually worked.

How did it taste? Like Jell-O. With Dream Whip on top. Everyone was confused and thought that there would be flour in it or something. Nope, just whipped Jell-O.

So happy birthday to Kate! And a very happy wedding to my dear friends Dan and Jon! On Sunday they were married  at Maryland’s first same-sex mass wedding, which was held during Pridefest in Druid Hill Park.   The ceremony was presided by Baltimore’s (fierce) mayor, Stephanie Rawlings Blake. It was a historic event since marriage equality was passed just last year. And I was so happy to be there. Here they are with the Mayor right after their “I do”s.


Love the kilts.
And check out the shoes on the Mayor. WERK!

I wish a happy Pride to everyone! Remember, June isn’t over yet–let’s cue the drag queens!

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16 Responses to The Joys of Jell-O: Rainbow Cake

  1. SarahD says:

    You are my hero.

  2. Erin says:

    Damn girl.

  3. Phairhead says:

    Wow! That cake is beauteous!

  4. Oh My Goodness!! I love this!!!! 🙂

  5. Angie says:

    OMG! We are like this (points back and forth vigorously)! I haven’t even read this yet but when I opened it I started to laugh, I was just thinking I was going to make a jello cake for my BF’s next club meeting dinner. Ok now I will see what this says.

  6. Kate says:

    I’m honored to be mentioned in what you call “a very special DiS post.” I am even more honored to have been the recipient of the now-famous-again Rainbow Cake!! We had a lot of fun marveling at your creation – thank you again!! 😉

  7. Beth says:

    And as someone who was lucky enough to eat the fabulous Rainbow Cake, I can attest it was very tasty!

  8. Paula says:

    I’d love to see your version of the Crown Jewel Dessert (also Joys of Jello). That was a summertime family favorite at our house during the 60s and early 70s. The Rainbow Cake looks beautiful!

  9. Angie says:

    Now that I’ve read the post… Mine is a bit different I will post pics on FB and send them to you. It does take real cake not like yours. But I don’t want to give away the ending. See you in July!

  10. tarynnicole says:

    Awesome as ever. I love this…and would never have guessed from the first picture that it wasn’t a “real” cake. xx

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  13. Not sure whether to celebrate with rainbow cake or Ben & Jerry’s “I Dough, I Dough” ice cream. Maybe both. #LoveWins

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