3-D Jelly Cakes - Gastro Obscura
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3-D Jelly Cakes

These clear cakes house intricate scenes of fish, flowers, and more.

Jelly cakes aren’t made of flour, but they are filled with flowers. The reason behind the name is that these festive gelatin or agar-agar treats are often made in cake or cupcake pans. While their flavor tends to be subtle, there’s nothing plain about how jelly cakes look.

Jelly artists can make flowers bloom in a pan of clear, preset jelly by using needles or special nozzles attached to syringes. The nozzles fire colored liquid jelly into the base in shapes like petals or leaves. After chefs flip over the pan, the glorious 3-D flowers are revealed. For those seeking a non-floral scene, artists also create koi or goldfish designs to turn the jelly into an edible fishbowl.

The cakes likely originated in Mexico, where they are still a popular party food. Eventually, the gelatinas florales made their way to Mexican bakeries in the Western United States. From there, the desserts crossed the Pacific, picking up fans in Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia. Vietnamese chefs, who have long specialized in jelly desserts, particularly embraced the cakes, known as thạch rau câu 3D. 

Jelly flowers can be flavored with the likes of dragonfruit, strawberry, and green tea, while coconut or coffee jelly often serves as the cake’s base. There’s some debate over the taste of jelly cakes. The flavor tends to be so mild that some call them bland. But thanks to their sheer beauty, the cakes are gaining popularity worldwide, with thousands of YouTube videos demonstrating how to inject everything from peacocks to roses.

Need to Know

Jelly cakes are available at some Vietnamese and Mexican bakeries, but often have to be preordered. Art takes time, after all.

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Anne Ewbank Anne Ewbank
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