Saturday, 12 September 2015

Orange Sponge (of the Jelly Persuasion)

Oh, Colonial jelly!

Cookery friends, we are not talking sponge cake here. We are talking Colonial era jelly, in all of its bizarre, wobbly glory.  

Those of you who have read my post on flummery will be well aware of my fascination with historical jellies. Their simultaneous firmness and jiggliness; their utter absence from the modern cookery cannon; the sheer variety of things you can find in your kitchen and then, it transpires, turn to jelly with the addition of gelatine powder.

The taste of Orange Sponge is absolutely identical to that of orange-flavoured Aeroplane Jelly – so much so, that my wife commented, “So this is what they based it on, then.” While I doubt that Bert Appleroth, the splendidly-named creator of Aeroplane Jelly, was poring over 1866 recipe pages in the 1910s when he brewed the first batch in his bathtub,  the similarity in flavour really is uncanny.

For those of you not from Australia who are wondering about Aeroplane Jelly, it is a much-beloved Australian brand that has for years enjoyed a monopoly in its field. We love a good corporate monopoly in Australia, particularly if it has a catchy theme song.

What, then, is the point of making this recipe when you can get the same flavour in a little white bag from Woolworths for 99c?

Well, cookery friends, this one is all about the texture. This dessert is whipped just before it fully sets, which creates the impression of a dish frozen in the middle of violent action. Like a geyser with a pause button, the Orange Sponge looks like it will froth over the edges of its mould at any moment.

To turn this dessert from a zany weeknight novelty into the sophisticated belle of your dinner party ball, all you need to do it turn it out onto a plate, whack a lone piece of orange peel artfully on top, and avoid jiggling it suggestively as you place it in front of your guests.

Formal jelly. So fancy!

Here is the original recipe:

ORANGE SPONGE.- To 1oz. of isinglass, dissolved in a point of boiling water and strained, add the juice of six oranges and two lemons, 1/2lb. of sugar, and 1oz. of flour, sifted fine. Mix all well together, and when nearly cold whip it till it becomes a sponge; then put it into a mould. If whipped too warm it will turn to a jelly. It is better to make it a day before you use it.  

Recipes. (1866, September 8). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), p. 5. Retrieved March 7, 2015, from
Holy bubbly jelly, Batman!

"It's About to Escape" Orange Sponge


Aprox. 6 teaspoons of gelatin powder (this might seem like overkill, but you are waging a mighty fight against all the acidity in the citrus juice)
450ml boiling water
6 oranges, juiced OR 350ml orange juice
2 lemons, juiced OR 150ml lemon juice
225g sugar
30g flour

Cooking Time

1 hour, including cooling time (more if you need to readjust the amount of gelatin to get the darn thing to set - if I'm going to be honest, I was mucking about with mine on and off for about three hours).


6 huge portions (see photo below), or 12 sensible portions


Mix all ingredients together. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the gelatin is no longer clumping.
If you enjoy jellies that are clear and smooth, strain the mixture at this point to remove pith, the odd seed, and the possible small rouge lump of gelatin.
Allow the mixture to cool until it looks like the blob – in one piece but very, very goopy.
If it hasn't even begun to set after half an hour, add another 2 teaspoons of gelatin, dissolved in 1/4 cup of water.  
Beat until it has doubled in size.
Gently decant into whatever mould or moulds in which you intend to set it.
Keeps for a couple of days in the fridge, if you live in the sort of household where products containing sugar have a chance to sit around unmolested.

To the left, you can see the pointing finger of my indignant toddler, who has just noticed that I've used her little bowls as recipe-testing ramekins.

So, cookery friends, what is your favourite jelly-based desert? What strange things have you used as jelly moulds or ramekins?