Jelly Cakes are an old-fashioned Australian dessert. These vanilla sponge cakes are sandwiched together with cream, coated in raspberry jelly and then rolled in coconut.
Jelly Cakes are an old-fashioned Australian recipe. Classic Jelly Cakes are rounds of vanilla sponge cake sandwiched with cream, coated in raspberry jelly and rolled in coconut. They look like pink lamingtons on the outside but have a totally different taste and texture.
You might know them as Gem Iron Cakes depending on where you’re from. And if you grew up in Australia in the 50s, 60s and 70s, you might remember seeing Raspberry Jelly Cakes at the Country Women’s Association (CWA) cake stalls and at school fairs.
Traditionally, you’d use a Gem Iron to bake your Jelly Cakes. What’s a Gem Iron? It’s a heavy cast-iron skillet with about 18 holes with rounded bottoms, similar to a patty cake pan. To use it, you heat up the gem iron in a moderately hot oven then add the cake batter and bake them for just a short time.
Why? I couldn’t find for sure in my research. My best guess is that most women in country Australia were cooking on wood ovens. You can’t accurately control the temperature of a wood-burning stove like we can on our modern gas and electric ovens.
Maybe preheating a heavy metal baking pan helped distribute heat evenly on baked goods. I know my Mum gets frustrated at the memory of trying to bake a sponge cake using her wood-stove at the farmhouse.
Gem Irons for Jelly Cakes are hard to find these days. You could try second-hand thrift stores or raid your Grandma or Great Aunt’s cupboards. There are alternatives to the gem iron, thankfully. If you have your heart set on the round shape then the modern patty cake pan makes a fine substitute, as does a muffin tin.
I personally used a large rectangular baking tin and cut sponge cake squares instead.
The hardest part of baking Jelly Cakes is knowing when the jelly has reached the right consistency for coating the cakes. Your jelly must be partly set to stick to the cakes. Too early and the raspberry jelly will soak into the sponge and leave it stained and soggy. Too late and it won’t stick.
The ideal point is when the jelly is thick and viscous like a bowl of egg whites. To be honest, my jelly set a fraction too long and got a little lumpy, but all sins are covered once you coat the jelly cakes in coconut. Definitely watch my Jelly Cakes tutorial below to see what I mean.
I recommend eating them the day that they’re made due to the jelly and cream content. To save time you can make the sponge and cream the day before, then just set the jelly and assemble the jelly cakes when you need them.