Crank up the heat, turn off your humidifier, put on your cowboy boots and turquoise bolo tie and stick a cheese crisp in the toaster oven. It’s Arizona’s 100th birthday!
I really wanted to make a prickly pear margarita pie today. In case you aren’t familiar with prickly pears, they’re the purplish prickly fruit that grow on the cactus that looks like paddles. Because while Arizona has a state fossil (petrified wood) and a state butterfly (the two-tailed swallowtail), it does not have a state food.
A terrible chain restaurant started a petition drive to make chimichangas the state food, but it hasn’t been successful and chimichangas aren’t exactly ideal for Valentine’s Day. I thought a prickly pear margarita pie would be Arizona-y and a lovely Valentiney color.
So I looked for prickly pear juice or jelly. I looked in Baltimore, in Annapolis and in DC. I looked at fancy food stores, regular grocery stores and Hispanic grocery stores. And I couldn’t find it anywhere.
Which is why I am not posting a prickly pear margarita pie today. Instead, I made a 50’s throwback cake that involves lots of Jell-O. It has nothing to do with Arizona, but it’s cute and Valentiney. Maybe you can have a margarita on the side.
I thought it might be cute to cut the Jell-O into hearts instead of cubes. But the hearts were more annoying than I had anticipated. The main issue was getting the hearts out of the cake pan without destroying them, but I learned that using my fingers was much easier than using a spoon.
The other issue with the hearts? You can’t really tell they’re hearts once you cut the cake. Unless you get lucky. So I guess it’s advisable to do squares. Sigh.
So, are you wondering what it’s going to look like? I was, too. It kinda reminds me of that gelato-inspired dress Mila made on Project Runway All-Stars, except I hated that dress and I liked this “cake.”
Plus, it tastes like Jell-O and whipped cream. Yum.
Happy birthday, Arizona! (Cue Arizona birthday song from elementary school) And Happy Valentine’s Day, imaginary Internet friends!
Valentine’s stained glass cake (Adapted from Cook’s Country, serves 8-10)
3 (3-ounce) boxes red, pink or purple Jell-O (I used strawberry, raspberry and black cherry)
4 1/2 cups boiling water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (from 8-10 graham crackers)
3/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
In three separate medium bowls (or in the same bowl, as long as you rinse and wipe it out in between), whisk 1 1/2 cups boiling water into each box Jell-O powder. Pour each mixture into a 9-inch square or round cake pan or similar sized rimmed flat dish. Refrigerate the Jell-O about 4 hours, or until set.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Melt the butter in the microwave and allow to cool while crushing the graham crackers.
Stir the graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and the melted butter together until well combined (mixture will look like wet sand). Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan using your fingers or the back of a spoon. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges of the crust are golden. Cool crust.
Once Jell-O is set, cut into small hearts using a cookie cutter, or into 1/2-inch cubes. Use fingers to remove hearts or cubes from the pan. Return Jell-O to refrigerator.
Stir 1/4 cup pineapple juice into envelope of unflavored gelatin in a small bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and return to microwave additional 30 seconds. Stir. If gelatin is not dissolved, continue heating and stirring until it is. Slowly whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup pineapple juice.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand-held electric mixer), whip the heavy cream, vanilla, salt and remaining 1/2 cup sugar on medium-high speed until it holds stiff peaks. (This will take 2-3 minutes, but don’t just let it go and forget about it) Reduce the speed to low and add the juice mixture slowly, mixing until everything is combined.
Take the Jell-O hearts or cubes out of the fridge and carefully fold into the cream mixture (I recommend using a spatula, not a spoon). Pour/scoop into the crust and smooth the top. Refrigerate the mix until set, at least 4 hours. Remove from spring-form pan carefully and serve.