joys of jello cake

Jell-O Crown Jewel Dessert Cake | Mad Men Blog Party & Giveaway

The final mini season of Mad Men starts Sunday night and I’m sadder than Lois Sadler sent back to the switchboard. Not only do I think Mad Men is one of the best shows on television, but the emphasis on good dialogue makes it the perfect kitchen companion — looking up isn’t critical unless Pete and Trudy are doing the Charleston or Roger shows a little cheek. The tinkle of Don’s ice cubes, that satisfying SNAP each time Betty Draper closes her purse, Sally’s lisp turning into sullen teen monotone, the never-ending smarm of Harry Crane, the clacking typewriters, and terrific jazzy score…  Mad Men, you’ve been a true pleasure.

But let’s not leave the 1960s behind just yet, hm? I know I wasn’t ready, so when the lovely and talented Carrie Burrill from Bakeaholic Mama asked if I’d like to participate in a Mad Men Blog Party & Giveaway, I couldn’t resist!

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Chocolate Pistachio Bundt Cake

I recently had the pleasure of reading Bonny Wolf’s “Talking with My Mouth Full” – a collection of memoir-style food essays that she describes as “kitchen stories” on topics ranging from Jell-O, aprons, fair food, southern BBQ, latkes, and many more – all with a few recipes.  Bonny feels the exact same way about the significance of food as I do, and she expresses it in a way that makes me teary if it’s late and I have had a glass of wine.

We cook and eat for comfort, nurture, and companionship.  We cook and eat to mark the seasons and celebrate important events.  We cook and eat to connect with family and friends and with ancestors we never knew.  And through this baking and breaking bread together, we come to know who we are and where we came from. – Bonny Wolf 

In an early chapter, Wolf shares her fond memories of a universally loved Chocolate Pistachio Bundt Cake from her days as a young bride.  In true 1970’s form, the recipe is of the shortcut variety, taking advantage of mixes and chocolate syrup to help the baker assemble the cake quickly and with essentially guaranteed results. 

As the 20th century picked up speed, things like prepared foods, mixes, and frozen vegetables became an acceptable way to manage the demands of working wife and homemaker.  But then, as preservatives, trans-fats, and high fructose corn syrup became higher and higher on the ingredients list, “convenience food” fell out of fashion.  There is pressure today to do things all-homemade, all-organic, all of the time. 

When crunched for time, I will sometimes doctor up a cake mix, but then I apologize profusely for not having time to do it “all from scratch.”  Homemade is arguably better, but that doesn’t mean a little contextual love shouldn’t be aimed the cake mix’s way.  Items like mixes, syrups, flavorings, and pre-made pie crusts are an enormously important part of culinary history and deserve their occasional place on the cake plate.  Wolf made her 1970’s Chocolate Pistachio Bundt sound so delicious, I knew I had to make it and taste for myself.

Which is what brought me to these three darlings.  Hello Mix 1, Mix 2, and Bottle 3.

I tried to at least balance things out a little with the organic chocolate syrup. 

Well, as expected the cake was a snap to put together, and came out perfect.  I brought it into work, sifted some powdered sugar on top, and set it out in the kitchen.

I kid you not, the entire cake was gone in an hour, and my office isn’t that big.  One of my co-workers even told me it was her favorite thing I had ever brought it.  I said, “Well, that’s cake-mix-moistness for you!”

I actually said “moistness” and I wasn’t joking.  Who am I?!

I am someone who likes a good slice of cake mix-pudding mix-chocolate syrup Bundt cake from time to time.  No gooey frosting, no melting scoop of ice cream – just a sprinkling of powdered sugar on a cake so moist you could use it to finger paint.

Chocolate Pistachio Bundt Cake
Adapted from “Talking with My Mouth Full” by Bonny Wolf

1 box (18.5 oz.) yellow or white cake mix
1 box (3.5 oz.) pistachio instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. almond extract
3/4 cup chocolate syrup
Powdered sugar


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a Bundt pan liberally with non-stick cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, orange juice, vegetable oil and almond extract. Mix together until smooth.
  • Transfer 1 cup of cake batter into a small bowl, then add the chocolate syrup.
  • Pour the pistachio cake mix batter into the Bundt pan, and then top with spoonfuls of the chocolate flavored batter. Using a knife, gently swirl the chocolate and pistachio cake mix batters together. Do not over mix!
  • Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then carefully turn onto a plate and top with sifted powdered sugar.

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Bundt Update

You may recall my initial post on Bundt pans and how much I love them.  So much that I was collecting them from yard sales and Ebay so I could hang them in my new apartment, where the walls were very blank. 

I thought it time for an update, since some of my Bundt children have finally made their way off the floor and onto the walls.  Many live, appropriately enough, right above a large chunk of my cookbook collection.  It’s a happy place.

The pure aluminum mold looked better in my living room with images of Washington, Lincoln, Scotland, and a much-loved photo of my mom in Quebec from the 70’s for company. 

This doesn’t mean I won’t buy any more pans.  Right now there are none in my bathroom or bedroom…though I do have one doing double duty as a fruit bowl in the kitchen.

At what point is this too much?  I just don’t see it happening.

Anyway…my next post will be on the ultimate comfort food.  I recently broke a nearly ten-year personal rule when I made the version of the recipe to go along with it, and I am mentally preparing myself for writing about the ordeal.

Spoiler alert… it was worth it.  Happy Birthday John!