Banana Bavarian Cream, 1936

For fun, I decided to let my 8 year-old son and his friend choose the next recipe. I gave them a bunch of delicious options like cottage cheese, molded shrimp and Carrot and Cabbage, but they ended up going with Banana Bavarian Cream. I don’t know why they would choose that over shrimp.

This creamed fruit Jell-O is from an excellent little piece of 1930’s Americana called What you can do with Jell-O (1936). I’ve made a couple other recipes from this booklet: Neopolitan Loaf and Strawberry Whip. Since I’ve been doing this a while now, I’ve started to notice subtle (and sometimes not-subtle) differences in recipes according to their decade of origin. 1930’s jell-O’s are noticeably dainty and delicate. All of them are, without fail, very fragile. I suspect this has much to do with the warm-water setting method, but more on that later.

You might also be interested to learn that In 1936 there were only 7 flavors: strawberry, cherry, lemon, orange, raspberry, lime, and chocolate. Coffee existed too, but only in a few places so it doesn’t really count. Chocolate is more of a pudding, so maybe that shouldn’t count either. So 6 flavors to reliably choose from.

The Recipe

According to the booklet, there are two ways to make a Jell-O cream. One requires whipping the jello before adding whipped cream, the other is adding sort-of whipped cream to un-whipped jello. Banana Bavarian is made using the un-whipped method. I’ll try a whipped one next time. Apricot Bavarian Cream is made the same way (see below).

Banana Bavarian Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 package Lemon Jell-O
  • 1 pint warm water
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4-5 bananas

Dissolve Jell-O in warm water. Add salt and sugar. Chill until cold and syrupy. Fold in cream, whipped only until thick and shiny, but not stiff. Crush bananas to pulp with silver fork and fold at once into Jell-O mixture. Chill until slightly thickened. Turn into mold. Chill until firm. Unmold. Serve with tart fruit sauce. Serves 8.

Directions

  1. Dissolve the Jell-O in warm water. Add salt and sugar.

    Very few jell-O recipes call for warm water. Not counting plain gelatin (which blooms in cold water), nearly every recipe other than the 30’s-era ones call for hot or boiling water. There is an explanation for this from the book:

“It is no longer necessary to bring the water to a boil in making Jell-O. Its powdery fine crystals dissolve quickly and completely in warm water –water that is only slightly hotter than lukewarm (120 F). Water right out of the tap may be used if desired. Naturally, this warm-water method gives a product with a richer fruit taste since no flavor is carried off in steam. . . The old time-consuming and bothersome cooling period is eliminated, for Jell-O dissolved in warm water can be placed in the refrigerator immediately. And the new Jell-O sets very quickly, with no sacrifice of texture. Jell-O is always delicately tender.”

From What you can do with Jell-O (1936), p. 5

That said, I’ll tell you that this particular jello turns out almost too tender. If you do make this at home and it’s just too droopy and delicate for you, try using hot water instead.

2. Chill until cold and syrupy. You don’t want it to be set, but you need it to be thick. Somewhere between 60 and 90 minutes is usually enough time, but be sure to check it from time to time.

3. Whip the heavy cream until it is thick but not stiff. Fold it into the jell-O. Crush bananas thoroughly with a fork and fold in. Chill until slightly thickened.

4. Spoon the mixture into individual molds or put it all in one large mold. Let it set overnight.

5. Unmold and serve with tart fruit sauce (optional). I didn’t use tart fruit sauce because I didn’t have any, but you could probably use cranberry or cherry, or really anything you want.

The Verdict

First of all, the flavor of this jello is great. Tastes exactly like you’d expect, creamy sweet bananas with a hint of lemon. It’s especially good on graham crackers. Really, it tastes very good.

But there are two problems. The first is, like I mentioned earlier, it is too tender for my taste. It holds its shape ok, but the taller the mold the droopier and sadder it gets. And once you start eating it, it sort of becomes a thick gelatinous goop, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you like chunky pudding. I guess it’s kind of like eating pie filling without the crust. I actually want to try this with hot water to see if it molds a bit more firmly.

The second problem is that this jello is not attractive. Like, not at all. This sort of thing might not matter to you, but as a person who actually photographs these monstrosities, it was a major problem. Even nice lighting and photo filters couldn’t save some of these photos. I tried four different mold shapes and various toppings for color contrast, but most of them turned out hilariously bad.

It looks like a slimy banana wrapped around bananas

I tried dressing it up with whipped cream and a cherry (in hindsight I should have removed the stem) but it still looked ridiculous.

But in the end, some strawberries in a round mold worked out ok. I figure it worked for the avocado ring, why not this one too?

This is the best it’s going to get.

Overall, I do recommend this recipe but keep your expectations low as far as presentation goes!

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