Celebration Jellies


I made these jellies for our Christmas meal because some of the family aren’t keen on Christmas pudding, and also to provide the option of a lighter dessert after so much eating! They were indeed lighter, and a great hit, but also rather alcoholic so I think I should give a warning here that these jellies are most definitely not for children – adults only!


Celebration Jellies (makes 8)

  • 200g plain chocolate
  • pared zest of 2 oranges
  • 570ml fruit juice (see below)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 25g (15 sheets) gelatine
  • 570ml cava or other sparkling wine
  • 142ml double cream

I found this recipe online (Delicious Magazine) and it was for cranberry jellies. However, when I came to buy cranberry juice I could only find ‘cranberry drink’, which isn’t the same as ‘juice’ at all, as it’s sweetened with sugar and may contain other things, including water. Christmas was fast approaching and I had to immediately compromise and so I settled on some Red Grape, Pomegranate & Blackcurrant Juice from M&S which was 100% pure juice – nothing else added! And really, this sounded as wonderfully Christmasy as cranberries.

As for the sparkling wine, I was pleased to find the excellent Codorníu cava range on offer in Waitrose so bought a splendid rosé version, which I thought would add to the celebratory effect. My family have become keen on drinking Codorníu cava (when champagne isn’t on offer!) rather than prosecco recently. It’s one of Spain’s best producers and really good with a fabulous flavour. Now, at its full price, it would have been rather extravagant for jellies! But on the other hand – particularly for a special meal – a cheap bottle of sparkling wine is only going to offer a cheap flavour. And – as I said above – these are alcoholic jellies and the wine isn’t heated so you’re drinking it with full alcoholic content, so even more reason to get something good.

The first thing to do though, is make some little chocolate decorations. The original recipe had stars, but when I went to the local kitchen shop to buy a small cutter, they only had hearts. Well, hearts were nice for a family gathering. Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Stir only occasionally and when it’s smooth, tip onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Spread out a little (until chocolate is about 3mm thick) and leave to set.

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Then use the cutter to cut out about 16 little heart shapes and leave them somewhere cool.


Now make the jelly. In a large pan put the orange zest, fruit juice, sugar and cinnamon sticks and heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and allow to infuse for 30 minutes.

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Strain the juice into a clean pan and slowly warm through again, but don’t bring to the boil. Meanwhile, cover the sheets of gelatine in water according to the instructions on your packet. Mine needed 4-5 minutes of soaking. Squeeze the water from the gelatine and add to the juice mixture (off the heat). Stir until the gelatine dissolves. Then allow to cool. When completely cool, add the sparkling wine.


Pour the jelly into small glass bowls, keeping back just a little, so you can add about another 5mm jelly at the end.


Put in the fridge until nearly set. Then remove and add 2 of the prepared chocolate hearts to each bowl, tucking them gently just a little way into the setting jelly. Pour over the remaining jelly, leaving each heart sticking up out mostly out of the jelly.


Return to the fridge to finish setting. The next step is to decorate with a little cream but as I made the jellies on Christmas Eve, I left the final decorating until nearer the time we were eating. Whip the double cream with a little vanilla paste and about half a teaspoon icing sugar. Place about a teaspoon of cream on top of each jelly. Then grate a dusting of clementine zest over the top.


Everyone wanted a taste of the jellies, even those who had chosen Christmas pudding! They were a great success; really gorgeous with a fabulous flavour. Well, with all that wonderful cava in them – half the quantity – they were bound to!


As a self-critical cook, I thought maybe they were a little more solid than I ideally like my jelly, so next time I’ll put in a little less gelatine – maybe 12 sheets instead of 15 – but overall it was a great recipe for a lighter but very special dessert. And you don’t have to save these for Christmas – they’d be wonderful anytime you’re cooking a special meal. Try the cranberry juice – if you can find it – or choose another juice you like. But I wanted a ‘clear’ rather than cloudy juice and the red colour is certainly perfect for Christmas.


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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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